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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - December 2022

A Message from President Kontos

Happy holidays! As I reflect on the past year, I’m so proud of the many victories we’ve won together, and the ongoing struggles we’re engaged in.
On The Ground
AFT locals in Chelmsford, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lynn, Peabody, and Springfield, as well as at Berklee College of Music and Wentworth Institute of Technology, all won strong contracts this year thanks to their increased member engagement and well-planned contract actions. Raising pay for our paraprofessionals across the state was an important priority across many of our contract fights this year, and thousands of AFT Massachusetts paraprofessionals will now receive much higher wages because of our collective work.
We also supported our siblings in the labor movement, from joining nurses on the picket line at Saint Vincent Hospital to standing with Starbucks workers who are fighting to form a union.
On the Ballot
After years of advocacy from AFT and others, Massachusetts passed Question 1: the Fair Share Amendment. With the passage of the Fair Share Amendment, we will have a fairer tax system, and an additional $2 billion in annual funding dedicated to education and transportation that will be a great boon to the state, and to future generations in Massachusetts.
We also won another important victory on Election Day with the passage of Question 4, keeping in place the “Work and Family Mobility Act,” a current state law that allows all drivers in Massachusetts to be properly vetted for drivers licenses, regardless of their immigration status. This victory means safer roads and better tools for law enforcement to do their jobs.
We also supported candidates up and down the ballot, from Governor-Elect Maura Healey to candidates for the state Legislature. More than 85% of our endorsed candidates won and we look forward to a productive legislative session in the new year.
On Beacon Hill
On Beacon Hill, we’ve made major progress in recent years, delivering record levels of state funding for public preK-12 education as we begin implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Looking ahead to the next legislative session, investment in our preK-12 public schools and public colleges remains a major priority, from continued SOA implementation to ensuring the funds from Fair Share Amendment reach our classrooms and campuses.
Ending the high stakes nature of MCAS, such as the graduation requirement, and ending the failed state takeover/receivership system, are major priorities as well. We’re also working to establish the right to strike by public employees, and improve our retirement benefits by divesting from fossil fuels, increasing the COLA base and pension minimum, and more.
From greening our school buildings to supporting our students who are at the forefront of the climate movement, climate issues are an especially personal priority for me. I recently joined the board of the Better Future Project, which works on climate issues across the state, and AFT Massachusetts has launched a Climate Caucus, which you can join here.
What’s Next
I’m honored to be serving as a member of Governor-Elect Healey’s transition team, and we were delighted by her choice of former Lynn Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler as Secretary of Education. We anticipate a strong working relationship with Governor Healey and her administration, and will be working with her team to share our recommendations for education policy, board assignments, budget priorities, and more over the coming months.
Over the last few years, we’ve shown that we can do so much when we do it together. As we prepare for the new year, I’m encouraged by our past victories, and ready to gear up to keep winning.

AFT Massachusetts Applauds Healey Driscoll Team for Appointing Tutwiler as Secretary of Education

AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos statement in response to the announcement that Governor-elect Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll have selected Dr. Patrick Tutwiler as the next Secretary of Education:
"AFT Massachusetts members have worked alongside Dr. Patrick Tutwiler for many years, first as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, and then in Lynn where he served as superintendent. Dr. Tutwiler is a professional educator of the highest caliber who puts students and families first, while also respecting dedicated educators in the classroom.
“As we continue to navigate the post-COVID impact on students throughout Massachusetts, Governor-elect Healey and Lt. Governor-elect Driscoll have made the right choice in Dr. Tutwiler to lead our public schools. We look forward to working with them both to improve education opportunities for all students in our state.”

Paraprofessionals are Vital to Student Success

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that saying remains true especially today. While teachers and staff are working for the betterment of students across the Commonwealth, others work behind the scenes playing equally valuable roles in providing students with the resources and attention they need to succeed.

Paraprofessionals provide a critical service to our schools and communities by providing essential assistance in a variety of ways. Certified Nursing Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants, Physical Therapy Assistants and Para-educators, represented by the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals (SFoP), are all vital members of our communities that ensure communities across Massachusetts can thrive. We talked with Cathy Mastronardi, President of SFoP about the myriad of ways these critical professionals help students, staff and communities succeed, but are too often overlooked. Read More.

Say Cheese with Santa: AFT Educator Gives Back During Holiday Season

Our educators go above and beyond in many ways to ensure the needs of the students in the Commonwealth are met. Sometimes this means staying after with students, sometimes it means dipping into personal funds to make sure they have supplies, and sometimes it means donning a red suit and spreading some Christmas cheer.

