Earlier this week, I testified before the Legislature in favor of a set of bills calling for a transformation of public education that all of our students deserve. Education justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, and the last 18 months have exacerbated the inequities affecting all communities – but especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian-American communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also laid bare what we have known for years to be true: The system of white supremacy is embedded within all institutions in our society – including public education. As I testified on Monday, I named just a few ways that we see it in public education: through white-centric curriculum that perpetuates lies and alienates students of color, in the failure to create a pipeline for and recruitment of a diverse educator force, and in the racist outcomes of the MCAS tests.
The pending legislation has brought great excitement among communities of educators and students of color where – now more than ever – we need to demand that our pedagogy, curricula and materials are reflective, affirming, and uplifting for BIPOC students to ensure they will excel in school.
Testify at Our MCAS Hearing Next Week
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will soon release data from last spring’s MCAS tests. But it won’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: that our students with low-income backgrounds and our Black and brown students experience ongoing structural racism in the form of underfunding of public schools and public health, along with housing, food, and income insecurity. These conditions impact learning. These students have also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Focusing on MCAS results, especially now, adds unnecessary stress at a time when all of our students are coming back to classrooms with social, emotional and academic needs that we don’t yet fully understand. You are working with our students to build community and regain a semblance of wholeness in this new school year. Shifting the conversation to MCAS scores will deter us from the immediate goal of coping with our students’ needs.
The MCAS undermines the progressive change that MTA members have fought to achieve for years. Next week, our MCAS legislation is being heard by the Joint Committee on Education. Testifying or submitting written or video testimony is the next step you can take to fight the MCAS and further the spring advocacy of our fellow unionists – from the conscientious objectors who refused to proctor the tests in Cambridge and on the South Shore to the many educators who helped in the viral opt-out movement. Read on for information about how to participate.
When we fight, we will win. Here are ways to fight the MCAS as well as advance other key legislative priorities the MTA is actively involved in pursuing:
- Joint Committee on Education Hearing: Reimagining MCAS and Academic Achievement bill – Sept. 20 at 11 a.m.
- S.293/H.612, An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement, filed by Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Jim Hawkins, would eliminate the high-stakes nature of the MCAS tests and promote alternative assessment methods.
- Joint Committee on Ways and Means Hearing: American Rescue Plan Act funding
- The ARPA is designed to address challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and to accelerate our nation’s recovery in a way that is equitable, sustainable and just. Learn more about the MTA’s ARPA priorities.
- Joint Committee on Public Service Hearing: Adjunct faculty fair working conditions bill
- S.1732/H.2723, An Act to provide fair working conditions for public higher education adjunct faculty, filed by Senator Pat Jehlen and Representative Paul Mark, would increase the benefits and protections for the Commonwealth’s public higher education adjunct faculty.
- Joint Committee on Education Hearing: Reimaging teacher licensure bill
- S.338/H.583, An Act ensuring diversity in public education, filed by Senator Adam Gomez and Representative Nika Elugardo, would allow for alternative measures of proficiency for educator licensure candidates rather than relying exclusively on the MTEL system.
Please be on the lookout for additional updates on these and other hearings, as well as information on how you can share your support for MTA priorities with your legislators.
MTA Supports Climate Rally
In another important development, the MTA Executive Committee voted recently to endorse the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition’s strike next week and subsequent events this year.
As many of you know, climate justice is racial justice. It is economic and social justice. We are proud of our students – and it is our responsibility to support them.
We stand in solidarity with students in treating climate change as the existential emergency that it is and demanding that our leaders act strongly and ethically on global warming.
MTA educators, along with environmental justice allies and students, will meet at the Boston Public Garden and march to the Massachusetts State House at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. Learn more and sign up.