T he energy of MTA members chanting and the cheers we received from the crowd as we proceeded along Commonwealth
Avenue during the Boston Women’s March for
America serve to remind us of the power of our
It is this power that brought us to victory in
the No on Question 2 campaign. And it is the
power of collective action that will keep our
students and communities safe in the years ahead,
strengthen our union and win us the schools and
colleges our communities deserve.
These are perilous times. As I write, we are
watching the confirmation of a nominee for U.S.
secretary of education who is opposed to public
Donald Trump’s Cabinet
the billionaire class,
are being silenced, and
our commitments to
diversity and justice
are under fierce attack
as borders are closed
and immigrants are
All this is taking
place as we await Senate
action on a Trump nominee for a seat on the U.S.
Supreme Court whose confirmation would almost
certainly strengthen the nationwide move to
dismantle union rights and labor protections.
Meanwhile, each of you strives every day
— often under absurd conditions of austerity,
mistrust and surveillance — to live up to
the ideals that are at the center of our work:
supporting the development of young people in all
of their complicated and beautiful humanity.
Here in Massachusetts, we already have a
secretary of education who does not support
public education and who believes that we
need a punitive accountability system based on
standardized tests. We face constant privatization
efforts and other components of an assault that
runs from preK- 12 schools all the way through
public higher education.
What to do? Let’s be clear: We face a long
struggle. The forces marshaled against us have
money and power — and they are committed to
undermining our union and our democracy.
But we’ve been here before. History is filled
with oppression, with injustice, with attempts to
silence resistance. And history is just as filled with
people — working people — coming together
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to speak out, to claim a vision of a better world
and to fight for it. Now history is calling us, as
members of the largest union in Massachusetts, to
step up, name our vision, speak out and act.
The schools our
In the No on 2 campaign, we discovered
that people value public schools and they value
educators’ knowledge and expertise. It is time to
build on that commitment to public education and
that trust in educators.
In the weeks and months ahead, I encourage
you to work within your local and community
to develop and assert our vision for public
education: a vision in which we attend to
the whole child, in which educators have the
autonomy and respect to do the work we are
prepared to do, in which students and educators
are free of the madness of high-stakes testing
and enjoy a rich and varied curriculum, in which
schools and colleges have the resources to provide
fair wages and benefits and meet the needs of the
diversity of students, and in which all students are
welcomed and all families and communities are
Hold a forum. Talk to colleagues, students
and parents. Ignite a vision worth fighting for.
We won the Question 2 campaign because
we engaged in numerous conversations — from
the dinner table to the grocery store to the front
door of a stranger’s home. We need to continue
those conversations about testing, funding, the
well-being of our vulnerable students and their
families, attempts to privatize public education,
the degradation of teacher evaluations, and the
threats to union rights and protections.
Deepen the conversation by broadening the
vision and educating people about why public
schools are foundational to democracy.
Local victories build
And then fight for that vision in your
building, your district, your community and our
In Revere, educators in the Revere Teachers
Association met with the superintendent to call
for a stop to demeaning comments that evaluators
made when posting in “the cloud” through online
teacher portfolios. They read the comments,
told the superintendent how degrading they
were, and requested that — as her counterpart
did in Somerville — she join with educators in
sending a letter to the Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education objecting to proposed
changes to the Student Impact Rating system.
That is powerful collective action. That is
educators — working people — asserting the
right to workplace dignity and respect.
In Hull, Deborah McCarthy, president of
the local, is exploring a claim of “conscientious
objector” status and
asking to be relieved of
tests. She says she can
no longer participate in
what amounts to abuse
of students. She is
inviting other educators
to join her. This is
what it looks like when
we assert our knowledge, expertise and moral
At UMass Amherst, the Massachusetts Society
of Professors, which is the MTA faculty local, held
a visioning session on the question, “When we
win the Fair Share Amendment, how should the
resulting funds be spent for our public colleges and
universities?” This is how we build a vision to fight
for. And with the Fair Share Amendment, we will
have a means to pay for that vision.
These are just a few examples of the work
we need to do at the local level to begin to win
the schools and colleges our communities deserve
— and to secure our union rights and protections.
Each victory at the local level grows our power —
and can strengthen our coalitions — so that when
we are demanding that the Legislature take action
in the name of public education, our senators
and representatives know we will be committed,
persistent and unwavering.
Courage, hope and joy
in collective action
Yes, these are dangerous and scary times, but
the antidote is right before us. Reach out to each
other. Build relationships. Educate each other and
the community. Name the context and the vision.
And join the struggle. Here you will find
hope, courage and the joy of raising our voices.
fully fund public education!”
and scary times,
but the antidote
is right before