This has been an important week in our efforts to win equitable education funding and raise state revenues for education in a progressive way. The MTA is a key participant in the coalitions behind both efforts. We are excited to share the latest developments.
Education Funding Lawsuit
Two years ago, delegates to MTA’s Annual Meeting voted to have the MTA build a coalition to launch an education funding lawsuit if the Legislature failed, by July 2018, to fix the school funding crisis. We built the coalition. They failed; we sued.
The Council for Fair School Finance, a reincarnation of the organization that won the original education funding lawsuit, the McDuffy case, today filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth for perpetuating an education funding system that is insufficient to provide the constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality public education — and for maintaining a system that at its core discriminates against our students of color, who have been disproportionately harmed by inadequate funding. The plaintiff families are from Chelsea, Chicopee, Fall River, Haverhill, Lowell, Orange and Springfield.
At a press conference this afternoon, parents and students from several of these communities were joined by other members of the council in making the case that students are being harmed by the inadequate funding. In addition to the MTA, the council members are AFT Massachusetts, the Boston Teachers Union, Citizens for Public Schools, Lawyers for Civil Rights, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and the NAACP New England Area Conference.
Our legal and research teams — including MTA General Counsel Ira Fader, Staff Attorney Laurie Houle, Research Director Dave Danning and Center for Education Policy and Practice Director Beverly Miyares — were instrumental in guiding the production of a powerful complaint that will reverberate in the courts, in the State House and across the country. As with the McDuffy case launched more than three decades ago, it is your union that has taken the lead in bringing this case to court.
As the legislative battle for more funding proceeds, the council will regularly evaluate its strategy for the lawsuit.
Fair Share Amendment
We are also pleased to report that on Wednesday, members of the state Senate and House of Representatives gathered together in a Constitutional Convention and voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Fair Share Amendment — with 75 percent of the Legislature, the highest share ever, supporting the proposal. This is a major step forward after the devastating loss — some would call it theft — of the Fair Share Amendment last June, when the Supreme Judicial Court refused to allow our ballot measure to go to the voters.
The new amendment, backed by the MTA and other members of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, must be voted on again in the next legislative session before it can appear on the ballot in 2022. This is an essential part of the Fund Our Future campaign because it specifies that the new revenues are intended to support public schools and public higher education, along with public transportation, roads and bridges. We will also fight strongly for progressive revenues in the near term to help fund what we hope will be major new investments in public education, from preK through higher education.
But this week, we are one step closer to having more than $1 billion in permanent new funding for public education.
These developments are exciting and bring more momentum to our fight. But we cannot win new funding for our public schools and colleges without all of you pressing the Legislature in no uncertain terms to pass the Promise Act and the Cherish Act. School may be out for many of you, which makes hosting a calling party all the more possible.
We need you to make those calls, show up at in-district meetings, and be ready to mobilize when funding bills move forward in the Legislature in the coming weeks.