The temperatures are rising and so are COVID-19 vaccination rates, bringing some relief to all of us at the end of a long and difficult year. There are still challenges and opportunities remaining before the summer break.
MTA Members Take a Courageous Stand Against High-Stakes MCAS Tests
MCAS protests, including members refusing to give the test, are continuing through the end of testing on June 11. At least one educator is facing sanctions for being an MCAS proctor “conscientious objector.” We are asking members to support the conscientious objectors and general #CancelMCAS position this coming week, starting on Monday, by sharing an image on social media with a link to your local’s MCAS position or to the MTA or Citizens for Public Schools website. Please also consider using one of these images as your profile picture, your Facebook cover photo or your Zoom background.
We all know that MCAS is mostly a measure of students’ race, what language is spoken at home, and family income levels. While the 23-year-old MCAS testing regimen has narrowed the school curriculum and robbed all of our students of joyful learning, educators, students and families of color are challenging us to learn the racist roots and nature of standardized tests. Reading this article by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is a good starting point.
On top of that, our students have been through 14 months of isolation and trauma. What they need most during the precious few weeks remaining in the school year is to reconnect to their school community and regain some sense of wholeness.
MTA members are taking a bold stand against MCAS. Fifty-two conscientious objectors who belong to the Cambridge Education Association and another objector in Hull have informed their principals that they do not intend to administer the MCAS tests this spring. Other educators have chosen to take contractual leave rather than proctor the tests. For inspiration, take a look at what CEA members have done for this cause and read the letter they sent to their colleagues explaining their action. Go here to support the Hull teacher, who is facing disciplinary action for her stand.
In other locations, members have continued to protest. The Quincy Education Association — with support from other locals, the MTA and community groups — held a recent standout, holding signs and distributing the MTA’s Family Guide to Opting Out of State Standardized Tests. Northampton educators have held regular standouts this year. There is also a strong movement, in partnership with the New Bedford Coalition to Save our Schools, Citizens for Public Schools and the South Shore Education Justice Alliance, to inform parents of their opt-out rights. We will know the impact later this spring, as school committees report the number of students who took the test or opted out. We are expecting a record number of opt-outs this year.
Higher Education Funding Neglect Continues
MTA Vice President Max Page and I often ask you three questions about our public higher education institutions: (1) Did you attend one? (2) Do you have a family member who does now, or did in the past? (3) Do you educate students who will attend? Virtually all members can answer “yes” to at least one of these questions, highlighting that we all have a stake in making sure our public higher education institutions are strong.
Despite that wide reach, a history of public disinvestment has resulted in under-resourced campuses and exploited faculty and staff, while skyrocketing costs and a lack of crucial support services have put the successful pursuit of higher education out of reach for far too many students.
The pandemic has simply laid bare the fact that public higher education has been shaped by the same systems of white supremacy and racism that have formed all institutions in our society. Significant drops in college enrollment among Black and Latinx students during the pandemic point to a deepening of inequities that have long been in place for students of color. This stark reality will continue unabated without the bold action that this moment demands. That is why we are fighting to win the Cherish Act.
On Tuesday, I was joined at a State House hearing by MTA rank-and-file members and students. They each gave passionate and deeply personal testimony. Students spoke about the sacrifices they have made to afford a college degree, with some going without food or medical care in order to cover tuition and fees. MTA members told legislators about the programs and staff that our public colleges and universities have cut, undermining the support that students need. Maria Hegbloom, a member of the MSCA chapter at Bridgewater State University, summed up her testimony by saying: “If you fail to support public higher education, you fail to uphold justice.”
Let’s flood the committee with testimony so legislators can’t ignore us. Let the Joint Committee on Higher Education know why you support public higher education by emailing a statement to Rosalind Jordan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Yael Langer (email@example.com).
Support Striking St. Vincent Nurses
The Massachusetts Nurses Association has always been there for us — supporting the campaign against lifting the cap on charter schools, joining the school funding battle and standing up for health and safety in our schools during the pandemic. Now the nurses need us. Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester have been on strike for nearly 11 weeks and the hospital is now seeking to permanently replace more than 100 staff members rather than reach an agreement on safe staffing levels.
The MNA is asking unions to “Adopt a Day on the Line.” Here are details: Picketing during the strike takes place from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Help maintain a robust picket line by adopting a day on the line. Please let Sandy Ellis know what day and time your union can help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
MassChild Summer Reading Grants Available
Please take advantage of The Massachusetts Child’s Summer Reading Grants and get books into the hands of your students. Local associations have access to funds specifically earmarked for book purchases to make sure students have some wonderful reading of their own choosing available to them during the summer months. Details are on our website. The deadline to apply is June 8.