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MTA Educators Endorse Congressman John Tierney

The 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association formally endorsed Congressmen John Tierney at a roundtable forum with MTA educators held yesterday in Lynnfield.

The event provided educators with an opportunity to highlight the important work Congressman Tierney has done on behalf of students and educators – from preschool to public higher education – during his eight terms in office. Tierney is in a tough fight against Republican Richard Tisei who has close ties to the radical, Republican Tea Party. Tisei has described the Tea Party as a “Godsend.”

“Congressman Tierney is a true ally and a strong advocate for students and educators,” MTA President Toner said at the start of the event. “He has stood up time after time for our students, educators as well as our public schools, colleges and universities. Throughout his career on Capitol Hill, he has worked tirelessly to open doors for children, and families, and the most vulnerable among us.”

"I am proud to have the support of our teachers in this campaign, because they play a critical role in making sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century,” Congressman Tierney said. "The key to a vibrant economy is a strong education system – I look forward to continuing to work with our teachers and parents to ensure that our students are getting the best possible classroom experience."

Kerry Zagarella, a kindergarten teacher in Ipswich, spoke of her personal experience with the congressman’s district staff.

“Thank you, Representative Tierney, for the work you do in assisting poor and working class families,” said Zagarella, who sought help from the congressman’s district staff for Lynn families in need of fuel and/or food assistance. “Every single time I called your office advocating for a family, I got help. Families that were intimidated by the system, came to me and I came to you. Your staff was always helpful and resourceful.”

Zagarella added, “You understand how hard it is for students to succeed when poverty is a factor. I have great respect for the work you’ve done and continue to do for poor and working class families. This matters a great deal to us as teachers. Thank you – I’m a proud supporter of you.”

Amy Everitt, a professor at Salem State University and president of the Salem State chapter of the Massachusetts State College Association, praised the congressman for his efforts to promote public higher education. Tierney, a Salem State graduate, led the effort to include substantial funding for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The federal stimulus funds were used at Salem State to provide more classroom technology, facility upgrades and renovations, and financial aid for low-income students.

 “Our student population is very vulnerable – 37 percent of our students are eligible for Pell Grants – so financial aid is an absolute necessity,” said Everitt. “Congressman Tierney’s efforts have helped many of my students to stay in school. We need you in Washington fighting for us.”

Bob Murphy, a retired Somerville teacher and Gloucester resident, noted Tierney’s support for important programs such as Head Start and full-day kindergarten, which go a long way to closing the achievement gap that hurts too many children.
“Congressman Tierney, you have demonstrated time and again that you are willing to stand up and fight for programs that help children to succeed,” Murphy said.

Betsy Stowell, a secretary in the special education department in Hamilton-Wenham, spoke of Congressman Tierney’s efforts to lessen the financial burden on college students and their families. Tierney was instrumental in crafting several comprehensive bills that resulted in increased Pell Grant scholarship awards, more loan forgiveness opportunities, and reducing interest rates, among other things.

“Thank you for helping me to ensure that my children could go to college without the threat of a lifetime of loans after graduation,” said Stowell, who has a son in college and a daughter who is a recent graduate. “Your efforts went a long way in my house.”

Marblehead teacher Mary Miles noted Congressman Tierney’s efforts to fix No Child Left Behind and move away from the “one-size-fits-all” accountability system and emphasis on punishment. Tierney is  the sole New England member of Congress serving on the House of Education and Workforce Committee, which is responsible for reauthorizing the federal law formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“Congressman Tierney, you are a true friend to teachers,” Miles said.

North Shore Community College professor Don Williams thanked Tierney for his support for the Education Jobs Fund, which helped to keep educators in the classroom following the economic crisis of 2008. He also noted Tierney’s opposition to the Ryan Tea Party plan, which includes drastic cuts to public education and would end Medicare as we know it.

“I thank you for standing up to the Republican Tea Party and advocating for an end to tax breaks for millionaires,” Williams said. “I can’t say the same about your opponent.”

The Massachusetts Teachers Association represents 110,000 educators, faculty, staff and education support professionals working in public schools and colleges, including an estimated 10,000 members in the Sixth Congressional District.