The summer is winding down, and students are returning soon if they aren't already back in school. For educators, the fall is often a time of renewal as we again take up our work. I find myself reflecting on the ideals that brought me to public education and then to union leadership. Due to the madness of the accountability regime and the efforts of corporatists, these ideals are harder to achieve, but organizing to fight for them builds union power and will allow us to reclaim our schools. Here are some things we can do now to put the public back in public education.
Raise Up Massachusetts
We are gearing up for a petition drive for a constitutional amendment that will raise taxes on annual income over $1 million, with revenues dedicated to public schools, public higher education and transportation. Please join me for a telephone town hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, to talk about why we need more resources, how the funds will support public education, and what we can do to make it happen. Mark your calendar now.
Help Put Educators on the BESE and Support Other Measures
Three MTA bills will be heard by the Joint Committee on Education at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9 in Room A-2 of the State House. The timing is not good for educators, but if you can testify or want to send testimony to the MTA to deliver to the committee, contact MTA lobbyist Julie Johnson by e-mailing email@example.com.
- Educators on the BESE (H. 375/S. 269) - Did you know there are no seats for educator representatives on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education? This bill would add two, with one member nominated by the MTA and the other by AFT Massachusetts. Please click here to sign a petition in favor of this bill and support giving educators a voice on the most important education policy board in the state. The petition will be submitted to the committee at the hearing.
- Fingerprinting Fees (H. 494) - This bill would eliminate the background check fee and reimburse those who have already paid it.
- Just Cause Restoration (S. 350) - This bill would restore "just cause" procedures for dismissals. Given recent court decisions, we need to let legislators know how critical this bill is to our membership.
Are people you know not convinced we need the Raise Up money? Remind them that funding for public higher education is down nearly 50 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from the peak year of 2001. Most of that loss is being recouped through sharply higher fees. We can and must provide the resources for public higher education that is affordable (better yet, free!) with fairly compensated faculty and staff. Fight student debt! Support higher ed funding!
The Struggle Continues: Fighting for the Right to Engage in Union Activity
The state Department of Labor Relations has found probable cause for a complaint that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales - for a second time - because of his activism as a union leader. He's fighting the dismissal - again - with help from the MTA. Read more about it here.
How Are We Going to Do All of This? We Are Jump-Starting Our Union
There is a lot coming at us, and we all have a lot to learn about how to organize and fight for the schools our students deserve and the working conditions required for those schools. Part inspiration, part analysis and part how-to, the book "How to Jump-Start Your Union" can help you and your local make plans for action. Free copies are available if you plan to read and discuss it with a group of fellow educators. Contact Ari Mercado in the MTA Division of Governance and Administration by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy. For those who read and discussed the book over the summer, we want to hear what you learned. Please contact me with your stories.
In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,