Say Their Names

The following message was sent to MTA members today by President Merrie Najimy and Vice President Max Page:

George Floyd. Say his name.

Breonna Taylor. Say her name.

Tony McDade. Say his name.

Those are the names of black lives murdered at the hands of the police in just the last few weeks. The list of state violence perpetrated against black and brown lives is long, centuries long. There are “many thousand gone,” in the words of a 19th-century African American folk song.

To our black educators, students, families and communities: Your pain, exhaustion, fear, rage and outrage are real. You have been brutalized for generations. Your cries, your grief, and your movements to demand justice and liberation have been met with brute force at every turn. The MTA stands with you — in love and solidarity — to fight for justice and liberation.

Writing this message is difficult — because of the horror of the murder of yet another black man in America, but also because it feels increasingly impossible to say anything that does not stop with rage, or engage in empty rhetoric, or traffic in false hope. We can be nearly certain that this is not the last time we will say the name of another black person who died at the hands of the police.

As the scholar and activist Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor recently wrote, the fact of George Floyd’s death “amid a pandemic that has taken the life of one out of every 2,000 African Americans is a chilling affirmation that black lives still do not matter in the United States.”

And while it is difficult to write this message, it is also necessary.

It is necessary for us to understand that Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee is that of the larger economic system of capitalism that was built with white supremacy and racism at its core. It is a system that devalues and dehumanizes black and brown lives.

“And our president calls for doubling down on militarism as his solution. We say NO.”
The system allows for police to brutalize and kill black and brown bodies with impunity.

The system disinvests in public schools, leaving students of color to languish in rodent- and mold-infested buildings; militarizing schools with security systems and police instead of fortifying them with student support services and Education Support Professionals; subjecting students to rigid accountability systems; operating on a curriculum of colonization; measuring “performance” by standardized tests founded in the eugenics movement; constructing a pipeline to prison instead of to college or to dignified employment; and marking districts as failed and turning them over to privatization.

The system divests from public colleges and universities, leaving all students — especially black and brown students — carrying crushing debt, cutting essential programs, and exploiting the labor of professors through adjunctification. The system divests from public health, human services, housing and jobs, leaving black and brown communities living with food and housing insecurity, breathing polluted air, drinking poisoned water and facing countless conditions that leave their residents in poor health and disproportionately at risk of illness and disease.

The system invests in prisons and militarism, separating families through incarceration and deportation, imprisoning people of color at disproportionate rates, caging immigrant children, and detaining immigrant parents.

And our president calls for doubling down on militarism as his solution. We say NO.

To our white members: We call on you to look again inward at your own privilege and outward to the ways that you can — you must — be a part of the struggle to upend the oppression built into our society’s institutions. Deciding to sit out this moral responsibility as a union member is not an option. As Ibram X. Kendi has written, “There is no sideline to this struggle.”

You have the power to break down the systems of oppression, when you are ready to become allies, accomplices and co-conspirators for justice and liberation. You are not in it alone. You have each other and you have the MTA. We are committed to helping you learn and grow into these roles.

The murder of George Floyd occurred even as many of us were engaged in a profound act of collective solidarity — staying apart in order to protect our friends, families and neighbors. There is a glimmer there.

We can build on this collectivity to reimagine what our schools look like when we return so that we finally, finally upend the structural racism that creates racial inequities between one district and another, between one student and another. We can rid ourselves of the tests that have served to denigrate people of color and their schools and narrow the citizens we hope to raise. We can upend a Commonwealth that spends more on its prisons than it does on its 29 public colleges and universities.

Stone memorials that sit in corners of parks are where memory goes to die.

The only true memorial to George Floyd and the “many thousand gone” that we, union members and educators, can build is to transform public education, the Commonwealth and the country to be places where black and brown lives matter.

In love and solidarity,

Merrie and Max

MTA leadership: ‘We are in this together’

 

We are in an extraordinary time. But we are in it together. During this global pandemic, we need physical distancing but social connection. So many MTA locals are finding ways to create social connections among members, with students and their families, and in their communities. The MTA is doing that too!