In 2018, Michael Curley received a phone call from one of his wife’s closest friends. This friend loves Christmas and hosts an annual holiday gathering following Thanksgiving dubbed “Thanksmas,” and this year she was asking if Michael would be interested in donning the role of Old Saint Nick. He said he couldn’t say no to a close friend, and that the chance to play Santa seemed fun. Read More.

Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel

Now, more than ever, paraprofessionals are uniting together and making their voices heard. From winning historic wage increase campaigns, to demanding respect both in the school house and in the community, paraprofessionals and school related personnel (PSRPs) are on the precipice of changing the educational landscape that would improve all our lives. PSRPs are the connectors between educators, parents, students and the community, ensuring we all have what we need to thrive.
Join AFT Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union at the annual conference for Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel on April 1, 2023. This is where we will find our common ground, strategize the ways we can improve our communities, while demanding respect in the schools and a living wage.
Through the pandemic, budget cuts, and lack of appreciation, PSRPs have consistently shown up for others. At this conference, we are making sure that PSRPs show up for themselves. Join us and make your voice heard! More to follow!

2023 Distinguished Service Awards

Help AFT Massachusetts celebrate the service of an educator, librarian, nurse, or school related personnel whose leadership has made our union stronger. Nominations are now being accepted for our 2023 Distinguished Service Awards!

The AFT Massachusetts Distinguished Service Awards are presented annually to AFT Massachusetts members who have demonstrated an outstanding level of service and dedication to their local union. The 2023 Distinguished Service Award Winners will be honored at the AFT Massachusetts Convention Awards Dinner on Friday, April 28, 2023 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
We’re excited to celebrate the 2023 award winners at the Kennedy Institute. Senator Kennedy was a champion for working people who always fought for good jobs, full employment, and safe working conditions. Unions are the backbone of our public institutions, and it’s important to celebrate the members who keep our schools, libraries, and colleges running every day.
Contact your local president about nominating a colleague today! Nominations are due by March 1, 2023.

Repeal WEP and GPO – Stop Penalizing Our Teachers and Public Employees

Everyone deserves a secure retirement, especially those who devoted their career to public service. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) threatens that by substantially reducing or eliminating the EARNED social security benefits of the millions of retired teachers and public employees who contributed to Social Security through other employment. Thousands more are penalized every year as they retire from public service because their state, municipality, or school district does not participate in the Social Security system.

On Monday, October 31, the AFT hosted our first WEP & GPO Informational Webinar. During this webinar, members received an update on legislative efforts to repeal WEP and GPO, were provided an overview of Pension System Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), and participated in a Q&A about how you and your colleagues are impacted by WEP and GPO.
Back by popular demand, we will be holding a second WEP & GPO Informational Webinar on Thursday, January 19 from 7:00pm to 8:00pm Eastern Time. Please join us and take the opportunity to ask your questions about the harmful penalties that affect tens of thousands of AFT retirees and will affect thousands more active AFT members when they retire. Please click here to register for the upcoming webinar.

Retirement Planning Workshop

AFT Massachusetts is hosting a retirement planning workshop on February 8 via Zoom and all members are welcome!
The financial professionals of Teacher Retirement Solutions (TRS) have partnered with AFT Massachusetts and specialize in providing independent financial guidance, strategies and solutions to educators, school employees, librarians and their families throughout New England. Join TRS’ John Gregorio, a Certified Financial Planner, on February 8, 2023 via Zoom for a comprehensive workshop for prospective retirees. The Massachusetts' public employee retirement formula, Social Security and living in retirement will be among the topics discussed. An automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent to members that complete the form to the right.
What: Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members
Who: Members of AFT Massachusetts
Where: Online via Zoom
When: February 8, 2023 from 6 to 8 pm

Resources and Opportunities

Science & Cooking for 6-12 Educators
The Science Behind Cheese! Educators, community program instructors, and after-school program leaders are invited to apply to participate in a session on incorporating food and cooking into STEM lesson plans. This session is offered by the Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC) based at Harvard in partnership with Bite Scized Education. Click here to learn more and register!
Resources to Expand Food System Education at your School
There are many resources available to help districts, schools, and teachers that are interested in teaching food literacy. Using an existing food literacy curriculum may help to design a sequence of food lessons that build over time and that connect to the state standards. In addition, there are many lessons about various food topics that are available for free online. Teachers may learn more about the food system as well as ideas for how to integrate it into their classroom through professional development opportunities. Click here to learn more.
FY23 New England B-WET Funding Opportunity
New England B-WET focuses on projects that support high quality teacher professional development for classroom-integrated Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs). Projects must include the development of teacher-led student outdoor experiences, learning, and stewardship actions that connect students to their local watershed. Projects must be based in New England states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut. Click here to learn more!

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