Skip to main content



Educators share the goal of safely returning as many students to physical classrooms as possible. The way we do that is by investing in the school safety measures we've been demanding for almost a year: rapid surveillance testing, ventilation upgrades to prevent transmission, and vaccinations for educators and for our students' vulnerable family members. In districts across Massachusetts, educators are working with parents and administrators to overcome the obstacles to safe school reopening, and we've successfully reopened many school buildings for the highest-need students with proper safety measures in place. Even amid this winter's high levels of COVID-19 transmission, more than half of Massachusetts educators are now teaching in the classroom.

But throughout the last year, our state government has prioritized indoor dining, casinos, and other venues that lead to high levels of community spread, rather than focusing on curtailing community transmission and reopening school safely with surveillance testing and ventilation upgrades. Amid the Baker administration's failed vaccine rollout, the state is the one obstacle standing in the way of the plan developed by the teachers and fire fighters unions to vaccinate educators in their local communities.


“My involvement with wellness programming started when the rising cost of insurance premiums made me think outside the box,” said Cindy Yetman. “I believe our partnership with the City of Amesbury and MIIA Blue Cross Blue Shield to offer health and wellness programming has allowed our health insurance premium rates to maintain some stability.”

“We have been able to offer better benefits for our city employees in our most recent renewals.” she said. “In the past we actually were able to decrease dental premium costs and add more robust coverage. I believe the benefits for our city and our employees has made this work worthwhile.”


Significant federal and state aid for schools may have already arrived in your school district—and more may be on the way, from both federal and state sources. This story, current as of early February 2021, provides a breakdown of what has already happened—and what to expect in the coming months.

First Round of Federal Support for K-12 Education: ESSER I and COVID Relief Fund

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, the U.S. Congress enacted a sweeping $2.2. trillion relief bill in March 2020 called the CARES Act—The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 


“Rather than fully funding the Student Opportunity Act on the original promised timeline, Governor Baker’s proposed budget uses the pandemic as an excuse to further delay the commitment to students made under the law. Rather than investing in public colleges to support existing students and unemployed workers looking for affordable job training, his proposal maintains the status quo in our underfunded public higher education system.
“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.
“Our book, clothing, and school supply giveaway was a huge success. It was great to have the opportunity to put books in the hands of our students, and make sure they have warm clothes they need to get fresh air and explore the outdoors this winter,” said Lawrence Teachers’ Union President Kim Barry. “I’m grateful to all the LTU members who volunteered their time to sort and distribute these important supplies, and to all those who have volunteered regularly at the Mobile Food Market to ensure that Lawrence families have healthy food to eat. Lawrence continues to be hit hard by the pandemic, and it will take community support efforts like this for us to get through the winter together.”
“We love making our students smile, even when it’s behind their masks. Especially now, when many students can’t be in the classroom safely, it’s important to ensure that students have age-appropriate books at home,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I want to thank the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation for partnering with us to support our students during the pandemic, with a focus on the communities like Lawrence that have been affected most by COVID-19.”
Betsy DeVos has resigned as Secretary of Education, and under the incoming Biden administration, federal education policy will be led by an educator and public school graduate, Connecticut state education commissioner Miguel Cardona. For the first time in four years, public school educators will have a partner in Washington. But the right-wing effort to dismantle public education in the United States isn’t going away without a fight. And we can’t win that fight without understanding how and why it began.
On February 10 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom, join AFT members and allies for a webinar to learn about the origins of the war on public education, reflect on the last four years of fighting against the Trump-Devos agenda, and strategize about how to influence public education as a public good moving forward.
It's been a tough year, and after all we've been through, we could all use a laugh. On February 5, join President Beth Kontos, AFT Massachusetts  and Blue Cross Blue Sheild Massachusetts for a night of comedy and solidarity. Devin Siebold, a professional comedian and union teacher, will lead a night of laughter for AFT members.
Devin Siebold is a nationally touring comedian who has been named iHeartMedia Monster’s in the Morning Comedian of the Year, won the Boston World Series of Comedy, appeared on Laughs on FOX, won Side Splitters Comedian of the Year, and been selected for Comedy Central Up Next. Devin has spent his past 10 years as a middle/high school teacher in Florida, and hosts the podcast 'Crying in My Car: A Podcast for Teachers.

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.

“As COVID-19 rages out of control, Wentworth faculty and librarians are working tirelessly to continue to teach and support our students, delivering content in ways many of us haven’t done before,” said Greg Sirokman, Professor and the President of the Wentworth Faculty Federation. “But many members of our campus community are at increased risk of severe illness if they are exposed to COVID-19, and many are fulfilling their professional duties while also managing childcare responsibilities or caring for an aging parent.
“Along with the Women’s Caucus, the Faculty Federation has been negotiating so that faculty members’ and librarians’ jobs would not be at risk if they declined to put their health and lives at risk in the middle of a pandemic. We particularly emphasized the necessity of accommodations for members in CDC high-risk categories for COVID-19. We also requested scheduling accommodations for faculty and librarians who are primary childcare deliverers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the administration has refused to even negotiate our requests. After months of trying to work with President Thompson and his administration, we have no confidence in their ability to lead our academic community in the midst of this pandemic.”

“Working together is our strength,” says Dr. Grant O'Rielly, President of the UMass Dartmouth Faculty Federation. “The UMass Dartmouth unions have accomplished so much by working together on health & safety issues, the salary giveback to protect jobs across the campus, and outreach to local legislators asking that the UMASS President's Office use the system contingency funds to support the faculty, staff and students working and learning together.”

Union members continue to advocate for the UMass system to tap into the system’s stabilization fund, which contains more than $114 million designated to “provide budgetary stabilization for operations due to unforeseen and/or uncontrollable circumstances to ensure responsible long-term financial stability.” Members say the COVID-19 emergency is exactly the situation the stabilization fund was meant to address.

“Privatization of maintenance services, attrition of staff, and the UMass trustees’ unwillingness to use the 100 plus million dollars in reserve; these things underscore the lack of appreciation many members feel,” says Saul Friedman, Vice President of the UMass Maintainers. “UMass President Marty Meehan is out of touch and needs to release some of the reserves to save jobs.”