Sweeping budget cuts are focus of campus and community actions

Sweeping budget cuts are focus of campus and community actions

Leominster WOA
More than 500 people stood out in Leominster to protest education cuts. The district handed down 132 pink slips to educators.

Protesters from UMass Amherst and UMass Boston held rallies and noisy car caravans today to oppose budget cuts and layoffs and call for health and safety on public higher education campuses — all against a backdrop of ending systemic racism.

In Leominster, a crowd of more than 500 people came out late this afternoon to stand out for 132 teachers who recently received layoff notices. Some educators dressed in pink and many carried pink signs to show their solidarity with those who received pink slips.

All of the events tied in with the MTA’s Week of Action for education funding and social and racial justice.

At UMass Amherst, more than 100 cars and bicycles participated in a caravan around the campus and Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s house.

At UMass Boston, members of employee unions held a rally. They then took part in a caravan from the parking lot of the Boston Teachers Union hall to UMass President Marty Meehan’s downtown office.

On the Amherst campus, the UMass Unions United coalition has called on the university to guarantee no layoffs or major cuts in the coming year. The group demands that UMass “put people first” by investing in public higher education, preserving academic programs and campus jobs, and reopening the campus only when it is safe. In addition, the coalition stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and is urging the UMass administration to make the campus more accessible to people of color.

Leslie Marsland
University Staff Association President Leslie Marsland speaks about threatened layoffs at UMass Amherst.

At the UMass Boston Day of Action, protesters demanded that there be no cuts or layoffs; no reductions in staffing, teachers or courses; a safe campus for all; and protection for members of the community from the coronavirus and police violence. Education funding must be put ahead of policing, they said.

The big crowd in Leominster included Leominster Education Association members, along with fellow union members from locals including Littleton, Fitchburg, Wachusett and Nashoba and many community supporters. They rallied outside City Hall before a late afternoon meeting at which the school budget was to be presented.

Some participants also carried umbrellas to show that the city is in the middle of “a rainy day for education.”

The laid-off teachers represent nearly one-quarter of the teachers in the district, but the schools could also lose dozens of non-teaching employees.

Last week, LEA President Leah Burns told the Leominster Champion, “If Leominster Public Schools are forced to open in late August with the current staffing projections, class sizes will be unmanageable and unsafe, no matter what model of learning is prescribed. Students will also be extremely limited in the options they have to obtain a well-rounded education, and the services necessary to reach all learners will be compromised. We must do better for our public education system.”

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A list of Week of Action  events is posted at facebook.com/massteacher/events.