This post is the first of what will be regular website updates for you, our members, on some of the most important issues and actions as we all, together, support each other through this crisis. Very soon we will share other technological means by which we can all stay in touch and share how we are helping our students, members and all of our families survive and thrive through the pandemic.

Today we want to share with you a set of common good demands  — demands for our public schools and colleges, for all workers and for our communities — that we have gathered from our many conversations and email exchanges with all of you, as well as through conversations with our many union and social justice partners in the state and across the country. This is a living document, meant to be updated as the situation changes.

Indeed, through your advocacy and organizing, we have already achieved some of the demands in this document, including a statewide closure of schools and commitments from most communities and campuses around paying all workers during this crisis.

But we felt that as the largest union in New England, we needed to take a stand early in this crisis about what public education needs, and what the communities in which we live need, in the short term and as the impact of the pandemic is felt in the months ahead.

Check back on this website regularly so you can be in dialogue with us as the MTA organizes for the common good of our members and all of our communities.

In solidarity,

Merrie Najimy
MTA President

Max Page
MTA Vice President

Speak Up for the Student Opportunity Act

Please act now! We have a once-in-a-generation chance to improve the way public schools are funded in Massachusetts, but your state representative needs to hear from you now!

The Student Opportunity Act would implement the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission and increase state education aid to local schools by $1.5 billion over inflation by 2027. The Massachusetts Senate passed it unanimously on Oct. 3, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives is likely voting this month.

Please ask your State Representative to support the Student Opportunity Act as passed by the Senate!

Download a Fact Sheet About the Student Opportunity Act

Send an email letter to your state representative here!

Red for Ed Rally

You’ve seen it in Arizona, Oakland, and Oklahoma–now its OUR TURN!

On Thursday May 16th teachers from around the state will gather at the State House to DEMAND that our public schools are FULLY FUNDED. As it stands, our state government is under-funding public education by more than $1-2 BILLION a year. For Braintree alone that is a loss of $4,043,481!

Imagine what we could do with the funding we deserve. We could fix that leaky roof, replace moldy carpets, remove asbestos, solve heating/cooling issues, purchase technology, books, and classroom supplies. These funds would not only help us fix existing problems, but would help us prepare for future success in a rapidly growing district. I know we are all proud to work with what we have, but imagine if we had what we actually needed???

Maybe you think, “Well, I’ve got it pretty good in Braintree.” Maybe you don’t need more support, classroom supplies, or technology. If that’s the case, then consider students and teachers in nearby Brockton. If our campaign is successful it would mean an additional $46,484,084 for their district!!!

Please wear RED and join us in demonstrating to our legislators that WE WILL FIGHT to preserve public education and the success of our students.

In Solidarity,

Katie, Rachel and Taylor

New England Patriots Players Testify for the Promise Act

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Our Kids Don’t Have Time To Waste: Fund Our Schools

By Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Jason McCourty

As members of the community and Patriots players, we feel deeply indebted to our society and our supporters. We have visited many schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island — schools that are thriving and schools that are struggling — and have been inspired by the children we have met there. We know they are the future of our region, our nation, and the world, and we are confident that they can achieve amazing things.

As a community, we know it is impossible to achieve without support and resources. This is why we fund public schools, and that’s why we provide additional support to the populations that require it.

In Massachusetts, we rank #1 by US News and World Report for education, yet 70% of Black and Latino third-graders read below grade level according to Stand.org. That number is even worse for third-graders for whom English is a second language (ESL) and for those who are economically disadvantaged — 80% read below grade level. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational success. Any missed opportunity to invest in our kids stunts all of our collective futures. When we provide adequate educational resources for all children, we provide a foundation, an opportunity for success regardless of the child’s background.

We know that there are competing budgetary priorities for all publicly funded entities, but we are fierce competitors prepared to battle for our children.

