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There is good news on the horizon for Massachusetts schools and students. Massachusetts school districts are slated to receive more than $2 billion in federal education aid over the coming year, thanks to federal COVID-19 relief packages passed since March 2020, the most recent being the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This federal money, in tandem with promised state-level investments in K-12 education, could have a positive impact on Massachusetts students for years to come.

It is useful to think of the two streams of funding—federal ESSER and state SOA—as working in tandem. Full ESSER funds (from Rounds I, II, and III) will arrive in districts over the next year for use through September 2024. Meanwhile, state SOA monies will ramp up steadily over six years—with new money added each year on top of the previous year’s baseline—until full funding of SOA is achieved in 2027. What this means is that districts could strategically use ESSER funds now to accelerate investments in students and schools (e.g., smaller classes, more social workers and nurses, better wages for paraprofessionals, HVAC improvements, etc.) and then use SOA funds to sustain those investments. The timing is quite conducive to this strategy, with SOA ramping up at the same time that ESSER ramps down. 

Join us for our Summer Leadership Institute, a series of virtual workshops for local leaders and members to refine their leadership skills as well as to promote participation and initiative in our union!  We have a range of different classes and with this institute we aim to come together across the state for conversation and learning.
“Over the last year, we’ve seen clearly just how important unions are for working people. By joining together through our union, we can win safer working conditions, earn better pay and benefits, and advocate together for public policy changes that we would never get on our own,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Our success as a union depends on individual members joining together to win changes in their communities. We’re excited to bring our Summer Leadership Institute back this year to train and engage union members and leaders across the state.”
“The Summer Leadership Institute helped make me a stronger and more engaged union activist,” says Kim Luz, Fall River Federation of Paraprofessionals. “It’s a terrific opportunity to connect with union members and leaders from across the state, learn new skills, and develop strategies to bring back to my union.”
Follow the link and complete the form to register for the workshop.  Sign up for one or as many as you'd like!
The last year has been incredibly difficult for students, for educators, and for parents, but the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight. With the state’s vaccination campaign continuing to progress and the approval this week of a vaccine for children ages 12 and over, there is a clear pathway to full school reopening this fall. With a new administration in Washington, our school districts are finally receiving the resources they need to recover from the pandemic. However, we have major work to do to overcome a lingering lack of trust within communities hit hardest by COVID-19, and to ensure that full school reopening this fall is done safely and equitably.
This summer, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach, supported by federal funding, to prepare our school buildings and systems for a safe reopening in the fall. In September, we need major investments to provide students with additional academic support through tutoring and smaller class sizes, as well as social-emotional support through counselors and other mental health professionals. We especially need additional support for students with special needs, English language learners, and other students who have struggled the most during the pandemic.
As a union, we know there is no economic justice without racial justice. For decades, Black labor union members have organized to win social, political and economic justice for all working Americans through the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
“Asa Philip Randolph was a legendary figure in the labor movement and the civil rights movement, and we’re carrying on his work today by bringing the entire labor movement together in the fight for racial justice at work, in our schools, and throughout our communities,” says McInnis. “We invite members from local unions to join us in raising the voices of Black workers and advancing the cause of social and economic justice for working families throughout Massachusetts and across the nation.”
Wednesday, April 7 is Paraprofessional Appreciation Day, a national day when we celebrate our paraprofessionals and highlight the contributions of paraprofessionals to their students and schools. Over the last year, paraprofessionals have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of students and support the work of our schools under incredibly challenging circumstances.
“The past year would not have been possible without our paraprofessionals – period. When schools closed a year ago, paras stepped up to make sure students received food, help with technology, and the other resources necessary to create a safe learning environment at home,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “This school year, paraprofessionals dealt with ever-changing job descriptions as they worked to support students in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning models. As we work to safely return more students to full-time in-person learning, paras are at the front lines, ensuring that students stay safe and receive the academic, emotional, and social support they need to get back on track.”
AFT Massachusetts members and leaders stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander members, students, families, and the entire AAPI community in grieving the victims of Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks, and denouncing anti-Asian racism and violence. We see your pain and we share your anguish.
We also recognize that racism and violence against Asian Americans is not new, but reflects hate and prejudice that has been present throughout our history as a country. As a union, we pledge to continue fighting together against racism and misogyny, and to do the work necessary to protect our vulnerable members, students, and community members.

The administration’s mischaracterization of educators as somehow seeking to take vaccines away from the sick and elderly is untrue and defamatory. Several union leaders had a cordial meeting with Secretary Marylou Sudders this morning concerning the Last Mile Vaccine Delivery Plan, which has been endorsed by health experts across the state. Secretary Sudders asked if we thought she should divert vaccines from other high-need groups to give to educators, and we emphatically declined. 

We suggested, instead, that some of the doses designated for educators via the mass vaccination sites be sent to local communities so they could be administered to school employees efficiently and effectively at the local level, with facilitation by firefighters and nurses.  


On March 10, President Biden signed the hugely important and broadly popular American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion bill designed to help working families and those Americans hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 70 percent of Americans—including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents—support the American Rescue Plan. 

Passage of this bill wasn’t a sure thing. Your senators needed to hear from you about how important it was to have a coronavirus rescue and economic stimulus plan that helped working families—not another giveaway to Fortune 500 companies and the mega-rich. Your senators needed their constituents to let them know that the real danger wasn’t the price tag, but in passing a bill that was too small. 


The ability of working people to join together to collectively bargain for fair pay and working conditions is a fundamental right. When working people join a union, they have a voice on the job and the ability to collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unions are crucial in fostering a vibrant middle class and reducing income inequality. When unions are strong, they set wage standards for entire industries and occupations, they make wages more equal within occupations, and they help close racial and gender wage gaps.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen clearly just how important unions are for working people. By joining together through our union, we can win safer working conditions, earn better pay and benefits, and advocate together for public policy changes that we would never get on our own,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We also know that when more workers have a strong union, it improves wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers because even non-unionized employers must compete to attract qualified employees. But after years of attacks on union rights, millions of private-sector workers face significant obstacles when they want to join a union. The PRO Act would change that, allowing millions of workers to organize and bargain for their collective rights.”


Paraprofessionals, or Paras, provide instructional, behavioral, and other support to students, especially students with special education needs such as physical or developmental disabilities. That work includes everything from helping students with schoolwork to feeding and diapering them. A typical day includes de-escalating behavioral issues, helping students communicate, supporting students with physical disabilities move about the classroom and building daily living skills. Paras are often simultaneously working as educators, caregivers, guidance counselors, and translators – all wrapped up in one job.

This year has brought widespread recognition and thanks for the work that essential workers do, but kind words don’t pay the bills. There’s nothing more essential than caring for and supporting our highest-needs kids. It’s time for the New Bedford Public Schools to do the right thing, and give us the raise we deserve.