AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos responds to the vile and hurtful denigration of teachers’ unions made by the advocacy groups representing school superintendents and school committees in her letter to union leaders. Collaboration, not scapegoating, is needed to deliver the support and resources our schools and students need to reopen schools safely..
Dear AFT MA local leader,
I am writing to share my shock and anger over the linked letter, and to ask that you act at the local level to push back on the harmful content contained in the letter.
The letter is from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), and is addressed to Governor Charlie Baker. MASS and MASC have shared the letter widely on social media, essentially making it an open letter.
The first page of the letter makes some valid critiques of the Baker Administration and is otherwise reasonable. However, the second page pivots to a vile and hurtful denigration of teachers’ unions, claiming that unions are the “primary obstacle” to more in-person learning. The letter attempts to drive a wedge between educators and parents, suggesting that unions are forcing remote learning over the wishes of parents. And it reiterates the MASS proposal from earlier this year to restrict collective bargaining rights “to prevent labor unions from stonewalling reopening plans.”
As we all know, there is no valid basis for these attacks, and this letter is a shameful attempt to divert attention from the real challenges we are facing. It is also a dangerous exercise in scapegoating and an insult to the very people—educators and school staff—who are risking their health and lives every day to serve their students.
Here is the truth that MASS and MASC need to hear and accept. The biggest obstacle to in-person learning is a deadly virus that is raging uncontrollably through our state, including in our schools. Beyond that, we are challenged by the absence of federal and state leaders who will provide the support and resources we need to get the virus under control and allow schools to reopen safely. We need to stop the spread generally through sound science-based public health measures, backed up by relief for the people and businesses most severely impacted. And schools specifically need in-school COVID surveillance testing, improved ventilation, more PPE, and more staff to enable smaller classes, among other mitigation measures.
Stunningly, instead of citing these obvious challenges and proposing real solutions, MASS and MASC have chosen to point the finger at educators and their unions. How sad, demoralizing, and destructive!
I will be contacting the leaders of MASS and MASC to express my shock and dismay, and to ask them to retract the letter and apologize. I will also make the point that the letter does not reflect our experiences at the local level, where we often have respectful and productive relationships with superintendents and school committee members.
At the local level, here are some suggestions for what you can do:
- Engage your local superintendent and school committee members and ask them if they endorse the MASS/MASC letter. If they say no, ask them to publicly renounce the letter, and ask them to write their respective state leadership to retract the letter.
- Continue to model effective collaboration at the local level. We need to work together. While this letter is painful to read, it should not distract from the good work we are doing locally for students and families.
- Ask your local superintendent and school committee members to join the fight to demand the support and resources our schools and students need. They can show that support by signing on to the AFT Massachusetts COVID-19 Bill of Rights campaign.
Thank you, as always, for your hard work and dedication. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.