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Thrive

The Thrive Act, a major education bill and legislative priority of AFT Massachusetts, has been scheduled for hearing by the Joint Committee on Education on October 4, 2023, starting at 2 p.m. in Gardner Auditorium at the State House.

“The upcoming hearing will be a critical opportunity for educators, students, parents, and community members to impress upon legislators the harm caused by state takeovers and the high-stakes use of MCAS standardized tests, and to show there’s a better way forward—the Thrive Act,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We will be reaching out to local presidents to mobilize members and community allies for this event.”

“It continues to be all hands on deck,” says Kontos. “This is a special opportunity to put our imprint on education for years to come—to move from a deficit model of test and punish to an asset-based model of resources and support. And to a model that supports the whole child—all facets of learning and growth. We must seize the moment and work strenuously in partnership with our allies to make this bill a reality.”

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NR PSRPs Rally

“Paras work hard to support the needs of North Reading students in the classroom every day, and we are members of this community. Some of us are your neighbors, some are your fellow parents, and some are graduates of North Reading schools. But for too long, our basic needs have been short-changed,” said Nancy Scioli, a Paraprofessional at the Little School and President of the North Reading Federation of Paraprofessionals. “As paraprofessionals, we should not have to work 2 or 3 jobs to pay our bills and feed our families, as two thirds of us do currently. We choose to work as Paraprofessionals because we love working with children, but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice so much to follow our desired career path. It’s time to stop under-valuing, under-paying and under-respecting the Paraprofessionals in the North Reading Public Schools!”

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Less Testing More Learning

The AFT Massachusetts Executive Board voted to endorse a proposed ballot initiative that would end the use of the MCAS standardized test as a graduation requirement, replacing it with locally-developed, coursework-based measures for certifying academic mastery of state standards.

“Every hour students spend preparing for standardized tests is an hour they can’t spend engaged in meaningful learning. The state’s high-stakes MCAS-based graduation requirement hurts the quality of education for all students, and serves as a life-altering barrier for otherwise strong students who simply struggle with test-taking,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “A graduation requirement based on coursework will be fairer, uphold Massachusetts’ strong academic standards, and better prepare students for the complex challenges of college or the workforce.”

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Fund Our Future

A new state budget has taken effect, 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.

“Our activism is paying off, with the Student Opportunity Act driving historic increases to state public school funding,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “That means more funding for our highest-need schools to hire teachers and support staff, close opportunity gaps, and offer the wraparound services our students need to recover from the stresses of the pandemic. And it means schools across Massachusetts can think big to make the investments our students need, rather than figuring out how to make do with less every year.”

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Moving Forward Together

“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.”

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Solidarity with Film Workers

"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. But when multibillion-dollar entertainment corporations reap immense profits but refuse to adequately compensate the labor that produces those profits, they create an industry that exploits workers,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “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.”

“The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, as well as the Teamsters’ UPS contract campaign, are part of a larger movement across this country. Working people in Massachusetts and throughout the country are experiencing the rising cost of living while their wages remain stagnant. At the same time, those at the very top just get richer and richer,” said Kontos. “The labor movement is pushing back against the income inequality that is holding our country back, and fighting for solutions that ensure large, profitable corporations pay their fair share – to their employees, and for the public good.” 

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Support UPS Workers

“UPS drivers and warehouse workers work in back-breaking heat and the freezing cold, making sure that packages arrive on time and in one piece. Their hard work created more than $100 billion in profits for UPS last year alone,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “It’s wrong that immensely profitable corporations like UPS don’t pay all of their workers the fair wages they need to pay their rent or provide for their families. AFT Massachusetts stands with UPS Teamsters in Massachusetts and across the country in their fight to win the strongest possible contract.”

“The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, as well as the Teamsters’ UPS contract campaign, are part of a larger movement across this country. Working people in Massachusetts and throughout the country are experiencing the rising cost of living while their wages remain stagnant. At the same time, those at the very top just get richer and richer,” said Kontos. “The labor movement is pushing back against the income inequality that is holding our country back, and fighting for solutions that ensure large, profitable corporations pay their fair share – to their employees, and for the public good.” 

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Weingarten and Kontos Lynn and Salem Visits

On June 9, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos hosted the AFT's Career and Technical Education Committee and coordinated tours of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and Salem High School.

“We were delighted to host President Weingarten and educational leaders from across the county on the North Shore, and highlight the incredible work being done by CTE educators in Lynn and Salem,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “These schools are national leaders in high-quality career and technical education that engages students and prepares them for fulfilling and well-paid careers. It was an honor to showcase them as AFT advocates for stronger public schools in Massachusetts and across the nation.”

Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and Salem High School offer students a wide variety of CTE programs, including automotive technology, building and property maintenance, carpentry, culinary arts, programming and web design, electrical technology, medical assistance, and early education and care.

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UMD Graduate Employees Logo

“This major victory shows that UMassD grad workers mean business! Graduate school is difficult enough. We deserve better than poverty wages. We deserve a safe place to sleep, and healthy food to eat. We deserve fair wages that allow us to focus on our work, our studies, and our research. Now that we’ve won our union, we’ll begin working to win a contract that provides livable wages and stipends, strong benefits, and better working conditions including protection from exploitation. This will improve the lives of all our grad employees, and it will give more people the opportunity to attend graduate school without having to figure out how to live on less than minimum wage,” said Lucy McGinnis, co-founder and graduate student.
 
“We work alongside graduate student employees at UMass Dartmouth every day, and we see how hard they work to teach students and perform research,” said Nick Gula, President of the UMassD Maintainers. “Now, it’s time for that work to be recognized and rewarded with livable wages, strong benefits, and fair working conditions.”

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Amesbury United

“Our union, over 300 members strong, sent a very clear message that when we unite as workers, we can win the wages and working conditions we all deserve,” said Cindy Yetman, President of AFT Amesbury. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without more than a year of organizing by teachers, students, parents, and community members. The School Committee and Mayor’s hard work with us on these negotiations brought to fruition the best contract our union has settled in decades. We achieved this together.”  

“Fair schedules and paid parental leave are exactly the kinds of common good solutions that students, parents, and educators have been advocating for in the Amesbury Public Schools,” said Ian Opolski, a teacher at Amesbury High School. “The milestone achievements in this contract will help to make our school more successful for both students and teachers. If we continue to work together in our advocacy, we can help to ensure that Amesbury Public Schools will become the best schools that they can possibly be.”

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