Massachusetts · School Talk

MTA: ‘All Out’ for the Wrong Thing and Disappointing Its Members in the Process

It’s not surprising that many Massachusetts teachers were turned off when they saw the cover of the most recent MTA Today mailer that arrived in members’ mailboxes this week.  Nor is it surprising that most choose to share their frustration privately for fear of retribution or unwanted hassles from their hard core union colleagues.  And union building reps. And even school committee members.

Massachusetts finds itself in a heated debate over charter schools and ballot question 2 will determine whether or not current cap on charter schools will be lifted.  Even for MTA members who plan to vote no or are indifferent about Question 2, the optics of their union’s tactics have gotten tiresome, embarrassing, and downright depressing. And they are asking themselves why their union (the one they are forced to join) can pony up so many millions to limit charter schools but seem so absent when it comes to honest dialogue about what they really need to grow as teachers and best serve their students.

Barbara Madeloni,  MTA president, uses phrases like “all in” and “going all out” when it comes to pushing back on school choice but shows that she has little to no interest in listening to the teachers within her ranks who support better teacher prep, meaningful evaluations, and the push for better and higher standards. Their mandatory dues and the hyperbolic rhetoric are too frequently used as ammunition for political battles that protect adults but rarely, if ever, employed when it comes to giving ALL Massachusetts children the best education possible. And never when it comes to closing the state’s shameful achievement gaps. Most teachers have enough on their plates as educators and they certainly didn’t sign up to be seen as complicit in this battle to fight against low income children in Boston, Springfield, Holyoke, or Chelsea.

The ‘ick’ factor has gotten hard for many teachers to stomach as we enter the final weeks of the campaign. Like so many Americans this election season, they are ready for this all to be over. And those teachers planning to buck the tide and vote yes are being cautious and keeping it to themselves, including retirees who still feel pressure to think–and vote– a certain way.

Here is just a taste of the messages sent to me by Massachusetts teachers in recent weeks; I am keeping their names confidential for obvious reasons.

I wish I could like your “good school hunting” topic regarding propaganda and politics! Just know that there are some of us who don’t think with the “union” mentality! Keep up the good fight! I was and am disgusted by the people I work with and their constant choice to put politics over actual education!!! (Current teacher)

I’m about 90-95% sure I will be voting YES on Question 2 in November, despite the information shoved down my throat by the MTA and my own district’s union president. I am choosing not to broadcast this publicly, for a variety of reasons. (Current teacher)

I am going to vote in favor of lifting the cap. I decided after reading your Wellesley letter. (Retired teacher)

There are far too many students, even in a state that does as well in educating its young as Massachusetts does, that are shortchanged in their everyday life in schools.  I would love having a longer conversation with you about all this at some time.  You certainly are on the right side of the playing field on this issue. (Retired teacher/department head).

Teachers are not a monolith and while the street corners of the Baystate may be littered with middle class folks holding Vote No signs and million dollar homes donning Vote No yard signs, there is dissension in the ranks. While it’s too bad that so many keep it a secret, they are right about the troubles and daily headaches that pushing back against the group think can cause. I’ve seen it first hand.

Let’s just hope enough people  push back against the union machine and misinformation campaign and vote to open up more quality seats for the students who need them most.

To quote Governor Baker in a recent television spot:

If you like your school, Question 2 won’t affect you. But Question 2 will change the future for thousands of kids who need your help.





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