This past weekend, from Pittsfield to Boston, educators marched in support of students demanding an end to gun violence. While eyes were focused on Boston and Washington, D.C., members supported students in organizing a rally in Beverly, which drew about 600 people; a rally in Worcester, which drew thousands; and a rally in Northampton, which had thousands as well. There were also well-attended rallies in Hyannis and Springfield.
We can learn so much when we listen to young people, when we trust them and support their voices. I was especially moved by this speech, given in Washington, D.C., by an 11-year-old girl, not only for the lessons of its words but for the reminder of what young people are capable of. As educators' professional autonomy is denied and the focus on standardized testing continues, it is more and more difficult to teach to the best in students. This is why we organize - to claim our knowledge and expertise so that schools can truly support the kind of democratic engagement the students are demonstrating.
MTA Board Recommends Campaign to Win Fair Share Amendment
While educators were marching with students, the MTA Board of Directors was holding its March meeting, where we discussed and voted on the campaign to win the Fair Share Amendment. After hearing from Raise Up Massachusetts field organizer Carl Nilsson and after a presentation by me about how we can fund the campaign through the Public Relations/Organizing Campaign Committee, requests to the NEA and then reserve funding, the board voted 46-18 to recommend that delegates to MTA's Annual Meeting support the funding proposal.
Winning the Fair Share Amendment will not only generate upward of $2 billion a year for public education, preK through higher education, and for roads, bridges and public transportation, it will also enshrine funding for public education in the state Constitution. It will be a huge win. The MTA should be a leader in getting us there.
Support Adjunct Health Care: Call or Write Now
We have an opportunity to win a key piece of our legislative agenda if we all act now. Legislation that would provide health insurance to adjunct faculty at community colleges, at state universities and on all of the UMass campuses needs your vocal support. Go here for links to sending an e-mail or making a phone call to your legislators urging them to support this overdue piece of legislation. Our sisters and brothers who are adjuncts have a right to health care. Let's help them win this.
Warren Wins Public Service Loan Forgiveness
In a victory for the public good, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren successfully fought for a one-time reprieve for borrowers who otherwise would miss out on benefits offered through the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Teachers, nurses, police officers and other public servants who meet certain criteria are eligible for the program, but a glitch has blocked some from receiving the funds they deserve. Senator Warren called me on Saturday to let me know that the fix was included in the newly signed federal budget legislation. We will be working together to get the word out about this program and to support a long-term fix to crippling student loan debt. Go here for the news story. More information will follow.
Boston-Area Educators for Social Justice Conference
If you are not headed to the MTA ESP Conference (and if you are an ESP you should be), you can go to the BESJ Conference on Saturday, April 7. Join educators, students and community organizers in teaching and learning from one another about how to make our schools sites of social justice education and activism.
Bill Passed to Improve Health Care Options for Retirees in Pool 2
Legislation required to spare a group of retired public employees, mostly teachers, from a spike in health care costs next year was quickly approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor on Tuesday. Passage occurred just in time for the start of open enrollment on April 4. The measure merges roughly 10,000 retirees in Pool 2 into the main Group Insurance Commission pool (Pool 1). Without this action, about 955 retirees in Pool 2 would have been forced to switch health plans and absorb premium hikes of 30 percent to 80 percent.
We are continuing to work with other unions to advocate for more labor representation on the GIC and for other changes that will protect members from unnecessary cost-shifting.
Raise Up Massachusetts Briefings on Minimum Wage and Leave Bills
Raise Up Massachusetts is holding a series of community briefings with legislators in support of bills to raise the minimum wage to $15 and to provide employees with paid family and medical leave. Both bills are currently before the Legislature, and both measures may go to the ballot if the Legislature takes no action. Upcoming briefings are scheduled for Brockton on April 10 and Swampscott on April 11. Please also consider phone banking on behalf of the bills. The next session will be in Somerville on April 11. Go here for information about all of these actions.