Ed Reform Bill UPDATE

The state House of Representatives will hold off on considering the Education Reform Act of 2009 until January, Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) announced on Nov. 18 as the legislative session drew to a close for the year.

The decision came a day after the state Senate passed the bill by a vote of 28 to 11 and adopted crucial amendments that help promote meaningful involvement on the part of teachers in assisting underperforming schools.

It is vital for educators to contact their representatives even though the House has postponed action until the new year. We must ensure that key Senate provisions are retained. Please e-mail your state representative right away!

As they considered the bill, senators adopted two very important amendments supported by the MTA – one that protects our collective bargaining rights in schools designated to be 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. We need to keep making our voices heard between now and when the House takes up the legislation. When you contact your state representative, ask the representative to support the MTA-supported amendments listed below that passed in the Senate.

It is essential for us to continue conveying the message that the MTA supports significant 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 their students.

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.

One extremely important amendment to the bill was introduced by Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington). It says that if a change is proposed in a collective bargaining contract as part of a turnaround strategy for an underperforming school, the local union and school committee must bargain for 30 days. If no agreement is reached, an expedited final and binding arbitration process is required. That amendment passed 35 to 4.

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

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.

Your continued action is crucial to ensure these amendments are kept when the House considers the education bill.

Please e-mail your state representative right away!