A message from MTA president Merrie Najimy and vice president Max Page

Greetings,

Hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding are at stake. Please go here to ask your state representative and senator to co-sponsor our two funding bills, the Promise Act and the Cherish ActThe deadline for adding co-sponsors in the House is this Friday, Feb. 1, so don’t delay!

Governor Charlie Baker also filed an education funding bill and addressed the issue in his budget. We want to give you an update about his proposal versus the Fund Our Future bills.

The Good News: Because of your advocacy, the governor felt the pressure to propose a sizable increase in spending on our public schools. He also added a significant amount of money for public higher education for this coming year. This never would have happened without the stories you have told about the desperate need for public education funding.

The Bad News: The governor’s plan provides far too little funding and includes far too many poison pills.

While Baker has described his bill as increasing the foundation budget for public schools by more than $1 billion, phased in over seven years, only a portion of that total would come from the state. The rest would have to come from our cities and towns. Most importantly, in providing insufficient resources to educate low-income students, Baker’s bill fails to fully implement all of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

Equally disturbing, Baker’s proposal would give the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, through Commissioner Jeff Riley, the right to withhold funds from our neediest districts if they don’t follow his “reform” plans. You know what that means – more charters, more and new kinds of takeover plans, a rollback in collective bargaining rights, and a greater emphasis on testing.

Furthermore, Baker doesn’t provide nearly enough for public higher education, and he makes no commitment to get us back to the funding levels we need.

The Good News: We have made public education funding the number one issue in the state. And we have developed legislation that will truly Fund Our Future.

The Promise Act would bring $1.3 billion in new state funds to preK-12 schools if it were implemented in the next fiscal year, and it would require some communities to contribute more from local revenues. It fully funds the FBRC’s recommendations, provides more resources to some districts hit hard by charter schools, and increases minimum aid payments at a higher level than the governor’s bill. There would be no strings attached to this new funding – because educators and local officials know best what our students need.

The Cherish Act would restore per-student public higher education state spending to the level reached in 2001, when adjusted for inflation, providing $500 million more per year when fully phased in.

Polling shows that Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly trust educators as the most authoritative voice on public education. You, the members, are building the momentum to win this campaign. More than 15,000 members signed petitions endorsing the Fund Our Future bills in just a few weeks. We are making waves in the State House with our school committee resolutions and community forums. We have put legislators on notice that they have to get this done by May 1 so that schools and colleges can start to see increased funding by the fall.

The fight has just begun. We need every MTA member to become involved in this essential battle for the public schools and colleges our students deserve.

Get your school committee or higher education board of trustees to pass a resolution supporting full funding. We already have 52 school committees on board. Let’s triple that number!

Again, please ask your representative and senator to co-sponsor our two funding bills, the Promise Act and the Cherish Act

Show up for an upcoming community forum. We have many scheduled across the state. Share your stories and make sure legislators are committed to full funding without poison pills.

In solidarity,
Merrie and Max

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Statement by MTA President Merrie Najimy on new accountability results

“The state’s new MCAS-based accountability system is as predictable and destructive as the old system. The results show that schools serving a high percentage of low-income students, English learners and students of color do not perform as well as those that serve more affluent students.

What is dispiriting is that the new system calls for these schools to receive “targeted intervention” while providing no additional funding. Once again, the state is paying lip service to helping these students without providing the resources.

The state’s Foundation Budget Review Commission determined in 2015 that the foundation budget formula understates how much money is needed to fund low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities, the very students whose MCAS scores typically are below average.

It’s time for the Legislature to make the connection and act. The best “targeted intervention” for our schools is to provide them with the resources that parents, educators and even the nonpartisan FBRC know are essential to creating the schools our students and communities deserve. That is why the MTA will be promoting legislation in 2019 to increase state funding for public schools by $1 billion under an updated foundation budget formula.

Going forward, we have to fix the accountability system so that policymakers are also held accountable. They must be accountable for making sure that every school has positive attributes such as small class sizes, a full-time nurse and school social worker, librarians and a robust arts program. And we must fix the system by reducing the focus on standardized tests, since that focus narrows the curriculum and stifles creativity in the schools that serve the students who need enrichment the most — low-income students of color who have too often been left behind.”

-Merrie Najimy

MTA President

MTA recommends Jay Gonzalez for Governor

The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Teachers Association has voted overwhelmingly to recommend Jay Gonzalez, the Democratic candidate running against incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Baker.

Jay Gonzalez, Democratic nominee for governor
MTA-recommended candidate Jay Gonzalez

“Jay is a strong supporter of public schools and public higher education,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy. “Unlike Baker, Gonzalez has taken a bold position in favor of raising new revenues through progressive taxes that ask more of our wealthy residents in order to fund the common good, at the core of which are our public schools and colleges.”

Gonzalez wants to raise $1 billion in the short term in order to begin investing in public schools, colleges and public transportation. Over the longer run, he wants to raise another $2 billion from the wealthiest residents in the Commonwealth. Gonzalez was a strong supporter of the Fair Share Amendment, also referred to as the millionaires’ tax, which would have raised a projected $2 billion a year for public education and transportation by increasing taxes on annual income over $1 million. The MTA was a strong proponent of that amendment as part of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition.

Baker declined to commit himself one way or the other on the Fair Share Amendment; James Peyser, his secretary of education, actively opposed it. In June, the state Supreme Judicial Court, the majority of whose members were appointed by Baker, ruled against allowing the question to appear on the November ballot.

Gonzalez said that if he is elected he will advocate to have a revised version of that proposal placed on the ballot and will actively support it.

He also pledged to support public schools over privatized charter schools. In 2016, Gonzalez opposed Question 2, the ballot question to lift the cap on charter schools, and he continues to be against charter school expansions and in favor of keeping the cap and fully funding the charter school reimbursement account. Baker was a leading supporter of Question 2 and continues to strongly support charter schools. In addition, Baker appointee Paul Sagan, chair of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, donated $496,000 to the main pro-charter campaign organization, which subsequently was fined for hiding the source of this contribution and others.

“Jay Gonzalez is the pro-public-education candidate in this race.”

MTA President Merrie Najimy

Gonzalez also expressed concerns about skyrocketing debt among students who attend public colleges and universities in Massachusetts. He pledged to support initiatives that would guarantee students a debt-free college education. Baker has made no such commitment.

Gonzalez’ platform includes support for numerous progressive causes, including criminal justice reform, stronger gun safety laws and addressing climate change. He is a strong opponent of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant platform.

“Jay Gonzalez is the pro-public-education candidate in this race,” said Najimy. “We are urging our members to look at the policy positions and records of both candidates and to support the candidate who will do the most to create the public schools and colleges students, educators and communities deserve.”

The MTA Board vote was completed on October 1.

https://massteacher.org/news/2018/10/mta-recommends-jay-gonzalez-for-governor