MTA vows to help struggling schools, but calls education bill flawed

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, while expressing strong reservations about key provisions of the education bill passed by the Legislature on January 14, is vowing to continue doing everything possible to promote efforts to turn around the state’s neediest schools.

“The MTA applauds the fact that for the first time in a major education bill, the Commonwealth is recognizing the necessity of going beyond the school building to help create the supportive and healthy environment that is crucial to help students learn,” said MTA President Anne Wass. “On the down side, we believe the bill falls short of what is needed to set up the kind of collaboration that’s essential if we are to mount our best effort to turn around struggling schools.

“We feel the Legislature squandered the opportunity to produce a bill that would have been a winner on all counts,” Wass continued. “There are many positive elements in the bill, but some aspects of the legislation simply won’t work. Eliminating collective bargaining in certain situations does nothing to improve schools; it fails to ensure that educators’ experience and expertise will be brought to bear as we face the challenge of helping our neediest students."

The MTA opposed the conference committee version of the bill, calling for it to be defeated in both chambers. Earlier House and Senate versions of the bill included language that promoted collaboration in chronically underperforming schools and districts by protecting educators’ collective bargaining rights and providing for a balanced dispute-resolution process. But the legislation that emerged from the conference committee and was approved does not contain adequate protections in these areas.

Instead of ensuring a fair system through which differences can be ironed out between administrators and educators when contract changes are proposed in chronically underperforming schools and districts, the bill cuts educators – the very people who know best what is needed in these schools – out of the process, giving ultimate decision-making power to the commissioner of education.

The MTA is strongly urging legislators to revisit the dispute-resolution process and make appropriate changes as the plan is implemented.

“Collaboration, mutual respect and trust are essential ingredients in turning around struggling schools. We will fight to make sure everyone understands that as we move forward,” Wass said. “This attempt at education reform will only succeed for our students if teachers in chronically underperforming schools are involved in a meaningful process through which they collectively bargain over changes and are treated fairly.”