We Can't Keep Shortchanging Our Future

Yesterday, US News & World Report ranked Massachusetts #1 in the country in education. That's all well and good, but that hides more than it reveals.

That's because we have one of the most unequal education systems in the country: the children in Lawrence and Brockton are not getting the same quality of education as students in Dover and Weston.

The question is not whether we are doing more than other states but whether we are doing as much as we need to--and as much as our students deserve.

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MA legislators just voted again to disenfranchise people in prison. And the vote wasn't even public.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 3, 2019 Joint statement from Act on Mass, Progressive Massachusetts, and the Emancipation Initiative

Mass. legislature rejects voting rights for the incarcerated

As the national discourse around the question of restoring voting rights for those incarcerated heated up, the Massachusetts legislature also quietly took up the issue.  The Joint Committee on Election Laws voted on Thursday April 25th to reject a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for the incarcerated.

Incarcerated people in Massachusetts weren’t always disenfranchised, and the 1974 Supreme Judicial Court case Evers v. Davoren ruled that citizens incarcerated in Massachusetts must be given equal access to absentee ballots to vote.  It wasn’t until 2001 that Massachusetts disenfranchised those incarcerated for felonies, after the Massachusetts legislature initiated a process to amend the State Constitution to take away their voting rights while in prison. The process required two votes of the legislature before it could advance to a ballot question. A Republican filed the original bill, but Democrats were more than happy to go along with it judging by the overwhelming vote counts in favor: the first vote in 1998 was 155-34, and the second vote in 2000 was 144-45.

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"It is far past time for us to stop shortchanging our students."

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chairwoman Gobi, Chairman Roy, and Members of the Joint Higher Education Committee,

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide multi-issue grassroots organization committed to fighting for social justice and progressive policy. Since our founding, treating education as a public good and funding it as such has been central to our mission.

As such, we strongly support S.744 / H.1221, An Act to guarantee debt-free public higher education, and S.741, An Act committing to higher education the resources to Insure a strong and healthy public higher education system (or CHERISH), and urge you to report them out favorably.

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Whose Side Is Your State Rep On?

Massachusetts House votes on its budget, the House will have an opportunity to decide what type of state Massachusetts is.

Are we a state that invests in our future and stands up to the bigotry of the Trump administration, or are we fine with crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, and complicity in a racist mass deportation agenda?

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Happy Tax Day! Your Legislators Have an Opportunity to Make a Fairer Tax Code.

TL;DR: Do you believe in funding our schools, our infrastructure, and all of the services that make our commonwealth strong at the levels we deserve? Of course you do. So please call your state rep in support of Amendment #1357 (Long-Term Capital Gains) to the budget, which would raise the capital gains tax to provide much-needed additional revenue.

Year after year, as legislators craft the latest budget, tough decisions have to be made. A big part of the reason for these tough decisions is that Massachusetts lacks the revenue to fund things, like good schools and reliable transportation, that are most important to our communities. But not having sufficient revenue isn’t inevitable; it’s a choice.

The Fair Share Amendment, which routinely polled at around 80%, was kicked off the 2018 ballot after a lawsuit from well-funded business groups. The Legislature has the opportunity to advance it to the 2022 ballot via a Constitutional Convention next month. But we can’t afford to wait another four years to invest in our Commonwealth.

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The legislature can act RIGHT NOW to begin building the fairer tax structure that Massachusetts voters want.

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Time to End a Shameful History of Disenfranchisement

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Election Laws Committee.

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Chairman Finegold, Chairman Lawn, and Members of the Joint Election Laws Committee,

As an organization committed to strengthening our democracy and promoting racial and social justice in our Commonwealth, Progressive Massachusetts strongly supports S.12, a proposal for a legislative amendment to the Constitution relative to voting rights and urges swift action.

In recent years, states around the US have started to realize that the decades-long phenomenon of mass incarceration was a moral, economic, and public safety failure. It destroyed communities, strained budgets, and made us no safer.

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"All It Took Was a Look at the Playground"

The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Education on Friday, March 22, 2019.

We are writing in support of the Promise Act. As retired special educators who also consulted with districts and families, we strongly support an end to the tiered educational system that exists in Massachusetts.

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We Made a Promise to Our Students. We Need to Keep It.

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Education on Friday, March 22, 2019.

Chairman Lewis, Chairwoman Peisch, and all the members of the Committee, 

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I chair the Issues Committee at Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide, member-driven grassroots organization built from the ground up by organizers and activists from across the state to advocate for progressive policy. Other states routinely look to Massachusetts for direction, and it’s important for us to get things right.  

Quality public education for all is a central component of our platform, and no bill before the legislature better delivers on this promise than the PROMISE Act (S.238/H.586). 

Massachusetts is the birthplace of public education in the US, and our public schools routinely rank first in the nation because of high standardized test scores and postsecondary degree attainment rates. However, such high overall scores mask persistent inequities that continue to pose an obstacle to children’s ability to realize their full potential. The achievement gap between low-income and better-off students is one of the highest in the nation, as are disparities in per-pupil spending.  

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Top 10 Excuses You’ll Hear for Why Your Legislator Voted Against Transparency

Last week, the Massachusetts House voted down three common sense transparency amendments to its rules package.

These amendments were simple good government proposals, requiring that...

  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read the final language of any bill they’re voting on
  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read any amendment submitted on the floor that they’ll be voting on
  • Hearing testimony (for/against) a bill and all votes taken in committee to be publicly available.

Yet they all failed, as most rank-and-file Democrats voted with House Leadership against them.

If you've reached out to your representatives since, they've probably given you a number of excuses. Spoiler: They're not very good ones.

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The House Just Voted Down Three Important Transparency Amendments. How Did Your Rep Vote?

Former Sierra Club lobbyist Phil Sego was once quoted as saying, “Don’t mistake what happens in [the Massachusetts State House] for democracy.” Our legislative process is deeply flawed and designed to avoid public accountability.

Yesterday, your representative had a chance to take the first step toward changing that. Amendments were introduced that would have required:

  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read the final language of any bill they’re voting on
  • Representatives be given a reasonable amount of time to read any amendment submitted on the floor that they’ll be voting on
  • Hearing testimony (for/against) a bill and all votes taken in committee to be publicly available.
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