A s I write, the weather cannot seem to decide if it is winter or spring. The sun is higher in the sky and the days
are longer, but a cold wind causes me to wrap
myself in a coat and scarf as if it were January.
So too with the stories I could tell of the current
state of public education. As the saying goes,
there is good news and bad news.
First, the bad news. The appointments of
James Peyser as Massachusetts secretary of
education and Paul Sagan as the chair of the
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,
along with Governor Charlie Baker’s opening
salvos about raising
the charter school cap,
tell us that the people
in power have set their
sights on undermining
public education in
retirement offer for
with little or no
backfill, represents an
underhanded attempt to meet his old campaign
promise of laying off 5,000 state employees.
And his proposed Group Insurance Commission
changes put the burden of rising health care
costs squarely and unfairly on the backs of
M eanwhile, Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has his eyes on a state takeover of the Holyoke
Public Schools. The commissioner’s insistence
on takeovers is profoundly undemocratic, as
public schools get taken out of public hands,
and it signals a doubling down on high-stakes
testing, the erosion of union protections and
the privatization of our public schools. As goes
Holyoke, so goes Massachusetts.
This is not hyperbole.
From New Orleans to New York, Chicago
to Los Angeles, those who wish to privatize and
profit from our public schools have used high-stakes testing and charter schools to “prove”
that schools are failing, close public schools
and mount an assault on unions. In so doing,
they are attacking the very possibility of public
education and democracy.
While these efforts have been more stealthy
in Massachusetts until recently (and too often
experienced only by students and teachers in
districts that encounter the most economic and
racial injustice), we need to be ready for a full-
on assault in the months ahead.
Now, some good news.
Across the Commonwealth, educators,
students, parents and communities are waking
up to the dangers we face and, in ways big and
small, organizing and acting together to fight
In Framingham, teachers at the Barbieri
Elementary School wrote a compelling letter to
the editor about the ill effects of PARCC.
In late March, local presidents and
kindergarten teachers gathered in Dedham to
plan actions to educate families about Teaching
Strategies GOLD, the widely used kindergarten
assessment, with the goal of ending it as a
Wachusett Regional Education Association
President Heidi Lahey is organizing community
discussions on the schools that Wachusett
In Concord, President Merrie Najimy and
her Concord Teachers Association negotiating
team are reaching out to the community
and putting academic freedom and teacher
autonomy on the bargaining table.
And in Holyoke, the focal point of the
current assault on public education, educators,
students, parents and community leaders
are organizing forums, knocking on doors,
holding rallies, sending letters and letting the
commissioner and the state know that they
fiercely object to the proposed takeover of the
Meanwhile, in public higher education,
our brothers and sisters in the University of
Massachusetts system continue to fight for their
Here in Massachusetts, our voices are
beginning to blossom, like spring buds, as are
the voices of educators, students and parents
across the country.
Three of our NEA partner associations
in the Northeast have called for opting out of
state-mandated tests: New Jersey, New York and
In Seattle, the opt-out movement caused
Garfield High School administrators to cancel
their version of the PARCC English exam, the
SBAC English language arts test.
We are part of a growing movement of
educators, students, parents and community
organizers using our strength in numbers to
reclaim public education. We should be proud
of what we have achieved in finding our voices
and asserting our power.
The work of creating the schools our
students deserve, getting the resources to fund
those schools and building union strength
and solidarity only happens with shared
commitment and action.
In the weeks and months ahead, we
will continue to build this movement in the
following ways, as well as others:
n By working with locals’ executive boards,
school committee members and others to pass
resolutions that support our legislation calling
for a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes
use of testing.
n By supporting and extending the efforts
in Holyoke, the Wachusett communities and
the many other towns and cities across the
Commonwealth in which grassroots organizing
is taking hold.
n By informing our communities about the
devastating and wasteful use of testing.
n By shifting our collective bargaining
emphasis to include the community and putting
the big issues that matter to us as educators on
n By holding the feet of UMass President
Robert Caret to the fire over our contracts.
n By participating in the Fight for $15
not only for retail workers, but as part of the
struggle for economic justice for everyone.
n And by building toward a fall movement
to increase resources through a two-tiered fair
It has been a long winter, but look around:
Spring has sprung. And there will be much more
In solidarity, and in anticipation of many
great things ahead,
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We are part of a growing movement
of educators, students, parents
and community organizers using
our strength in numbers to reclaim