Congressional support for teacher strikes at odds with state leadership
STRIKING TEACHERS IN Massachusetts have had strong support from some of the state’s heaviest political hitters. US Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have offered full-throated endorsements of the strikes, with Markey even joining Malden teachers on the picket line. Congresswoman Katherine Clark has also voiced support for the teacher actions.
But as you move closer to the top officials with direct responsibility for Massachusetts public schools, solidarity with teacher strikes, which are against state law, is much harder to find.
Gov. Maura Healey told WBZ’s Jon Keller that she was “not a fan” of the strikes – or of legislation filed last month that would legalize walk-outs by teachers. “I’ve come to this, Jon, as the proud daughter of educators,” Healey said. “We should be doing everything we can to support our educators.” But “when I see kids out of school because of a strike, my heart just breaks because kids have been through enough in terms of learning loss and the like,” she said.
In a separate interview, Senate President Karen Spilka told Keller much the same. “I think we need to ensure that our children continue to stay in school,” she said, sidestepping a direct answer, but signaling her view by calling that “our first and foremost priority.”
Former state education secretary Paul Reville said it’s hard to ignore the pattern in the divide among elected officials on the teachers strike issue. “The farther away you are from the consequences of endorsing a policy, it’s easier to make that endorsement,” he said.
“The easiest thing in the world for a member of Congress to do is take an untenable position about state legislation – something they never have to vote for,” said Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
Last week, Markey spoke at a “town hall” at the US Capitol convened by Sen Bernie Sanders on “the teacher pay crisis in America.” He said he was proud to join the picket line with teachers in Massachusetts and said the result has been “raises in the salaries for teachers wherever those strikes occur.”
Markey recalled that he worked as a paraprofessional in the Malden schools during his first year after graduating from Boston College. “They didn’t get paid enough then, and they don’t get paid enough now,” he said.
There have been four teacher strikes in Massachusetts districts over the past year, and the low pay for paraprofessionals figured in several of them.
“I think without the attention which the teachers drew to it, that desperately needed area of attention would not have received the support which it needs,” Markey said in an interview earlier this week following an event in Boston.
State Rep. Mike Connolly of Cambridge, who has sponsored bills since 2017 that would legalize teacher strikes in the state, said it’s unfair that teachers in some districts go years without a contract.
“Everyone wants to see children in school, and I certainly think everyone wants their teachers to have good, fair contracts,” he said. “The hope with this bill actually is that it will reduce the prevalence of teacher strikes.”
Given the comments of state leaders, the odds don’t look good for the legislation. “It has no chance at all,” Koocher declared.
Reville, who had his share of differences with teachers unions as education secretary, said the Mass. Teachers Association “has a legitimate point” in arguing that existing law “puts school committees in the driver’s seat” and lets them engage in protracted negotiations that go beyond the length of a contract.
However, he opposes the talk of legalizing teacher strikes. “They put families in a terrible bind, because they want to be supportive of teachers, but they need children to be in school for the education it provides and coverage during the work day,” he said. Reville said he would favor some kind of “a middle course” that imposes arbitration to settle a contract dispute after a specified period of time.
Sumner closings spread out: State transportation officials abandon the plan to close the Sumner Tunnel for four months this summer for repairs and opt instead for a plan to close it for two months this summer and two months next summer. Read more.
RTAs deserve more funding: Rep. Natalie Blais, Sen. Susan Moran, and Alexis Walls of the Massachusetts Public Health Association call for significantly more state support for regional transit authorities across the state. They say the RTAs serve 55 percent of the state’s population but receive only 7 percent of the state transportation funding. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Previewing pieces of the budget proposal she will file next week, Gov. Maura Healey said the plan will fully fund the next installment of the Student Opportunity Act and boost local aid by 8.2 percent. (Boston Herald)
On the heels of the announcement that South End Rep. Jon Santiago will leave office to become the state’s new veterans’ services secretary, Rep. Ed Coppinger of West Roxbury disclosed he will resign next week to work government affairs for the trade group MassBio. The developments set the stage for special elections to fill two Boston House seats. (Boston Globe)
Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena outlines where $16 million in federal funds will be spent in a speech to the City Council. DePena gave his speech in Spanish and an aide translated in English. (Eagle-Tribune)
Boston-area COVID wastewater data, a barometer of the prevalence of the virus, continued to decline last week. (Boston Herald)
A effort on Beacon Hill would expand abortion access enshrined in last term’s ROE Act by removing parental consent or judicial bypass requirements for teenagers. (MassLive)
Pfizer halted a Lyme disease vaccine trial on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard last week, citing “good clinical practice” by the Boston research group running the trials. (Cape Cod Times)
A Los Angeles judge sentenced Harvey Weinstein to 16 years in prison for the rape and sexual assault of an Italian actor. He has 20 years left on a prison sentence for similar charges in New York. (Associated Press)
The owners of the largely shuttered Berkshire Mall are thinking outside the box. They already hope to lease space to cannabis growers and now they are pitching Lanesborough to use part of the facility for a new police and EMT facility. The mall owners say their space could be much more affordable than the $5.9 million new facility the town is considering. (Berkshire Eagle)
Paraprofessionals have become indispensable to K-12 classrooms, but are often paid less than half of what average teachers earn. (Boston Globe)
The Worcester Telegram dives into food insecurity on college campuses, which several Massachusetts universities are working to address through SNAP resources and dedicated task forces.
Security guards and management at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts are at odds over management plans to outsource security and have the guards become employees of an outside contractor. (Boston Globe)
Transit advocates say the MBTA board needs more active, engaged members, criticizing the new panel that took over from the Fiscal and Management Control Board that was dissolved in 2021. (Boston Herald)
An audit of the Holyoke Police Department identifies a host of problems and calls the agency “a substantial risk to the city.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
A Cohasset man is charged with hiding a crypto mining operation in a school crawl space. (Associated Press)MEDIA
The Boston Globe will launch a nightly half-hour television news program on NESN, the sports network majority owned by Fenway Sports Group, whose principal owner, John Henry, also owns the Globe. (Boston Globe) Dan Kennedy has more. (Media Nation)