Ed Reform ALERT

The state Senate passed the Education Reform Act of 2009 on November 17 by a vote of 28 to 11. In considering the bill, senators adopted two very important amendments supported by the MTA -- one that protects our collective bargaining rights in schools designated as underperforming and another that protects teachers from being terminated at will in underperforming schools.

MTA members made a huge difference in this process, sending more than 7,000 e-mails to legislators, as well as making phone calls and joining MTA lobbyists in lobbying legislators face to face.

We thank you for this effort, but continued action is crucial. Please e-mail your state representative right away!

Though what will happen next is not certain, the House may take up this legislation on November 18 -- and we need to make our voices heard. Please e-mail members of the House and urge them to support the crucial MTA-supported amendments that were passed in the Senate.

We need to convey the message that the MTA supports extraordinary measures to help underperforming schools, but the proposed legislation will not succeed in improving student achievement unless the revisions made in the Senate are retained. The amendments promote true collaboration and dialogue that will allow educators to bring their expertise to bear in closing the achievement gap and turning around underperforming schools.

We also need to give credit to Governor Deval Patrick for his role and leadership, since the bill passed in the Senate builds on the goals the governor laid out for helping to turn around underperforming schools. The governor is supportive of teachers and understands the crucial role they play every day in helping to turn around underperforming schools.

The MTA applauds the fact that for the first time in major education legislation, the Commonwealth is recognizing the necessity of going beyond the school building to work with parents and the community to create the supportive and healthy environment that is crucial to help students learn.

The legislation sets up a process for including all community stakeholders in addressing the achievement gap – understanding that only through collaboration and mutual respect can this be accomplished.

The Senate took major steps to restore teachers and their unions as partners in this process and to ensure that the due process rights of teachers are respected.

Now it is essential to ask our state representatives to make sure that the positive steps supported by Governor Patrick and the Senate remain intact as the House considers the bill.

One extremely important amendment was introduced by Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington). It says that in order to change provisions of collective bargaining contracts in underperforming schools, the local union and school committee must bargain for 30 days. If they were unable to reach an agreement, there would be an expedited final and binding arbitration process. That amendment passed 35 to 4.

Another vital amendment, introduced by Senator Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) prevents teachers in Level 4 and Level 5 underperforming schools from being fired at will. This provision was passed on a voice vote. This amendment will prevent teachers from being dismissed without cause and will keep due process rights intact.

Another amendment was passed to change the process for approving Horace Mann schools. The amendment requires that a majority of teachers in a building agree to a memorandum of understanding to waive any provisions of the contract before an existing school receives a charter to become a Horace Mann school. For a new school where there is no faculty in place, however, the superintendent is given the power to waive provisions of the contract.

It is unlikely that the House will take up the bill on November 18, but this has not been officially announced. That is why your continued action is crucial. Please e-mail your state representative right away!

Also, passed was an amendment by Senator Karen Spilka to add MTA’s proposal for an adequacy study.