Rolling rallies continue as educators protest cuts and call for equity

Rolling rallies continue as educators protest cuts and call for equity

Rolling rallies continued to spread the word across the state today about the folly of cutting budgets for public schools and colleges and laying off educators, as well as the need to build a society based on economic and racial justice.

Thousands of MTA members and allies took part in caravans and other events calling for education justice. On the last official day of the union’s Week of Action, rallies and caravans were held in communities including Revere, Malden, Worcester, Leicester and East Bridgewater.

Dozens of Revere Teachers Association members — joined by educators representing locals in surrounding towns — kicked off a “One Voice Caravan,” honking their horns as they drove around City Hall three times before heading to Malden.

Hundreds of people were in attendance at the event held there, which was hosted by the Malden Education Association. After a speaking program that included comments by MTA President Merrie Najimy, MTA Vice President Max Page, U.S. Senator Ed Markey and U.S. Representative Katherine Clark, participants gathered at the headquarters of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — where they taped a document that lays out the MTA's school reopening principles to the front door.

Najimy asked those present to note the historic nature of the moment, stating that the current campaign is “Fund Our Future 2.0.”

“The world is on fire now because of the murder of George Floyd,” she said. “People are understanding systemic racism as it manifests in public education. Fund Our Future was the campaign that began to expose what systemic racism looks like in education.

"People are understanding systemic racism as it manifests in public education."

“We’re here to fight for education because the Student Opportunity Act was legislators’ unconditional commitment that they would begin to fund education to begin to dismantle systemic racism,” she continued. “The fight ahead is not only for funding, but to win the reopening of schools according to the conditions that we determine are right. The reopening plans must center educators, students and families in the decision-making. They will require more staff, not fewer; the reimagining of curriculum, instruction and assessment without MCAS; and materials and technology for all, while keeping public schools out of the hands of the privatization vultures.”

Meanwhile, even though the day was bright and sunny, participants at a rally outside Worcester City Hall carried umbrellas to signify “a rainy day for public education.”

Pink slips have gone out to 104 educators in the city, and members of the Educational Association of Worcester said they fear they might be seeing just the beginning of many struggles ahead.

Ruth Rodriguez, a community activist who addressed the crowd, said that budget cuts would shortchange Worcester students — many of whom are from low-income families or are English learners. “We need to look at what is happening right here in this city,” she said. “We need to fight.” U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III also spoke.

During the afternoon, dozens of educators from all over Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod arrived at East Bridgewater Middle/High School for a caravan that ended at Bridgewater State University, where Page addressed the crowd.

Notices of layoffs and furloughs “are terrible for our students and terrible for our members,” he said. But he urged the educators to keep fighting “for the most important institution in a democracy — the education of our youth.” Page called on the crowd to continue to push for the funding provided for in the Student Opportunity Act and keep up the effort to win passage of the Cherish Act for higher education.

Maria Hegbloom, a faculty member at BSU and a member of the Massachusetts State College Association, spoke about issues common to preK-12 and higher education.

“I stand here with my K-12 colleagues because we share common goals,” she said. “We stand here together because we all want our students to have promising futures and the opportunity to thrive. For this to happen, we need adequate funding at all levels.

“We stand here together for all of our students, and we stand together for our entire Commonwealth,” Hegbloom said. “Now is not the time to cut funding for our future.”