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Senator Chandler listened attentively while more than 20 QCCPA members--full-time faculty, part-time faculty and professional staff--and an AFSCME member, described the issues we face. Among those mentioned: full-time faculty falling behind peer institutions in other states (a promise of funding made in exchange for taking on a 5th course), heavy reliance of campuses on part-time faculty because of chronic underfunding, the added cost of health insurance co-pays and deductibles, and the incredible workload created by large classes and large advisee loads.
During the meeting we learned that the funding for the higher education contracts was not included in the supplemental bill being introduced in the Senate (it was also absent from the recent supplemental budget bill in the House). The reason? Reopener clauses in the union contracts could be invoked if one achieves a raise. In this instance, MCCC has declined to reopen the contract to give concessions that some other unions have, thus making our contracted increases higher than those of other unions.
Senator Chandler was very pessimistic on the revenue picture for Massachusetts. She said that the money coming in is $300 million short of state budget revenue expectations, with March being $40 million short of projections. This comes at a time when the original budget has already been downsized four times. Alternatives like an across-the-board tax are unpalatable to legislators who already hear the arguments against existing taxes and who know that a ballot question will be voted on in November, potentially reducing the sales tax to 3% (a $2.5 billion loss in revenues).
Among those who spoke at the meeting were: Maureen Woolhouse, Jane Pickett, Mark Bashour, John Solaperto, Pat Schmohl, Henry Ritter, George Fitch, Michael Araujo, Ed Crotty, Priscilla Underwood, and Charulata Trivedi.
Joining the discussion to offer points of information were MCCC statewide chapter leaders--Vice President Donnie McGee and Treasurer Phil Mahler. Special thanks to Margaret Wong for alerting members and for special arrangements, and to John Solaperto who took photos at the meeting.
Already known as a champion of education support (with a 96% grade from MTA for the last legislative session) and a friend of Quinsigamond, Senator Chandler showed herself to be well-versed on the issues of community college. She said the combination of higher enrollment and no pay increase is "wringing you dry" at the same time faculty and staff are "doing the job search, preparing the workforce," providing remediation, and helping to re-train laid-off workers, all with "only a hope and a prayer that maybe you'll be paid."
I will be writing to Senator Chandler:
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain our concerns about having our ratified contract funded. Your frank assessment of the budget status is sobering, but is also information we need to keep in mind. We know that in this global recession we are lucky to have work that we not only love, but excel in doing. All the same, we see fair compensation of faculty and staff as part of the investment Massachusetts must make to prepare an informed citizenry and a capable workforce to contribute to the long-term well-being of the commonwealth.Dale LaBonte Strategic Action Coordinator, QCCPA