Annual Meeting features good deals, good causes

Former U.S. Rep. Barbara B. Kennelly will engage delegates in a forum about Social Security offsets when MTA members gather for the association's Annual Meeting on May 11.

The offsets -- the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision -- affect public employees from Massachusetts and other states that opted out of the Social Security system.

The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal benefit that a public employee can receive. For instance, a teacher who spent a career in public service while a now-deceased spouse worked at a private company and paid Social Security is only eligible for a small percentage of the spousal Social Security benefit. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose all of their spousal benefits.

The WEP reduces an individual's own Social Security benefits that were earned while working in a job covered by Social Security. For instance, a teacher who spends summers working at a store isn't allowed to receive the full Social Security benefit that he or she has paid into the system.

Since 2002, Kennelly has served as CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization that seeks to "protect, preserve, promote, and ensure the financial security, health, and the well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans."

The NCPSSM has fought Bush administration efforts to privatize social security by replacing the traditional system with individual retirement accounts.

Kennelly wrote in a 2004 letter to the Hartford Courant: "Young workers are intrigued by the idea of diverting their payroll taxes into Wall Street accounts. Privatizers promise ownership of accounts and big investment returns. What they fail to mention are the costs -- increased retirement risks, dramatic cuts in Social Security benefits and a multi-trillion-dollar increase in federal borrowing."

A former congresswoman from Hartford, Conn., Kennelly was the ranking member of the House Ways & Means Social Security Subcommittee and was the third woman in history to serve on the powerful Ways & Means panel. She addressed retired delegates at the NEA Retired Annual Meeting last July.

Kennelly left Congress in 1998 to wage an unsuccessful bid for the Connecticut governorship against John Rowland. She will address the Annual Meeting delegates during the Issues Forum, which is expected to begin in the mid-afternoon.

The events surrounding the Annual Meeting commence on the evening of May 10 with the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner. Among other events, the Annual Meeting  includes greetings, reports from MTA leaders, remarks by guests, recognition of the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and the adoption of the MTA budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Good Deals

The morning of May 11 will begin with delegates packing into the Hynes Convention Center exhibition hall, which will feature aisle after aisle of products and services of interest to educators. From 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. delegates can pick up free samples, enter drawings, try new products and meet with representatives of many of MTA's divisions and committees.

Among the things delegates can do at the Exposition:

  • Schedule an individual consultation at the Pre-Retirement booth.
  • Pick up a 2007 MTA Red Sox Reading Game poster featuring Jason Varitek, the contest spokesperson.
  • Take an on-line survey for association representatives.
  • Enter the New Teacher Committee raffle.
  • Pre-enroll in MTA Retired before the June 30 dues increase.
  • Pick up a "Highly Qualified" affidavit for their personnel files.
  • Visit with representatives of MTA's three staff unions, MTASO, FSO and MATA.
  • Learn more about the GPO, the WEP and the fight for Social Security fairness.
  • Enjoy a complimentary "roving" lunch.

MTA Benefits, a proud sponsor of the expo, will be giving away special calculators to help members figure their MTA savings. Delegates who register for the new MTAB e-mail newsletter will receive a chance to win a $400 gift card to the Apple computer store.

In keeping with this year's Annual Meeting theme, Catch the Educational Wave, the MTAB booth will feature surfboard decor and Hawaiian shirts. Members who take a moment to explain how MTAB has saved them money and have their photos taken will receive additional gifts.

The delegates -- and the action -- will move upstairs at 12:30 p.m., when MTA President Anne Wass will gavel the meeting to order in the Hynes Ballroom on the convention center's third floor. In addition to the Social Security fairness forum, delegates will hear greetings from Tom Gosnell, president of AFT-Massachusetts, and consider amendments to standing rules and MTA resolutions.

There will also be a report on the ads developed by the association's Public Relations/Organizing Campaign Committee. It will be given by MTA Vice President Paul Toner, who co-chairs the committee.

The session will continue until 6 p.m., when the delegates spread out for dinner and cultural events in Boston.

The Annual Meeting will reconvene at 9 a.m. May 12, when the delegates will celebrate Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Jessie Auger of Boston's Rafael Hernandez Bilingual School and then consider the budget. Saturday is also election day, with ballots cast for candidates for MTA offices.

Good Causes

For many delegates, Annual Meeting-related activities will open early, with the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner. Since 1983, the event has honored those who dedicate themselves to equality for all.

The 2007 honorees will be announced at the dinner.

The Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee will be collecting school supplies for a "sister city" school in Cape Verde. The committee is looking for items such as books, crayons, markers and toiletries. They can be dropped off at the EMAC booth at the Expo.

MTA's Annual Meeting also provides the largest fund-raising opportunity for the association's Political Action Committee, the Voice of Teachers for Education. A giveaway helps raise funds for VOTE and provides annual meeting delegates with a chance to win some money, as well. Delegates should be on the lookout for "Uncle Sam" roaming the exhibit hall to drum up support.

Funds raised for VOTE allow the MTA to support candidates who sponsor and advocate for legislative initiatives of importance to educators, students, faculty, staff and public education. Dues dollars are not used to make direct contributions to candidates, so by pooling the VOTE contributions of MTA members, the PAC can give educators a stronger voice and make more of an impact than individual contributions would allow.

Meanwhile, Annual Meeting delegates will have another chance to show their support for The Massachusetts Child charity, which will hold a 50-50 raffle to raise funds for students in need.

Tickets can be purchased in the exhibit hall or outside the meeting hall, and each buyer will receive a free set of Massachusetts Child notecards. Mass. Child volunteers will be happy to explain the charity's Matching Grant program, which provides funds for local associations to assist students with short-term needs such as eyeglasses and warm coats.