Teachers Unions Hold Rally; Pandemic Has Further Deepened Inequities in Our Society

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By Sydni Williams

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FRAMINGHAM – Members of the Framingham Teachers Association (FTA) and Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) held a rally outside the Framingham City Hall where community members spoke on issues of education, equity, and safety, yesterday, July 22.

The rally was held with Raise Up Massachusetts, which on their website is described as “a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity.”

President of the Framingham Teachers Association Christine Mulroney spoke on how the pandemic and subsequent economic consequences have “further deepened the existing inequities in our society.”

Mulroney said that “to ensure the health, safety, and equity that our students and communities need and deserve, profitable corporations and wealthy shareholders must contribute their fareshare to rebuild our economy.”

In order to establish a “new normal,” Mulroney emphasized that “we need to come together” and rebuild our world. 

Other members of the community expressed their opinions, such as Sandra Perez, Framingham resident and mother of three. Pablo Ruiz translated her speech as Perez spoke on her own experiences of working during the pandemic. She said that although “returning to work was a hard choice,” she needed “salary to pay rent and utilities.”

Many families have had to put their loved ones at risk to keep working and Perez declared that “now is the time when we need help from our legislators to invest in our economy, now is the time to put resources into our public schools and into our public services.”

Perez continued “we ask that large corporations pay their taxes,” in order to “make sure that we invest in all of our communities.”

 Framingham resident, Maria Landaverde, communicated necessary steps for the future as an immigrant, mother, and teacher. She said, “With my own experience as an immigrant, I am here today to relay to you the struggle that we go through in order to survive.”

Landaverde explained to the community that “there are many barriers we find such as language, education, cultural differences, discrimination, and racism.”

In this “economic crisis,” Landaverde adds, “COVID 19 has suddenly left many of us citizens and non-citizens out of work and in despair.”

Again, she asked “we need legislators to adopt policies that ask profitable corporations and wealthy shareholders to contribute more to economic legislation.”

“As a community,” Landverde concludes “we need to forget our differences and become one” and “regardless of having or not having documents, we cannot forget that we are human beings.”

Chair Of the Framingham School Committee Adam Freudberg spoke on actions of the School Committee as well as his own opinions.

On May 20, the School Committee passed a budget resolution. Freudberg said “We called on the federal government to approve additional federal education funding for state and local governments to provide to our nation’s public schools with the resources to fulfill their obligations to educate our students.”

Now, two months later, Freudberg reported “we continue to wait” on action from the federal government. 

However, if the federal government had acted when the Massachusetts delegation requested “we would have had time to procure the necessary PPE, furniture, and technology.  We would have likely already taken the steps to improve air quality and filtration in our buildings,” Freudberg said.

The School Committee has been in contact with state legislative officials and Freudberg has “encouraged them to prioritize public health, equity, and education as centerpieces of the FY21 Commonwealth budget.”

“This is a time to stand up for values.  This is a time to be creative to support those most in need.  Our students need us to advocate so their return to school… can be fully supported,” said Freudberg.

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As a community, “we can reshape education together. We can focus on social-emotional behavioral health… We can invest in professional development topics relating to the pandemic.  We can work together to better integrate technology.  We can recognize and teach about the importance of diversity and anti-racism.” However, all of this “requires a major financial state commitment” Freudberg said.

“None of this is ideal. We have no option but to tackle all of these puzzle pieces together,” said Freudberg.

He continues the sentiment shared by many at the rally, “Together we can get through this.”

Max Page, a representative with MTA, addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and repercussions: “These last four months, 8000 of our community members died in this state, 10000 have gotten sick, nearly a million lost their jobs, that’s just Massachusetts.” Page announced to the crowd “We will look back on this time as one of the worst times in our history.”

While many are unemployed or ill, Page said “the 19 billionaires that live in Massachusetts saw their wealth increase by 17 billion dollars collectively” and obviously, “there’s something wrong with that picture.”

“With a disaster like this” Page continued “we need to join together to protect people, to maintain our public schools, our public colleges, our hospitals, our parks, all that makes this a Commonwealth.”

This rally, and others around the state are asking “the wealthiest among us, who have gotten only wealthier, to contribute a bit more to protect the common good,” Page said.

Page asked to “raise the corporate income tax rate,” the same taxes that “we cut years ago.” This legislature, he believes “could prevent those layoffs, prevent the decimation of our common good.” Concluding, Page reminded that “this is just the beginning.”

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Sydni Williams is a student at St, Mark’s in Southborough. She is a SOURCE intern for summer 2020.

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