courts, and finally to the ballot box last
At a forum in Saugus on Jan. 12,
Madeloni praised the work of educators,
noting that they “created a space for
people to talk about public education”
during the charter school debate.
She added that those conversations
seeded the landslide defeat of the
charter school expansion question
— and revealed just how committed
Massachusetts residents are to their public
Despite the challenging political
landscape ushered in by the election of
President Donald Trump, Madeloni said, educators
now “have an opportunity to play offense, not
The way to do that, she said, is to assess
union power at the local level, develop ways to
strengthen it, and then use that power to meet
goals at the building and district levels.
With greater power at the base, she said,
the statewide union will be better able to tackle
funding and regulatory issues coming from the
State House, the Department of Elementary and
Secondary Education, and various elements of
public higher education governance.
Ideas at the meeting in Saugus ran the gamut,
from holding informal coffee hours and house
parties with parents and community members to
engaging local school committees in the fight to
have the state meet the funding obligations laid out
by the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
The commission determined that public education
is underfunded by about $1 billion annually.
Educators’ comments about the roadblocks
that they encounter focused on the burdensome
The forum in Saugus featured deep conversations.
Photo by Scott McLennan
By Scott McLennan
T he No on Question 2 victory was not simply the conclusion of a ballot initiative fight. In many ways, it marked the
beginning of a longer campaign.
Now, MTA members are using the energy
and expertise they gained during the months
leading up to Election Day in a number of crucial
strategic areas. They’re thinking through ways of
connecting the grassroots issues that are important
in individual schools and districts to a statewide
campaign that includes increasing education
funding and reducing mandates that don’t help
In recent weeks, the MTA has been hosting
regional member forums around the state. At each
session, MTA President Barbara Madeloni used a
series of questions to prompt conversations among
the participants, who worked in small groups.
Members discussed what it felt like to
experience victory in defeating Question 2, which
sought to lift the cap on charter schools.
Then they expanded their conversations to talk
about other threats and issues undermining their
jobs and public education. Those conversations
expanded still further into discussions about
how educators can connect with their broader
communities and take steps to build power.
The forums are a step toward the creation of
“The Schools Our Communities Deserve,” a vision
statement with roots in a new business item taken
up at the 2015 MTA Annual Meeting of Delegates.
That NBI directed the MTA to hold community
forums about what public schools should look like.
Conversations on that topic were interrupted,
however, when pro-charter-school forces took
their expansion plans to the Legislature, to the
teacher evaluation process, bullying of workers
by administrators, and the high-stakes use of
Robyn Towner of the Cambridge Education
Association said another challenge arises in
convincing members, especially early-career
educators, that the union provides the ability to
harness power — not just to fight against unfair or
damaging policies, but to fight for the classrooms
that teachers want for their students.
“I know a lot of teachers feel overwhelmed
because there have been so many shifts in
education. But that’s the reason to be in a union;
there is so much to fight for,” she said.
The next step toward realizing the goals of the
Schools Our Communities Deserve effort involves
setting up meetings organized by MTA locals
that bring together educators, parents and others
concerned about public schools.
“As we create coalitions with our community
partners, it is equally important to keep building
power within our locals and across our union,”
identifying issues and acting collectively to create
the best conditions for teaching and learning.”
Part of undoing the Affordable Care Act may
include slashing Medicaid funding to states. And
given the massive tax cuts Trump has promised to
the wealthy and corporations, other cuts in federal
funds for state and local services are likely.
Many believe that the blue states that didn’t
support Trump are particularly vulnerable. Cuts in
federal funds would increase competition for state
funds that the MTA is seeking for preK- 12 schools
and public higher education.
MTA members are gearing up to make an
effective case for education funding at the state
level. “This begins with articulating a vision for the
schools our communities deserve at the local level
and then creating a shared vision to support our
legislative priorities,” Madeloni said.
The MTA will be at the forefront of promoting
a constitutional amendment in 2018 that would raise
about $2 billion for education and transportation by
increasing taxes on annual income over $1 million.
Other challenges include protecting
undocumented students who are threatened with
deportation and making sure that schools and
colleges are places where all students feel safe
regardless of their religion, ethnicity or sexual
“An immediate struggle will be to protect our
students, their families and communities from the
racism and bigotry of the policies coming down from
Washington,” Madeloni said.
“The challenges ahead of us are very real, but
we can fight back — and we will,” she continued.
“The power and joy of the marches on January 21
can be realized if we work together.”
To see more photos of the Boston march, please
go to massteacher.org/womensmarch. To view
President Madeloni’s speech at the event, go to
MTA President Barbara Madeloni gestured to
the crowd from the podium during her speech
at the women’s march in Boston. Standing
with her were fellow labor speakers Roxana
Rivera, center, and Kindalay Cummings.
Photo by Eric Haynes
Continued from previous page
Members gear up to protect students and advocate for education funding