Massachusetts American Federation of Teachers President Beth Kontos discussed her background and her union involvement on the America’s Work Force Union Podcast. She also discussed school funding in Massachusetts and voucher expansion.
Becoming a teacher and getting involved with the union
Kontos took an unconventional path to the classroom, as she began her career as a telephone operator and then became a teacher at the age of 40.
After teaching a Sunday school class Kontos realized teaching was her calling. She earned a masters degree in history and eventually became a teacher.
Once she began her new career, Kontos gravitated toward the union’s bargaining unit and eventually became involved with the union.
Massachusetts school funding
Kontos said schools in her state are well funded when compared to other states. Similar to some states, Massachusetts had issues with the constitutionality of the funding, as some schools were better served than others.
In 2019, a plan was devised to restore the constitutionality of the funding. The plan took the advice of community parents, former students, teachers and other community members. The result was a more equitable plan that saw more resources flow to struggling schools.
The pandemic hit shortly after the plan was passed, which led it to be temporarily shelved. SInce then, the state became frugal with their spending, but Kontos hopes this will end as the vaccination rate within Massachusetts is high.
Massachusetts school vouchers
According to Kontos, Massachusetts does not have the school voucher problem shared by other states. The Massachusetts constitution states that state dollars are not permitted to be given to religious institutions, shielding them from many private schools.
She is wary of the risk posed by vouchers. New Hampshire just passed a voucher provision in their state budget. Since New Hampshire is just north of Massachusetts, the provision makes her think if it could happen in her state.