South Shore Education Alliance Comes Together to Tackle Overheated, Underfunded Classrooms

South Shore Education Justice Alliance members discussing overheated schools and safety concerns with State Rep. Joan Meschino in September.

South Shore Education Justice Alliance members discussing overheated schools and safety concerns with State Rep. Joan Meschino in September.

South Shore activists hold Safe Schools Forum, begin planning for Fund Our Future campaign.

In early August, South Shore parents, educators and community members began to meet on a regular basis to address the legislature’s epic failure to pass a Foundation Budget that would have addressed the annual shortfall of more than $1 billion for our public schools.  At the heart of our conversations was the overwhelming consensus to refuse to accept this failure. Our shared vision and commitment is to organize and mobilize around a campaign to insist that our elected representatives take action to fund our public schools.

We decided that a Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance table was the perfect community organization to facilitate the relationships between educators, parents, and community members. As the South Shore Education Justice Alliance (SSEJA), we met on a bi-weekly basis and began to discuss the impact of underfunding our schools on our students. Community members lamented that, by underfunding our schools, our students are denied librarians, music programs, and wrap-around services for emotional and social needs.  Before long, our list was extensive, and it was evident that this billion-dollar shortfall was creating a two-tiered system of privilege. We decided to fight back.

August came to a close, and the school year began with record high-temperatures. Students and educators in Hull, Hingham and Weymouth found themselves in classrooms with temperatures reaching 100 degrees. SSEJA, our newly created alliance, redirected our attention from funding to safety. We reached out to Senator Patrick O’Connor and Representative Joan Meschino. A community forum was held, and members advocated passionately for immediate intervention and assistance.   That meeting resulted in conversations about creating a legislatively mandated commission to address the life-threatening conditions in classrooms with excessive heat indexes.

During September and October, our group planned our first regional Safe School Forum, which was held on November 14th in Hingham. At this forum, we discussed the elements that make our schools safe. We strategized around next steps, school committee resolutions, meetings with elected officials, deepening and strengthening our membership and alliances.

We look forward to entering into a partnership with the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the campaign to Fund Our Future, and we look forward to bringing our collective voices to the legislative body to demand that public schools be adequately funded. As the New Year starts, we will be focused on the campaign to Fund Our Future.