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Teachers and community activists lobby for school funding

MTA members, parents, school committee members and students from across the state descended on the State House and rallied on The Boston Common today for increased school funding.

The day's activities began at lunch time as hundreds of people rallied on the Common carrying signs, cheering and listening to speeches calling for increased state aid for local public schools. The rally was organized by Stand for Children, a national grassroots advocacy organization that has chapters in several Massachusetts communities (www.stand.org). Many of the participants were parents, though several groups of students, as well as teachers with release time, were also present.

Starting at 2:30 p.m. and continuing through the afternoon, MTA members gathered in the State House and were deployed to the offices of their representatives and senators to bring them a similar message: Budget cuts have hurt our schools and higher education institutions. Restore funding now so that all students have an opportunity to learn.

In addition, more than 1,200 MTA members participated in the effort through "virtual lobbying" – that is, by sending e-mail messages to their legislators.

Simultaneously, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees was holding its annual lobby day at the State House, also focused on funding.

These events come at a time when the House is continuing to debate the school funding levels in the budget. The governor's budget called for $164 million more in Chapter 70 aid, the main source of state aid for local public schools. The House Ways and Means budget only allocates $91 million more for Chapter 70, though some representatives are seeking to increase that level on the House floor.

The MTA is supporting legislation and budget amendments that would increase Chapter 70 allocations by $278 million next year – still not enough to restore funding to 2002 levels, but a big step in the right direction.