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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - August 2023

A Message from Beth Kontos

Salem, Springfield and Lawrence 2023 Back to School Fairs (left to right)!

President Kontos and friends at the SAG-AFTRA rally (top) and Boston Teachers Union leaders at the 60th annual March on Washington in D.C. (bottom).

Welcome back to school, and happy Labor Day! Whether this is your first year as an educator, or you’ve been teaching for decades, I hope this year will be full of exciting opportunities, fulfilling experiences, and the knowledge that your work matters. And to all AFT Massachusetts members – thank you for the energy and commitment you bring to the important work of our union.
As students return to their schools, two recent AFT Massachusetts victories are having a major impact in the classroom.
Student Opportunity Act: A new state budget took effect on August 9 after being signed by Governor Healey, and for the third year in a row, it includes an enormous increase in state funding for public schools thanks to the landmark Student Opportunity Act, which became law in 2019 after years of advocacy by AFT Massachusetts and our allies. This year, the state budget includes $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 school aid, a $604 million (~10%) increase over last year.
And because the Student Opportunity Act directs the lion’s share of new resources to communities with the highest concentrations of low-income students, many AFT Massachusetts districts are receiving even larger increases this year. To find the total for your district or school, view the state’s estimates for municipalities and regional school districts.
Fair Share Amendment: This year’s budget was also the first to include investments funded by the Fair Share Amendment’s tax on annual incomes over $1 million, which passed on the November ballot with support from AFT Massachusetts and our allies. Thanks to Fair Share, all students in our public schools will now receive free school meals, a historic victory that was years in the making. $200 million will be dedicated to improving buildings in our public schools and colleges, including installing clean energy infrastructure. And Fair Share revenue will fund more than $100 million of financial aid for public college students, as well as free community college for nursing students and students ages 25+, with plans to expand the program to all students next year.
The new budget also directs millions of dollars in Fair Share revenue to the MBTA, regional transit authorities, roads and bridges, and the state’s early education and care system. To see a full list of the first $1 billion in Fair Share spending, click here.
Back to School: As we return to the classroom, I was delighted to attend the Salem Teachers Union’s Back-To-School Fair on August 23, and I’m looking forward to joining the Boston Teachers Union for their Back-To-School Fair on September 23. These events are a great start to the year and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with our communities.
As you shake off summer and dive into a new year of teaching, AFT Professional Learning has innovative educational strategies, tech tips, and material with a renewed focus on creating enriching experiences for our students – all free to you as an AFT member. Find resources, online trainings, and more here.
And to develop your professional skills and advocacy abilities in person, join us on Saturday, November 4 for the annual AFT Massachusetts Leadership Conference. Hear from speakers and attend workshops to build your knowledge as a local union leader and organizer, and you’ll leave as a stronger, more confident leader with the tools you need to build union power in your local. Contact your local president to register!
Advocacy Opportunities: In a recent piece for AFT Voices, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Boston Private Industry Council Executive Director Neil Sullivan propose a real solution to persistent educational disparities: integrating career exploration and work-based learning into the high school experience. Their article cites examples of successful programs here in Massachusetts and suggests a national initiative to connect students with career opportunities. Please read and share!
I was proud to join striking SAG-AFTRA workers at a rally on Boston Common and in Salem this month. Film and television workers create works of art that inspire our students to reach their full potential, reflect our diverse experiences on the screen, and help us relax at the end of a long day. It’s wrong that Hollywood CEOs are making millions while workers struggle to pay their rent or provide for their families. AFT Massachusetts stands with film workers in Massachusetts and across the country in their fight to see their labor valued. Learn more and support their fight here.
Please take a moment to support a few of our legislative proposals by sending an email to your state legislators. Our advocacy tools, linked below, will help you identify your legislators and give you a form email to edit and send. Including a few sentences about your own career and circumstances can go a long way – legislators respond best to personal stories from their constituents!

AFT Massachusetts Praises Education Spending in Final Conference Budget

“The final conference budget is a big win for students and educators in Massachusetts. Permanent funding for universal free school meals will ensure that no child goes hungry at school, or feels the shame of not having enough money to afford lunch,” said, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “New revenue from the Fair Share Amendment will fund programs to rebuild and renovate our schools while prioritizing environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, so that students and educators can focus on learning and teaching, rather than dealing with windows that don’t open, crumbling cement and bricks, and a lack of reliable temperature control.”
“The budget would also fully implement another year of the Student Opportunity Act, resulting in more funding for our highest-need schools to hire teachers and support staff, close achievement gaps, and offer the wraparound services our students need to recover from the stresses of the pandemic,” she continued. “And at our public colleges and universities, the budget will deliver significant needed progress on affordability for students and building improvements. I want to thank the members of the conference committee for prioritizing Massachusetts students in this budget, and acknowledge the months of advocacy by AFT Massachusetts members who reached out to their legislators and stayed involved during this budget process.” READ MORE.

Student Debt Clinics for AFT Members

Questions about student debt? AFT is hosting virtual student debt clinics on September 5, 13, 21, and 25 at 7 PM ET to help our members navigate their debt. Learn more about PSLF and how you can save with Summer. ➡️ Register:

A Workshop for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts is hosting a retirement planning workshop on October 18, 2023 at 6 pm 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 October 18, 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 register.   ➡️ Register:

Upcoming Events

  • Student Debt Clinics - September 5, 13, 21, and 25, 2023
  • Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members - October 18, 2023
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Leadership Conference - November 4, 2023
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Boston Teachers Union Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel Conference - April 6, 2024
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Awards Dinner - May 3, 2024
  • Annual AFT Massachusetts Convention - May 4, 2024

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