I hope you all are planning a relaxing — and safe — holiday break. This break is sorely needed so we can regroup and connect with friends and family, even if that connection is more virtual than in person. This has been an exhausting fall, and the roller coaster ride is not over.
On a recent call with more than 700 members, we talked about some actions that members can take now and what’s coming up in the near future. Storytelling is one of those actions. We know that when educators tell their stories, the public listens. Read on to find out how you can participate.
Support Pandemic Learning with Personal Stories
Take 60 seconds to name one resource or supportive action that state officials could provide or take to make education during the pandemic more effective for our students. Go here to tell your story with a simple video tool. Go here to write your personal message to Governor Charlie Baker, Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and Education Secretary Jim Peyser. The majority of the 700 of your co-workers who participated in the virtual meeting have already written messages to these state officials. Add your voice to theirs.
Track COVID-19 Cases in Your School
The MTA and AFT Massachusetts have developed a COVID-19 tracker to give members more detailed information than they are getting from state education officials. This is a crowd-sourced tracker so any member can upload information, but we are trying to verify the reports when possible. Please go here to learn more about how to use this tool. If you report a case in your school, please upload supporting information if possible, such as a letter from the superintendent or an article from your local newspaper. In addition to case counts, we also want members to report safety issues and share their stories. This important information will help shape our organizing efforts at the local and state levels.
COVID-19 Testing — Not MCAS Testing
Why cancel MCAS this year? I was copied on a moving letter that a parent wrote to Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley about MCAS. In part she wrote, “This is a year like no other. Our children's lives have been turned upside down. ... With children already facing enormous emotional distress, the last thing I want my child to have to worry about is taking tests they are ill prepared for.” In addition, imagine how the more than $30 million spent on MCAS could be used for things such as systematic COVID-19 surveillance testing in our schools, much like the program developed by the Wellesley Public Schools with parent support.
Thousands of members took a first step and contacted state elected officials in support of an amendment to the budget that would cancel MCAS this year, but the Legislature took no action on it. We are not giving up. Please stay tuned for information on how local associations can work with local school committees and parents to support canceling the MCAS, both the administration of the test this spring — for which we will need a federal waiver — and requiring high school students to pass MCAS tests to graduate this year and next. No waiver is needed for that — just political will.
Shining Some Light on the Crisis in Public Higher Ed
Last Wednesday and Thursday, higher ed members gathered (socially distanced, of course) on our campuses (and on Facebook Live) to watch the The Illuminator — an activist group out of New York City — project our messages onto campus buildings about the need to bring furloughed staff back and to defend public higher education. They even projected the words “Defend Public Higher Ed” on the front portico of the State House! While together we successfully managed to secure level funding in the state budget, we need to lean on campus executives to stop the furloughs, layoffs and program cuts that threaten to do long-term damage to our public colleges and universities. Check out these powerful ads and take action at MassachusettsAgrees.org.
Eat well. Stay safe. Get some rest.