A s MTA President Merrie Najimy likes to say, “In the words of Twisted Sister, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore!’” The “it”
in this case is the chronic underfunding of public
education, from prekindergarten through higher
Najimy quoted that line at an All Presidents’
Meeting on Sept. 15, launching MTA’s ambitious
campaign named “Fund Our Future: Invest in the
Schools and Colleges Our Communities Deserve.”
More than 200 local leaders attended the meeting,
which was held in Newton.
The campaign goal is to win significant new
funding in the Legislature for both preK- 12 schools
and public higher education. For schools, the
proposal builds off a plan to update the foundation
budget formula that made progress in the Legislature
in the last session but ultimately failed to pass.
The formula sets minimum school spending
requirements for each district. In 2015, the
nonpartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission
determined that the formula is woefully out of date,
providing too little state aid to cities and towns to
meet their constitutional obligation to “cherish”
the state’s public schools. The current formula
underestimates costs in four major areas: educating
students who have disabilities, are English learners,
or are from low-income families; and providing
health insurance to staff.
The MTA-backed plan would address those
shortcomings and guarantee all districts new
resources. In total, it would provide cities and towns
with $1.1 billion in new Chapter 70 school aid per
year once fully phased in.
The MTA proposal also would increase state
funding for public colleges and universities by a
projected $574 million a year. That is the level
needed to bring state funding back to where it was in
2001, in inflation-adjusted dollars, and is in line with
the recommendations made by the Higher Education
Finance Commission in 2014.
The MTA will be working on the campaign
with the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance
and other groups representing parents, students
and other community residents, including many
of the same organizations that joined the MTA in
defeating Question 2, the charter school expansion
ballot initiative, in 2016. “The Fund Our Future
campaign is for students, for educators and for our
communities,” Najimy said. “We must be all in with
this effort if we are going to win.”
MTA locals have already begun to take action.
Early steps include asking school committees
to pass funding resolutions, distributing leaflets,
participating in marches and holding member
meetings to envision what could be accomplished
for students with additional funds. To guide those
conversations, the MTA has simulated how much
each district would receive if the MTA-backed
proposal is passed and phased in over five years.
Those projected totals are available on an interactive
map on the MTA website.
The numbers cannot be calculated in the same
way for public higher education, but all 29 campuses
would benefit and student debt would be reduced if
state funding were increased by $574 million a year.
Maureen Colgan Posner, president of the
Springfield Education Association, used the figure
projected for Springfield – $94,614,747 – when
testifying in support of a school funding resolution
on Sept. 20. Dozens of Springfield educators packed
the School Committee chamber to cheer her on.
Colgan Posner said it was “incomprehensible” to
her that legislators failed to approve the foundation
budget bill last spring, which is why educators are
now taking the lead in trying to pass a new bill
before the end of the school year.
“When you are talking about Springfield, what
does $94 million mean?” she asked.
“Imagine what we could do with that money,” she
said. “We could have art and music back in all of our
schools. We could have foreign languages back in our
middle schools. We could have after-school programs,
more special education support, more English learner
support, small class sizes, etc. The possibilities are
94-million-dollars-unlimited. We need to demand that
this money come back to this community.”
To loud applause, the School Committee voted
unanimously in favor of the resolution and agreed to
send a copy of it to the city’s legislative delegation,
the speaker of the House, the Senate president and
Other locals, including the Haverhill Education
Association, are incorporating the funding message
into contract fights. At a March for Respect on Sept.
13, HEA President Ted Kempinski told the crowd,
“The City of Haverhill is failing to provide its children
with the resources needed to achieve a 21st-century
education. There are no computer teachers in our
elementary and middle schools across the city.
And there are not enough computers in more than
three-quarters of the elementary and middle school
In the photo above, Haverhill
members and colleagues
from other area locals took
to the streets on Sept. 13
to celebrate a one-year
contract settlement while also
calling for more funding. In
the photo at left, educators
applauded on Sept. 20
as Springfield Education
Association President Maureen
Colgan Posner argued for a
school funding resolution.
The School Committee voted
unanimously in favor of the
Photos by Chris Christo and Laura Barrett