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With Layoffs Mounting, Educators Protest Sweeping Public Education Cuts

BROOKLINE (CBS) - As layoff notices go out across the state, educators rallied to save their jobs with a caravan through the streets of Brookline Monday. The procession, which involved an estimated 500 vehicles, started at Larz Anderson Park and ended at Brookline High -- where hundreds protested sweeping education cuts.

"There are some districts that are cutting art, gym, music, technology, computers, library those are some of the most important subjects," said Sarah Blout Rosenberg, a Cambridge teacher.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) says hundreds of educators, across more than 50 school districts, have been pink slipped - they fear hundreds more are at risk. On Monday alone, educators in Medford, Newton and Norfolk were notified of a reduction in force. Superintendents are blaming the budget cuts on the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

Brookline teachers
Teachers rally to save jobs at Brookline High School (WBZ-TV)

"Cuts at this level are going to be devastating to public education, particularly in communities of color," said MTA President Merrie Najimy. "We need to balance the budget on the backs of the millionaires and billionaires and not on the backs of the people."

In Brookline, Graciela Mohamedi is one of 360 educators who were laid off last month. But after public push-back, the district has since re-hired more than 300 school employees. Mohamedi was recalled last week, only to be laid off again. In an email, Brookline school officials told her they made a mistake.

"Our educators and our students are not cogs on a wheel. And we've been treated that way for decades. We're constantly asked to sacrifice for the sake of the kids. Most of us have master's degrees and have to work two jobs," Mohamedi said. "It's impossible to have school exist when so many educators are being laid off. And there is so much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that every child is educated in an equitable way. There wasn't enough manpower in the schools before COVID hit. Now, we need more teachers, not less."

In a statement to WBZ-TV, Brookline's Superintendent said, "I am disappointed that in our rush to rescind the layoff notices as quickly as possible, the school district sent incorrect letters to a small number of staff members on Friday. Working with principals, we quickly identified these errors and notified affected staff on the same day. We have assured these staff that the errors will be cleared up early this week."

According to the MTA, June 15th is the required deadline for school districts to notify teachers, in their first three years of service, that their contracts will not be renewed. Since the state doesn't collect this type of data, union leaders will track the numbers. But as layoff deadlines loom for teachers' aides and other support staff, the full scope of the fallout is still unknown.

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