Fighting for our vision of public education

Barbara Madeloni Barbara Madeloni
MTA President

This is my first MTA Today editorial, and I am writing it at a moment that is filled with promise and possibilities. I want to begin our conversation in these pages by saying what a great honor it is to be given your trust and the privilege of representing you as your president. I know that our new vice president, Janet Anderson, shares my excitement. Working with all of you, our members, we now have an incredible opportunity to build the MTA’s strength as an activist union so that we can reclaim our voices, our power in solidarity, and the hope of public education.

We come into office during tumultuous times — indeed, dangerous times. Corporate players, looking to privatize public education, profit from the public dollar and bust our unions, have imposed business ideology on public schools through high-stakes testing, charter schools and technocratic accountability systems. Their narrative of failing public schools and bad public school educators — along with lazy public-sector workers — has been accepted by a bipartisan legion of legislators and policymakers. Our great institutions of public higher education are subject to similar attacks and story lines.

This narrative denies the devastating impact of economic and racial injustice and shows disdain for the enormous achievements of our members. As a result, too many of our students remain in poverty, public-sector unions are threatened, and public education — the cornerstone of our hope for democracy — is endangered.

MTA members recognize that this is a critical period in our history. With the election of new leadership, members announced that we are ready to fight for public education, for our union, and for our communities.

More than 500 first-time delegates attended the Annual Meeting, buoyed by an understanding that the struggle we are engaged in needs activists, organizers and a commitment to win. Our members came to the Annual Meeting because they recognized that the MTA is each one of us, talking to each other and working together to create strategies that protect collective bargaining and due process, strengthen our union, and support the best education possible for every student in Massachusetts.

Ours is not simply a fight against corporate "reforms," as some would frame it. Ours is a struggle for a vision of public education as a place for joy, creativity, imagination, empathy and critical questioning so that students enter the world ready to participate in democratic communities.

MTA members recognize that this is a critical period in our history. With the election of new leadership, members announced that we are ready to fight for public education, for our union, and for our communities.

In this vision, every child is exposed to a rich curriculum; every school is well-funded; all educators are given respect, autonomy and time to do our work; and parents, students and educators work together to assess and reassess our efforts. This vision must replace the dehumanizing data-driven madness that is choking the life from our schools.

Ours is a vision for economic and racial justice, a society in which every child enters the classroom from a place of material security and with the consciousness of being a valued member of our community with the same opportunities as any other child.

Ours is a vision in which higher education — public higher education — is accessible to all families and affordable to every student. Our colleges and universities are places of free inquiry and intellectual exploration of the highest order, as well as institutions that offer preparation for economic security and successful professional lives. Along with our schools, they help provide the threads that bind us together as a healthy and just society.

This fall and into the years ahead, MTA members will engage in a movement to create a more activist union and reclaim public education. The more members engage, the stronger our movement will be and the more we can do.

Here are some ways you can help build our power:

  • Get in touch with your local president, your field representative or me about sponsoring a forum in your local, community or region. At these member-led forums, we will discuss the impact of accountability measures on our work, our students and our schools.
  • Become active in your local and your community — at the bargaining table, at meetings, on committees and through community organizations and events.
  • Become active in our union at the statewide level by nominating yourself to a committee. These committees are critical to the work of the MTA and are places where members can help set our course. Go to www.massteacher.org/committees to find out more, and then let me know what interests you by e-mailing Jennie Holland at jholland@massteacher.org..
  • Nominate yourself to one of the task forces that are being formed at this writing: one focusing on bilingual education, another on reviewing the MTA Strategic Action Plan, and a third on rethinking our Annual Meeting. Again, to express your interest, please just e-mail jholland@massteacher.org.
  • Write letters to the editor, articles and blog posts. Speak out on Facebook, tweet, and use video to spread the word about public education and its many successes. Make sure to include the MTA’s pages and feeds in your social media expressions. Create every opportunity for conversations in which we tell our stories and take back the narrative about our schools, colleges, universities and communities, as well as our work and our union.

I will be in touch on a weekly basis to share ideas, let you know about events and ask questions. Please be sure that the MTA has your current non-school contact information so that we can communicate.

This is a terribly important time for public education and union democracy. It is a time for struggle, but a time, as well, for the joy of solidarity and of being able to say, when asked, that we stood together for students, public education and democracy.

In solidarity, and in anticipation of many great things ahead,

Barbara