AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos on Governor Baker's FY 22 Budget Proposal:
“Over the last year, we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the inequities in our public schools and colleges, and illustrate the harmful results of inadequate education funding. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget proposal would continue the Commonwealth’s past pattern of delayed investments that harm students. The budget would also cut funding to school districts that experienced temporary dips in enrollment during the pandemic, meaning that students who return in September would come back to classrooms without adequate funding that accurately reflects true enrollment in fall 2021.
“We do appreciate Governor Baker’s commitment to increasing local aid to account for inflation. Local aid allows municipalities to maintain funding for critical public services like public libraries, which have been an irreplaceable resource for local residents of all ages throughout the pandemic. The pandemic has hurt local tax collections, and municipalities certainly need additional aid. But the Governor’s proposal to allow municipalities to use federal aid to supplant a portion of next year’s local education funding obligation is the wrong way to alleviate local budget pressures. Those federal dollars are needed now to fund surveillance testing, ventilation upgrades, PPE, and other safety measures.
“Educators in communities across Massachusetts will look to the Legislature to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act on the original promised timeline, hold schools and communities harmless from one-time enrollment drops, accelerate investments in public higher education, and provide municipalities with the support they need through true investments, not financial accounting maneuvers.”
AFT members from across the Commonwealth echoed President Kontos’ sentiments.
“Throughout this pandemic, students and teachers in our city have persevered under stressful conditions. We have made do with minimal resources, we have made connections through computer screens, and we have made sure that the families in our community remained as safe and healthy as possible. But when the new school year begins and Lynn students and teachers return to school, our work will continue to intensify. Upon our return we will be faced with new challenges – repercussions of isolation, mental health duress, social anxiety, trauma, and the inevitable regression in academics, to name a few. Our most vulnerable students will need support from our schools more than ever before, and we must be ready to receive them with the love and resources necessary. Lynn Public Schools needs the Student Opportunity Act to employ the guidance counselors, school social workers, and adjustment counselors needed to welcome our students back in a safe and supportive way.” – Shannon Conlon, ELA teacher Lynn English High School, Lynn Public Schools
“Massachusetts public libraries have been an important resource for our communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Library staff have provided curbside delivery of items, access to on-line databases, public wifi, virtual programming, children's storytimes, and more. We hope the Governor's budget will provide the support municipalities need to fully fund this precious public service that provides access to information and resources for all members of the Massachusetts community - regardless of race, age, or socio-economic status - in good times and bad. Fully fund our public libraries!” – Patricia K. Kelly, President of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association
“I am an educator in a low-income community and also live in this community. I am also a father of four children who attend Springfield public schools, one of which is a special needs student. I know that now is the time to act and fully fund the SOA. Too often our low-income communities get left behind. We need to give our children all the tools to succeed in their education and beyond. The unfair treatment between the wealthy and the underprivileged needs to end. We need to give every student the right to a high-quality education.” – Daniel Hernandez, Instructional Paraprofessional, Boland Elementary - Springfield Public Schools
“With the passage of the SOA, the citizens of the state decided that everyday hope was worth investing in. That all of our students, not just the privileged, but all of them, were worth what it takes to make their education match our dreams for each of our children. Then 2020 came and it was a stark reminder of how difficult tomorrows can be, and sometimes are to come by. The most essential workers are under the most pressure. Their children got a hurried, patchwork solution to solve the problem of an education physically out of our schools. It became clear that we have historically undervalued many students of the Commonwealth when the experience, the access, and the continuity of education depends on their ZIP code. We can't go back and fix the mistakes of the past. But, one year ago, we told this community and its children that they were valued. We need to show them they matter all the time, not just as essential workers, someone who can live a riskier life than their neighbors, who can lose family members, but as someone who is as essential when they grow to their potential.” – Sondra Longo, ELA teacher, Lawrence High School - Lawrence Public Schools
“The Student Opportunity Act needs to be fully funded. We as a state need it to help curb the crisis that all students of every educational level are facing. As a single parent, educator, and product of the same school system that I teach in and that my daughter attends, I see on a firsthand basis how much dire straits we are in with being so terribly underfunded. It is heart breaking! Even the school I work at does not have the same enrichment and educational programming that other schools in our district have.” – Kelly O'Malley, Paraprofessional - Springfield Public Schools
“All of the public institutions of higher education, community colleges, state universities and the UMass campuses, play a vital role in the Massachusetts economy, both now and in the future. Spending by college employees and students is a large, often the largest, contribution to the economy of the local communities where these campuses are located. Graduates from these schools learn the skills and knowledge that are needed by businesses and industry, and many graduates from the state colleges and universities remain in Massachusetts where they become an important contribution to the economic engine of the Commonwealth. It is critical that the Governor and the legislature fully support public higher education in the next fiscal year. It is also important that the leaders of the colleges and universities use these funds to support their faculty, staff and students and allow them to achieve their full potential and fulfil the educational mission of the institution.” – Dr. Grant O'Rielly, President of the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Federation Local 1895