Union News: Big wins in Wisconsin and Chicago, and unpacking the high-stakes testing failure

Union News: Big wins in Wisconsin and Chicago, and unpacking the high-stakes testing failure

Greeting, MTA members,

It was good to find out late last Tuesday that, in Wisconsin, Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the progressive, pro-abortion rights state Supreme Court candidate, had won by a sizable margin, and that Brandon Johnson, a former teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, will be the next Chicago mayor.

Good organizing by the CTU helped Johnson beat Paul Vallas, an education reformer and close ally of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. But it is also worth noting how these victories show that the public is with us on so many issues, from the right to strike, to support for public higher education, and ending the high-stakes testing regime.

We are excited to publicize an upcoming report by Citizens for Public Schools and FairTest, the national anti-high-stakes testing group, which details the “lessons learned” over the past two decades of high-stakes testing in Massachusetts. The full report will be available on massteacher.org/highstakes once it is released, and we will include a link to it in the following weekly.

The lessons it details are not pretty: the high-stakes testing regime has not narrowed gaps between wealthier and whiter districts and districts with many more working-class students and students of color. The graduation requirement has, if anything, hurt disadvantaged students.

And the state receivership law – which allowed for the undemocratic takeover of Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge – has been an abject, undemocratic disaster. That’s why the MTA and its partners in the Thrive Act coalition are working hard to pass the Thrive Act this legislative session.

Happening right now across locals, MTA educators are holding accountability meetings with their elected state representatives and senators on our public education priorities, including the Cherish Act and the Thrive Act. Attend one of these accountability meetings with your elected legislators and urge them to support and co-sponsor the MTA’s legislative priorities.

We have two exciting events in the coming weeks that address this key legislation. Please register for the “Speak Out” event for the Cherish Act on Wednesday, May 3, at the State House. And save the date for our Thrive Act Advocacy Day – happening Wednesday, May 24. More details to come on that soon.

MTA Events and Solidarity Actions

Support Your Union Siblings
Check out this list of upcoming actions. Please add your own to this form. The more we show up for one another, the greater the power we generate for local and statewide campaigns.

Support Rutgers University Educators
Approximately 9,000 faculty, graduate workers, postdocs, staff and others at Rutgers University in New Jersey are on strike from across three unions. It's the first time in the school's 257-year history and comes nine months after their old agreements expired. Please support our fellow union educators by contributing to their strike fund.

Higher Ed for All: A Debt-Free Future is Possible
When: 4:30 p.m., Friday, April 14
Where: MASS MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams
Debt-free, high-quality public higher education is essential to expand opportunity in all of our communities and create a more equitable and prosperous Commonwealth. Join us with activists and elected officials, as well as artist kelli rae adams, whose work about student debt is on view at MASS MoCA. Admission to the event and museum is free. Sign up here.

NEA Ethnic Minority Affairs Caucus
When: June 16-18
Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico
All four NEA Ethnic Caucuses will be joining forces for one powerful weekend of breaking down the issues, building community, and empowering our voices. Request MTA funding for one or more NEA events.

The MTA Disability Insurance Open Enrollment is Underway
Now through May 13, all members in participating locals can enroll in or make changes to their short- and long-term disability insurance coverage. New this year: all new members since July 1, 2022, regardless of their local’s participation in the program, can enroll in short- and long-term disability insurance. If you can’t afford to be without your paycheck, then you can’t afford to be without disability insurance. Schedule an appointment with a benefit counselor.

Summer reading books for our students via Massachusetts Child
The Massachusetts Child program is once again offering up to $500 to every preK-12 local whose members want to purchase summer reading books for students who may not otherwise be able to get books. The Summer Reading Grant is designed to help educators foster a love of reading in their students by letting the students find books they are interested in reading. The goal is to get students in need the books they’d like to read and not necessarily the books that they have to read. All of the details about the Summer Reading Grants and other Mass Child programs can be found on our website.

Political Education

We previously posted a widely discussed essay about building power in progressive organizations – and keeping focus on the real enemies and our fundamental goals - by Maurice Mitchell of the Working Families Party.

But we wanted to be sure everyone had seen it and had a chance to read it.

Women make up about two-thirds of our union membership. In a society that has traditionally devalued women’s work, that has left women with a more than 20 percent gap in pay. That matches the longstanding gap between educators and similarly credentialed professionals in other jobs.

When you fight for better pay for all educators, you are also fighting a battle for gender justice.

In solidarity,

Max and Deb