I became a teacher because I was committed to public education as the soil in which we grow the democratic project. I became a teacher of English Language Arts because it seemed an ideal space in which to develop empathy and imagination; to ask the questions of meaning and purpose that guide our choices; to explore the diversity of human experience; and to nurture the abilities to listen, speak, and write that are so much a part of how we make community. And my hope and trust has always been that when people have the opportunity to ask questions, to listen to each other, to speak openly, to explore issues of power and justice, to experience the ways we are wildly divergent and intimately connected, that we would be able to grow economically and socially just communities.
I still believe this, but the possibilities for creating these spaces within public schools are more limited each day due to the imposition of high-stakes testing including the coming PARCC, top-down mandates for standards and curriculum in the form of the Common Core, teacher evaluations that narrow our understanding of teaching and learning, teacher evaluations based upon student performance on standardized tests, and the ongoing assault on education workers and their unions. Venture philanthropists and testing companies like Pearson have more voice in education policy than educators do. Education is being framed as technocratic and dehumanized, while academic freedom and the basic rights and dignity of education workers are threatened.
I am the middle child of 13 children. I know something about the complexity of human interactions, and the struggles to find our voices in a crowd. As a teacher educator who supported student teachers when they demanded the choice to participate or not in a Pearson-Stanford field test of a national assessment of student teaching, I learned about courage and taking a stand. When I received a letter of non-renewal in retaliation for supporting those students, the teachers, students and community members who supported me taught me about the power and joy of solidarity. From that we developed local and national activist connections from Can’t Be Neutral, to participation in workshops and conferences such as Reclaiming the Conversation on Education. When I learned that our colleague Merrie Najimy from Concord was non-renewed after 15 years of exemplary teaching in retaliation for her union leadership, I organized a petition to call for reinstatement. With support from teachers, people across the country, and her community, Merrie won. a critical victory. This fall she will be teaching kindergarten and still, as president, leading her local in the fight against corporate deformers. I know the power of working together—of relying on each other—of being a union.
So, why am I running for president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association? Because I believe that ideals of public education are worth defending. More than just defending, I believe educators, students, parents and community members can, working together, imagine and enact high quality public education for all children. More, I believe that when education unions, in alliance with other unions, stand up for collective bargaining rights, workplace dignity, and economic and racial justice we are building a more just and democratic society.
Running under the banner of Educators for a Democratic Union, a progressive caucus in the Massachusetts Teachers Association, I believe we can grow an active, engaged union.
How will we do this?
1) We will be a we – a union – in which voices are heard, conversations are had, and processes are transparent.
2) As a union we will understand that the current conditions, in which there is a concerted assault on public education and its workers, requires a unified response. No longer can we tell individual locals to do their best at the bargaining table. We need to harness the full power of our 110,000+ members to take critical stands for our vision of teaching, learning, and the dignity of all workers.
3) We will build alliances with students, parents, and all community members to claim our voices in creating a vision for public education for social justice and democracy.
4) We will organize across the state for a progressive tax that fully and equitably funds our public schools and universities, as well as providing for the well being of the people of Massachusetts.
5) We will fight for salaries, health care and working conditions that respect the expertise and dignity of each member, and the time and resources to support a full life beyond the workplace.
6) We will name the assault on public education for what it is, in whatever form it emerges, whether that is high stakes testing, top down standards and curriculum, attacks on tenure and seniority, the out sourcing of labor, the privatizing push of charter schools, or the ongoing indignities of hyper-surveillance and micro-management teacher evaluation system.
7) We will engage in honest, open negotiations in which educators’ knowledge and experience are valued and given legitimate power.
8) We will ally with working people across the state to fight for the common good and the welfare of all.
9) We will ally with national education unions in the larger campaign to preserve public education, social justice, and the democratic ideal.
For more information about my campaign go to:
look for us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/barbaraformta
and email at firstname.lastname@example.org