Ballot campaign will take center stage at Annual Meeting

The fight against a ballot initiative that would eliminate the state income tax will take center stage at the MTA's Annual Meeting of Delegates, May 8-10.

An issues forum during the Annual Meeting business session on Friday, May 9, will look back on the devastation wrought in the 1980s and 1990s by Proposition 2 1/2, which limited property taxes in communities throughout the Commonwealth. The forum will also look ahead to the potential consequences of the income question that is expected to appear on the ballot this November, which would repeal the state personal income tax.

If implemented, the ballot question will cost the state more than $12 billion a year in revenues, or about 40 percent of the state budget. In 2002, a similar ballot question garnered 45 percent of the vote.

MTA President Anne Wass, who witnessed the program and staff cuts that followed Prop. 2 1/2, will open the issues forum and outline the strategy the MTA and a coalition of concerned groups will use to defeat the measure.

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Lily Eskelsen will give the meeting's keynote address just before the issues forum.

Eskelsen, who has worked as an ESP and teacher in Utah, has been speaking around the country this winter and spring about her home state's stunning ballot-box rejection of school vouchers. A full 62 percent of voters opposed the voucher program, handing an important victory to public education advocates in Utah and across the country.

This will be Eskelsen's second appearance at an MTA Annual Meeting. She brought down the house in 2004 with her anti-NCLB ballad, No Child's Behind Left.

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) is also expected to address delegates during the Friday business session.

Other business items for Friday include action on bylaw amendments, proposed resolutions and new business items. The session will adjourn after a report from the Public Relations/Organizing Campaign Committee and speeches from candidates for statewide association offices.

The May 10 session opens with the presentation of two MTA awards.

Michael Flynn, a Southampton teacher, will be recognized as the 2008 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. The MTA Friend of Education Award will be presented to Edward P. Sullivan, who retired in March as executive director-treasurer of the association. Sullivan, who served the MTA for more than 30 years as an attorney, field representative, lobbyist and executive director, was also honored April 11 at a dinner in Boston.

Saturday will also include the election of MTA officers -- the president and vice president -- as well as action on the budget and dues for 2008-2009.

On Thursday evening and Friday morning, delegates will take part in two traditions that help them gear up for the press of activities and votes that make up the Annual Meeting: the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on Thursday and Friday morning's Expo.

The Expo features aisles of displays for products and services of interest to educators. MTA Benefits will treat members like MVPs at its baseball-themed booth. Nearby, MTA Communications will hand out 2008 Red Sox Reading Game posters and entry forms featuring All Star catcher Jason Varitek, who is serving once again as the contest spokesman.

Other MTA-affiliated exhibitors include the Center for Education Policy and Practice and the MTA staff unions: MTASO, the MTA Staff Organization; the FSO, the Field Services Organization; and MATA, the Massachusetts Association of Teacher Attorneys.

VOTE -- the Voice of Teachers for Education -- has set a goal of $10,000 to be raised during the Annual Meeting. VOTE makes a difference by helping legislators who support educators, students and public education. Another good cause, The Massachusetts Child, will raise money to help participating locals meet students' short-term needs -- a pair of eyeglasses, a warm coat or gym clothes, for instance.

The VOTE and Mass Child fund-raisers will run during the Expo and through Saturday outside of the meeting room.