‘Now it is time to plant a flag for our vision and go out and fight for it’
By Laura Barrett
May you live in interesting times” is both a blessing and a curse, aptly describing the current era for educators. It is a time of
tumult and risk, as well as opportunity and strength.
Election Night embodied both, as opponents
of Question 2 celebrated victory even as many
bemoaned what a Trump presidency would mean for
MTA President Barbara Madeloni’s response
is that the MTA needs to draw courage from the
Question 2 victory and build power for the difficult
“We established that educators are trusted and
that people value public education,” Madeloni said.
“Now it is time to plant a flag for our vision and go
out and fight for it.”
The MTA is encouraging local associations
to hold community forums before the end of the
school year under the broad umbrella of supporting
the Schools Our Communities Deserve. The goal
is to foster discussions about what educators and
community residents want from their local public
schools and to work together to achieve their aims.
Some of the conversations will probably be
geared toward a statewide agenda, such as supporting
a moratorium on high-stakes testing. Others will
focus on local matters.
As MTA Today went to press, a forum was
scheduled in Dedham to discuss the district’s
plan to eliminate reading teachers. Another was
set in Brookline, centered in part on the need for
better working conditions for education support
“The success of the Question 2 campaign
was that we found a balance between a structured
campaign and a certain amount of chaos,” Madeloni
said. “We need both. The structure provides guidance
and support, but we need to be flexible enough for
members to grab issues and make them their own —
Women’s marches on Jan. 21 were good
examples of combining structure and chaos to
support women and oppose the agenda of President
Donald Trump, who was inaugurated one day
earlier. The marches originated as Facebook posts by
No one specified what headgear should be
worn, but fabric stores ran out of pink yarn after the
idea of wearing pink hats went viral. The origins of
the events were local and involved many different
people and organizations, but actually pulling them
off took a huge amount of organization and structure.
Many MTA members, still feeling the power
of the Question 2 victory, jumped at the chance to
join the rallies. A large contingent marched behind
the MTA banner in Boston, chanting “No more
misinformation; fully fund public education!”
Madeloni was among the speakers at the event.
Audrey Murph-Brown, a social worker in the
Springfield Public Schools, said at the Boston rally,
“We need to sustain our win on Question 2, and we
need to get out and let everyone know that we are
going to stand strong, no matter what happened” in
terms of the presidential election.
“We’re not going to make it easy for the other
side,” she added.
Michele Blanchard, a middle school wellness
teacher in the Blackstone-Millville Public Schools,
said that the Boston rally was her first-ever
demonstration, “and it took me 60 years to get here.”
She said she joined “so that everyone has a voice and
everyone gets heard.”
In Washington, D.C., retired Quincy teacher
Linda Monaco carried a sign that read, “Betsy DeVos
is no Betsy Ross. Protect our public schools.”
DeVos, Trump’s appointee for U.S. education
secretary, is a billionaire who has dedicated herself to
privatizing public education through charter schools
and vouchers. She is expected to use the power of
the purse to support that agenda by seeking to divert
federal dollars now used to educate low-income
students to private entities.
The Massachusetts Constitution prohibits public
aid to private schools, but privatization measures short
of vouchers could be advanced here. MTA members
are almost certain to once again have to make the case
that public funds belong in public schools.
The Trump administration poses many other
challenges for educators and labor, including efforts
to weaken unions.
“This is not just about Trump, but about an
ideology that is intent on undermining unions,
profiting from the public dollar and eroding
democracy through privatization of the common
good,” Madeloni said.
A U.S. Supreme Court that includes one or
more Trump appointees would likely eliminate
agency fee requirements. Under those requirements,
public employees who are members of a collective
bargaining unit currently can be required to pay the
portion of union dues dedicated to bargaining and
enforcing the contract under which they work. If that
requirement is abolished, some employees could
become “free riders,” receiving all of the advantages
of the contract without paying anything.
The MTA and local associations will need to
make a powerful case for membership — and are
prepared to do so.
“Members will join if they experience the power
of their union,” Madeloni said. “This begins at the
local level. We need members talking to each other,
Continued on next page
Above, members showed
their enthusiasm at the
Jan. 21 march in Boston
as they gathered behind a
banner proclaiming the MTA’s
commitment to schools,
students and union power.
At left, Springfield Education
Association members Kaitie
Eaton, left, Audrey Murph-Brown, center, and Lynn
Budd attended a pre-march
sign-making session at MTA
headquarters in Quincy
before heading for the event.
Photos by Eric Haynes