As the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) study demonstrated, there is a budget shortfall in our state school system. In case you are wondering, the FBRC is a bipartisan group comprised of informed stakeholders, including education experts and legislators. Unfortunately, low income school districts and those where students speak English as a second language are the populations most affected by the insufficiency. Meanwhile, low income and ESL students have greater necessities and therefore require more funding than their more affluent counterparts. By contrast, the amount of money the state currently provides to educate our most defenseless groups, is “less than needed to fully provide the level of intervention and support needed to ensure the academic and social-emotional success of these populations” the FBRC wrote in its report.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, in 2016–2017, Brockton schools spent just $14,778 per student per year, compared to more affluent Weston, where they spent $24,458. Many of Brockton’s students are disadvantaged economically and socially, with a large proportion of low income, ESL, and minority pupils, necessitating special educational assistance. It costs more to educate Brockton’s population, yet we spend less on these students.

Unfortunately, this report came as no surprise to those who attend and work in our state’s most economically disadvantaged schools. Dedicated teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets to support classrooms overcrowded with students they educate with knowledge and passion.

Recently, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to substantially increase the amount of money provided to our schools, including in communities that need more aid. Fully incorporating the recommendations provided by the FBRC report, the bill will dramatically alter the way budget costs are calculated so that they match the realities of our school system. This would provide critical services and programs including counselors, wrap-around services, resources like technology and books, professional development, arts classes, and preschool programs.

Unfortunately, the committee recommendations were not fully accepted by the House. The House bill supports only parts of the Senate bill (increasing funding of employee healthcare and special education); however, it has recommended more research on how to better fund education for ESL and low income students.

What is the message we want to send to our most vulnerable students in our most impoverished communities? Do we use the best available knowledge to do our best to improve the foundation of all of our children? Or do we tell our children to sit and wait while we do more research? The state has already invested significant resources in the FBRC, a committee of key stakeholders. If we are complacent, will our children in less affluent circumstances fall farther and farther behind? All of our children deserve an equal chance at success regardless of their economic backgrounds. Shouldn’t our policies reflect that?

As early as this week, the Senate and House head to committee to reconcile the two bills. As fathers, members of the community, and New England Patriots, we support fully funding the realistic requirements of our schools. Our elected officials should incorporate all five of the Commission’s recommendations, including the increased funding for those who most need it. And they must do so before July 31st, or negotiations will have to begin yet again next year. Our children should not wait any longer. As adults, let’s “do our job” and set all of our children up for success.

About the Co-Authors

Devin McCourty is the Chairperson of the Education & Economic Advancement Committee for Players Coalition, an independent 501c3/501c4 organization led by professional athletes to impact social and racial equality. Matthew Slater and Jason McCourty are active members in Players Coalition. All three athletes play for the New England Patriots. Visit www.players-coalition.org for more information and follow us at @playercoalition.

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

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

MTA leadership: ‘We are in this together’

 

We are in an extraordinary time. But we are in it together. During this global pandemic, we need physical distancing but social connection. So many MTA locals are finding ways to create social connections among members, with students and their families, and in their communities. The MTA is doing that too!

This post is the first of what will be regular website updates for you, our members, on some of the most important issues and actions as we all, together, support each other through this crisis. Very soon we will share other technological means by which we can all stay in touch and share how we are helping our students, members and all of our families survive and thrive through the pandemic.

Today we want to share with you a set of common good demands  — demands for our public schools and colleges, for all workers and for our communities — that we have gathered from our many conversations and email exchanges with all of you, as well as through conversations with our many union and social justice partners in the state and across the country. This is a living document, meant to be updated as the situation changes.

Indeed, through your advocacy and organizing, we have already achieved some of the demands in this document, including a statewide closure of schools and commitments from most communities and campuses around paying all workers during this crisis.

But we felt that as the largest union in New England, we needed to take a stand early in this crisis about what public education needs, and what the communities in which we live need, in the short term and as the impact of the pandemic is felt in the months ahead.

Check back on this website regularly so you can be in dialogue with us as the MTA organizes for the common good of our members and all of our communities.

In solidarity,

Merrie Najimy
MTA President

Max Page
MTA Vice President