Raising the Revenue Ceiling to Fund Public Higher Education

PHENOM is an active participant in the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign for a more progressive income tax in Massachusetts. Dozens of our members collected signatures for a state constitutional amendment to tax incomes over $1,000,000 an additional 4%, with the revenue dedicated to K-12, higher education and transportation. This was the first time PHENOM participated in a signature gathering campaign and we collected more than 1,500 signatures!

Juhi Dasrath, a student at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) was one of our most dedicated signature collectors: “I spent A LOT of time running between classes in different buildings trying to collect signatures from the professors and their students. Not only were they super supportive of the petition initiative but STCC’s union and administration also played a very important role in bringing awareness. While this might not affect me while I’m still a student, I know that my efforts, along with the help of many other strong willed individuals, will help make higher education more affordable (and even free!) for my little sister and all the children who don’t yet know where their dreams can take them with a college education.”

The coalition collected over 157,000 signatures, more than any ballot initiative in Massachusetts history! That means we had thousands and thousands of conversations about income inequality, the need to fund public education, and the power of ordinary people to effect social change. We now move on to the next steps of the process: a constitutional convention in 2016, and again in 2017, where 25% of legislators need to vote in favor of the amendment. PHENOM will again participate in this effort, and we are very confident of success.

“Our tuitions and fees are among the highest in the country, and students are forced to take on enormous debt to receive a degree,” said Kimberly Selwitz, President PHENOM at the rally on December 1st, where thousands of pages of signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State. “We need to invest in public higher education, to make it affordable for low- and middle-income students in our state.”

PHENOM’s Executive Director, Natalie Higgins, testified before the Joint Committee on Revenue on January 19th, “We have so far to go to build the public higher education system we deserve in Massachusetts… We believe that the top earners in the state must pay their fair share in order to ensure we have an affordable and accessible public higher education system that also pays its staff and faculty fair and equitable wages.”

Raise Up Massachusetts has two other active campaigns:

Paid Family and Medical Leave will ensure that Massachusetts workers are not forced to choose between work and their own health needs or the well-being of their children and other family members.

A Living Wage for Big Box Retail and Fast Food Employees will make sure that people who work full-time for large, profitable corporations can earn a living wage of $15 an hour, so they can make ends meet.

Check out the full Winter 2015/16 Newsletter here.