The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) is bipolar: it wants its members treated as if they were professionals, not wage slaves. Yet the BTU insists on negotiating contracts as if its members were employed by Acme Widgets.
The Boston Public Schools are graced with thousands of dedicated teachers who consistently make personal sacrifices to ensure that the children in their classrooms receive the best education possible.
In some schools, the economic issues, social problems, and special needs that compromise students should be enough to scare off even the saintly. But, day in and day out, motivated teachers and staff give it their all — and then some.
This existential struggle to improve the schools, and thus open a pathway to a better life for students, is yielding results, but at a pace that is too slow to benefit the poor and working-class families whose kids populate the system.
The 21st century is here, and not enough young adults are graduating with the skills they need to navigate post-secondary education, or to make it in today's brutal and fast-paced working world.
Sadly, the single biggest impediment to change is the BTU. The union is opposed to reform. It is willing to sacrifice what is best for schoolchildren, and ignore the needs of the taxpayers who pay school salaries, in order to protect mediocre and substandard teachers.
Simply put, the BTU is about political power, not education.
An excellent example of the BTU's perverted priorities is its opposition to fixing a broken and flawed teacher-hiring and -reassignment process.
"The teachers' contract forces us to put teachers in classrooms through an antiquated system designed to protect seniority and nothing else," says School Superintendent Carol Johnson. "It means high-school teachers might have to move to elementary schools even though we have a great elementary teacher who would be a perfect fit. Our failure to reach agreement on the contract means we are about to be blocked— again — from matching the right teachers to the right classrooms."
The Boston Research Municipal Bureau (BRMB), the independent city watchdog that enjoys a gold-standard reputation for non-partisan financial and policy analysis, is extremely concerned about this deadlock. In a report issued this week, the BRMB recommends that the union and the school district meet and negotiate every day so that an agreement on at least this provision of the contract can be in place in time for the school assignment process to begin as planned in April.
The union says the proposed reform, which would give administrators say over who teaches in their schools, is fine in principle. However, the union wants to be bought off. To hell with the students.
The average pay for a Boston public school teacher is $81,633. The union is demanding a $116 million salary increase that would give members a 10.3 percent raise. The schools have offered an increase of $32.6 million.
Boston teachers are among the highest paid in the nation, especially when you consider that they work one of the shortest work weeks. (Many teachers already put in many more hours than the contract requires.)
The issue is not whether teachers are worth more money. The issue is whether Boston can afford to pay more, and continue to carry the financial costs of benefit packages that today are the envy of the private sector.