Dozens at Rally

Dozens of people attended a union rally in Northampton on December 4. “We represent all types of employees: teachers and other licensed educators such as nurses, educational support professionals, clerical workers, some administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers,” Heather Brown told the Valley Post on December 7. She is an English teacher at Northampton high school (NHS) and vice-president of the union that helped turn people out for the rally. The union has a web site at www.nasemta.org.

The goal of the rally was to stop standardized tests. It was outside city hall.

Referring to her speech at the rally, Brown said, “I spoke about the loss of learning time that folks are concerned about and pointed out the amount of learning time these tests take up: 3 – 4 weeks total. I also spoke at length about the impracticality and inequity of implementing these tests in January and in the spring. NHS students are on a semester schedule so they are finishing up their fall semester in January when the tests are planned.”

She continued, “Also, districts are attending schools in such varied ways and implementing the tests seems like it will give flawed results since access to the required technology or in-person paper tests will be varied. For example, Northampton has cut its bus service for a great deal of our students. We have been in the remote model trying to keep Covid out of our community. If the state demands in-person testing, many students may not attend and the data will be invalid. This seems like a giant waste of time and money, not to mention the strain it puts on educators, families, and students. NASE (Brown's union) has overwhelmingly supported a vote of no confidence in Commissioner Riley as have over 75 state educator unions around the state.”

Unions reduce inequality and increase democracy.

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On December 7 in Amherst, the town council voted unanimously to make a plan to pay reparations to black people who live in Amherst. Shalini Bahl-Milne is a member of the council. On December 9, she told the Valley Post, “This was an important first step for us as a town to acknowledge and apologize for structural violence and systemic racism targeted at Black Americans for over 350 years. We can't wait for change to happen nationally. For instance, House Resolution 40, a bill that would establish an expert commission to investigate the legacy of slavery and its ongoing harm, and come up with proposals for reparations, was first introduced more than 30 years ago and nothing has come from it yet.”

Bahl-Milne continued, “I believe more towns need to take this important first step and then the equally important next step of bringing the community together to create a shared vision for what reparations will look like in each of our towns. This initiative has to be led by the Black community members with the support of non-Black residents. As a town councilor I am looking forward to supporting the resident sponsors of this resolution—Michele Miller and Matthew Andrews—and other community groups—like the Racial Equity Task Force and Defund 413— along with so many residents who've been working tirelessly to make Amherst an equitable and safe town for all residents.”

She went on, “I'm grateful for the work of my colleagues who co-sponsored this resolution—Alisa Brewer and Pat De Angelis. One of the roles I see as a town councilor is to support the creation of inclusive spaces for these conversations to take place and multiple channels for Black voices to be heard and to shape the policies needed to undo racism in our town. I look forward to the next phase of advancing reparative policies that move us beyond words to real change.”

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In Springfield, people are fighting a proposed biomass burning facility. Tanisha Arena runs a group that has a web site at www.AriseSpringfield.org. On December 5, she referred the Valley Post to Marty Nathan. Nathan worked as a medical doctor in Springfield for years. She lives in Northampton. Nathan told the Valley Post, “Apparently, the Baker regime and friends in the House are hell-bent on subsidizing the tearing down of our western Mass forests in order to pollute Springfield. But though poor and working people in Springfield will suffer the most, pollution does not respect city limits. The toxics will be breathed 24/7 throughout a 90-mile radius, affecting Brattleboro and New Haven.... Call your state representative and state senator and tell each that they must contact the conference committee and tell it to eliminate the proposal to incentivize biomass energy.”

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