As we head toward Public Schools Week — Feb. 24-28 — it is a good time to reflect on the many successes of our students, our members and our union. Even with all of the issues they face, our public schools are the envy of the country, thanks to the hard work and skills of our members. Thank you for all you do! Although we have a long way to go to make sure all students have access to equitably funded public schools, passage of the Student Opportunity Act has made sure we are moving in the right direction.
Governor’s PreK-12 Budget Shows Progress
Governor Charlie Baker’s budget for the coming fiscal year, filed in January and referred to as “House 2,” would increase Chapter 70 funding under the Student Opportunity Act by $304 million. That’s $200 million more than is needed to keep up with inflation, and FY21 is just the first year of the required seven-year phase-in of the new law, which MTA members were instrumental in getting passed.
As intended, most of the new money is targeted to districts serving high percentages of low-income students, so not every district will experience large increases, though all districts are “held harmless.” That means none will be worse off under the SOA than under the old law. Increases statewide will be substantial when the new law is fully phased in, with a projected $2 billion more in state Chapter 70 aid going to public schools than in the current fiscal year — a 40 percent increase. Download the governor’s proposed first-year funding by district.
Although the Baker plan does anticipate reaching full funding by FY27, we join some legislators in believing that the rate of increase for the districts most in need is slower than we’d like and slower than the administration had originally projected. We are talking to legislators about ways to get more money to more districts more quickly as the budget process unfolds in the House and Senate. We will keep you posted.
ESPs Using Their Union Power to Launch Living Wage Campaigns
In the Winter issue of MTA Today, there’s an article about Education Support Professionals in several locals using negotiations to build living wage campaigns, including one in Somerville. Here’s a clip of a new member leader, Somerville paraprofessional Daphnee Balan, rallying members and allies outside of a School Committee meeting to send the message: “20K is not OK. We deserve a higher pay!”
The Somerville campaign is solidly rooted in the transparent and democratic principles of open bargaining. The members realize that in order to win, they must build strong relationships with each other, the licensed teaching staff and the Somerville community.
Weymouth Compressor Protest Set for Feb. 19
MTA members will be among those protesting a massive natural gas compressor station in Weymouth on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The MTA Board of Directors voted in December to encourage members to join the fight against the compressor for multiple reasons, including concerns about fossil fuels and climate change; safety and emergency response plans; and public health and environmental justice. Among the health risks, the proposed site of the compressor contains high levels of heavy metals and the station may produce cancer-causing emissions, according to a letter sent to Governor Baker by the Weymouth Educators’ Association. That letter notes that there are “32 schools within a three-mile radius of the proposed compressor station, serving a total of 12,062 students in grades PreK-12.”
Join other MTA members and representatives of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station to protest the compressor at 50 Bridge St., Weymouth, on Feb. 19 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Go here for more information.
Diane Ravitch Coming to Cambridge on Feb. 26
Diane Ravitch, the head of the Network for Public Education and author most recently of “Slaying Goliath,” is a prolific and passionate advocate for keeping the public in public schools, getting rid of curriculum-narrowing standardized tests, and standing up for educators across the country. The MTA is joining Citizens for Public Schools and others in co-sponsoring this event, where she will tell it like it is about the billionaire boys’ club that is trying to privatize public education and keep us muzzled.
Higher Education Advocacy Day Set for March 2
Last week we sent an email about Higher Education Advocacy Day, which is set for March 2. It’s not too soon to start promoting this event among colleagues, friends, relatives and anyone else you know who cares about having a high-quality public higher education system that doesn’t force our graduates to carry a huge burden of debt. Sign up for Higher Education Advocacy Day and share. Keep an eye out for future emails about how you can help even if you can’t make it into Boston that day.