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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - February 2024

A Message from Beth Kontos

With everything going on at AFT Massachusetts this past month, we needed this Leap Day! Our team has been busy reviewing Governor Healey’s proposed state budget, advocating for priority legislation on Beacon Hill, expanding our organizing team, and attending local union meetings and events across the state. In addition to enjoying School Vacation Week, also observed Career and Technical Education Month and Black History Month in February.
AFT affiliates including members of the Boston Teachers Union celebrated Black Lives Matter at School Feb. 5-9, committing themselves to an annual observance: “a week of action, a year of purpose, a lifetime of practice.” The phrase comes from the national Black Lives Matter at School movement, and those who participate aspire to move their communities toward racial justice. Members of the BTU started with the devastating story of police violence in schools, showing the documentary On These Grounds, and ended on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum with a Joy Celebration to recognize the collective value of Black Lives in our schools.
Celebrating #CTEMonth February is Career and Technical Education Month, and the AFT is proud to celebrate our innovative educators who are dedicating their lives to making sure students have skills that will prepare them for a wide range of careers. CTE programs help foster student learning that is both concrete and abstract—skilled trades, applied sciences, technology to teamwork, critical thinking and collaboration. As a result, CTE is a viable and powerful option for students — both for those who want to work immediately after high school and for those who plan to pursue a two- or four-year postsecondary program.
On February 13, we held a meeting with vocational educators and leaders from across the state, where Nashoba Valley Federation of Teachers President Derik Rochon highlighted a new program that will allow students in Nashoba Valley Technical High School’s Design and Visual Communications Program to graduate with a full Associate's Degree from Middlesex Community College. I was also honored to join union members in various sectors from across the North Shore at Salem High School to celebrate the school’s Career and Technical Education Programs.
Organizing Updates I’m excited to announce that AFT Massachusetts has hired two new organizers, who started this month. External Organizer Keisha Barnes will work to organize nonunion workers who want to change their circumstances and gain workplace rights, helping us to grow our union power across the state. She joins us from 1199SEIU, where she was a rank and file member, lead organizer, and elected organizer for several years.
Strategic Communications Organizer Emma Friend will support AFT locals in their contract and advocacy campaigns with member communications, social media, and advocacy tools. She has worked on the campaigns of US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, as well as for the 2020 Biden for President campaign and the DNC. Welcome Keisha and Emma!
This time of year is full of opportunities to build your union skills. Several members from Massachusetts attended the AFT Leader conference in NYC this month, where they attended workshops and learned from fellow union members across the country strategies for bringing collective bargaining, political advocacy, and school funding campaigns together to win the schools and libraries our students deserve. And on April 6, AFT President Randi Weingarten and US Senator Ed Markey will join us at the BTU for our annual Para Conference - register here:!
Advocacy Update: We’re preparing to testify at a March 1 legislative hearing on Governor Healey’s proposed FY25 state budget, which covers the 2024-2025 school year. Her proposal would fully fund another year of Student Opportunity Act implementation, directing an additional $263 million in Chapter 70 aid to local school districts next year. Amid a small downturn in state revenues, it would also level-fund state aid to public libraries and maintain several major investments in public college affordability that were first made in this year’s budget. You can see initial estimates of how much your town or district would receive under the Governor’s proposal here.
We’ve been encouraged by the momentum behind the Educator Diversity Act, legislation supported by AFT Massachusetts that would take several steps to improve educator diversity in Massachusetts, including addressing racial disparities in certification, expanding access to licensure, and requiring every school district to establish an educator diversity policy. A new report from MassINC examines trends in educator diversity and recommends policy actions to accelerate the pace of change, including many elements of the Educator Diversity Act.

We organize. We inspire. We protect each other. We unite. We motivate. We win.

This year, AFT Massachusetts members are celebrating…The Power of We at the 2024 Annual AFT Massachusetts Convention!
When we are united as union members, we can accomplish enormous things. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the impact of our collective power as we worked to pass and implement the Student Opportunity Act, state legislation that is delivering transformative investments in our public schools. We helped build a statewide grassroots campaign to win the Fair Share Amendment, which is now funding education improvements statewide: from providing free school meals for all students and building green schools, to making public college more affordable and rebuilding our transportation infrastructure.
Now, as our students experience greater needs in the wake of the pandemic, we’re organizing to win strong contracts that deliver the schools, libraries, and colleges our communities deserve. We’re fighting for the services and staffing our students need, and the strong benefits and workplace protections AFTMA members rely on. And we’re standing up to intolerance – working to protect our communities from extremists who want to ban books, restrict free speech, and reverse societal progress on racial and gender equality and LGBTQ rights.
On May 4, convention delegates from across the state will celebrate our victories, discuss the battles we face, and be inspired to act. We’ll welcome new members of our union, celebrate new affinity groups, hear about important initiatives, and further develop our collective strength as educators and organizers. Contact your local president for additional information.

It’s time for a PSRP Bill of Rights!

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass., pictured above left), with co-sponsors Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals Cathy Mastronardi, has introduced a sweeping resolution to help paraprofessionals and school-related personnel. The bill calls for fair wages, paid leave, full benefits, safe working conditions and more. And now Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) has introduced the Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives. It’s because of our PSRPs’ work that the legislation has gotten this far. Now we need everyone’s help in turning this from resolution to reality. Tell your members of Congress to pass the bill. And share it with your co-workers so they can do the same.

Retirement Planning for Public Sector AFT Members

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 March 20, 2024 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 linked here.

What: Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members
Who: Members of AFT Massachusetts
Where: Online via Zoom
When: March 20, 2024 from 6 to 8 pm
Link to our retirement planning folder of resources:

Student Debt Clinics for AFT Members

Questions about student debt? AFT is hosting virtual student debt clinics on March 12 and 20 at 7 PM ET to help our members navigate their debt. Learn more about PSLF and how you can save with Summer.
➡️ Register:

Upcoming Events

  • Student Debt Clinics - March 12 and 20, 2024
  • Retirement Workshop for Public Sector AFT Members - March 20, 2024
  • 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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