Fear and Hope on Racism and Reopening

Fear and Hope on Racism and Reopening

Merrie Najimy

Merrie Najimy, President


We live in astounding times, with some of the biggest threats to public health and democracy facing us side by side – and with an incredible outpouring of support for Black and Brown lives in the aftermath of the shameful murder of George Floyd and so many others at the hands and knees of the police.

I have received numerous personal emails and have seen social media posts from members expressing concerns, anxiety and outrage, but also their demands and hopes for returning to our public schools and colleges.

In our locals and chapters, high priorities are fighting for adequate funding to open our schools and colleges safely and making sure the reopening plans address the physical and emotional health of both students and staff. The fight starts by laying out our platform for what returning must entail. This platform, which is nearly ready to launch, has emerged from conversations with members across the state. After the release, we will host more rounds of local, regional and statewide organizing meetings to build the movement it will take to win.

We are fearful and hopeful all at once. We are hopeful that the demonstrations on our streets represent a new awakening of conscience about the systemic racism that is foundational to our society and a renewed movement to dismantle it. We are also hopeful that if members’ voices are loud enough to be heard, we will be able to resume teaching and learning in ways that are both safe and meaningful.

Now More Than Ever: Fund Our Future to Retain All Educators!

Pink slips are flying in a growing number of locals, and our members are fighting back, demanding funding – not cuts. Brookline, Randolph and Franklin were among the preK-12 locals hit early. In higher ed, it was the UMass system. They have engaged in public demonstrations to demand the schools and colleges our students and educators deserve. In Brookline, the member activism is directly related to the district rescinding a high percentage of the layoffs. Randolph had a very successful event yesterday.

Week of Action Coming

Locals and chapters are fighting back by region, too! Next week, starting on June 15, UMass unions and at least 30 locals are planning similar events in their areas, making this a “week of action.” The theme of the week ties in with the protests against police brutality: Education Justice IS Racial Justice and Safe Schools Require Full Staffing. The schools that need funding the most serve high numbers of low-income Black and Brown students. And since educators of color are among the most recent to be hired, they are also among those being laid off.

As we get details about these events, we will be sharing them on our Facebook page and website. We encourage members in nearby communities to join these actions.

If your local would like to organize an action, ask your president to contact your MTA field rep or organizer. And don’t forget to ask your School Committee members to pass a resolution demanding more funding from the federal and state governments. Resources are key to making schools and colleges safe and functional in the future. If your local is told that there just isn’t enough money, tell them that many of the super-rich have gotten even richer in this pandemic; the state can raise the revenues needed by restoring progressive taxes that have been cut over the years.

Celebrate Juneteenth!

The week of action will be capped off with a special screening and discussion of the musical The Moment Was Now, sponsored by MTA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, the Task Force on Race and the Training and Professional Learning Committee. Register Now!

Reopening Schools

We grow our power to win a safe and healthy return to school by acting together with students and families — not by having a seat at the table.

Although the MTA has a seat on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Task Force on Reopening Schools, the process is not going well. We are given very little chance to present our perspective on issues of substance, either in the large group, our subcommittee assignment, or one-on-one with the commissioner. Most members of the task force, including those representing classroom educators, are being kept in the dark, only seeing DESE documents when they are released to the public.

We are expecting DESE to release its main guidance on reopening before the end of the month. It will almost certainly require a hybrid model, with some onsite learning and some remote learning. However, we don’t have details about what is in it, and that’s a huge problem. Although we represent more than 80,000 public school educators, our members’ views are not being sought or heard. Because of that, we will be releasing our own recommendations about school reopening soon and organizing across the state to have them met.

We have to win funding and get the reopening plan right. Your livelihoods and your health are at stake, as is the health of your students. Take a short rest and then we must get back together to win the schools and colleges our communities deserve.

Stay safe, and keep an eye out for emails from your local and the MTA because this is by no means over.

In solidarity,