Amendments needed to House education bill

The MTA is urging members to contact their state representatives right away in support of two amendments to the House education bill -- H4410 -- which is likely to be voted on by Jan. 6. Both amendments are sponsored by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and are designed to strengthen and improve the bill, which is being rushed to passage in advance of a Jan. 19 deadline for the state's application for federal Race to the Top funds.

Under H4410, the state could designate up to 55 schools and up to eight districts as underperforming or chronically underperforming and make significant changes in them. While MTA supports immediate attention to underperforming schools, we are seeking amendments to two troubling provisions in the bill.

The first MTA-backed amendment addresses a section in H4410 that would allow the commissioner to approve a turnaround plan that makes unilateral changes to the collective bargaining agreement in these schools and districts. The amendment, similar to the Donnelly amendment that was adopted in the Senate, would require the district to negotiate with the union for 30 days over proposed waivers to the contract. If no agreement could be reached in that time, the dispute would be sent to expedited final and binding arbitration. The arbitrator must taken into account the needs of students are well as of the parties involved in rendering the decision. This speedy process would ensure that teachers were part of the discussion over how to improve the schools where they work.

The second amendment is to clarify the teacher dismissal process. It would provide that teachers in underperforming schools could be required to reapply for their jobs, but could only be dismissed for "good cause." The MTA-backed amendment clarifies that under the good cause standard, the district must demonstrate that the teacher’s performance contributed to the school’s underperformance. It also reinforces the concept in current law that teachers must be evaluated under their locally negotiated evaluation procedures.

Contact your state representatives today and ask them to support the Clark amendments to H4410.