By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff The state s largest teachers union has struck a deal in which itwould give up significant seniority rights for members in exchangefor a commitment from an education reform group to withdraw a farmore sweeping ballot initiative proposal. Paul Toner, the president of the Massachusetts TeachersAssociation, confirmed today his group has been meeting with BeaconHill legislative leaders to brief them on the deal and present themwith a draft bill that would curb the influence of seniority in theplacement of teachers. The MTA s move comes after weeks of negotiations with a groupcalled Stand for Children/ Massachusetts, which is collecting votersignatures in effort to get its reform plan on the November ballot. The proposed legislation would measure performance and evaluationsover seniority and experience, and would empower principals andsuperintendents in the staffing of schools. |
By contrast, the ballotinitiative would require that principals and teachers agree on theplacement All along we have been trying to avoid a divisive ballotinitiative, said Toner. We don t think broad complex issuesthat are included in the initiative should be decided by a yes orno vote at the ballot box. A long, complicated ballot question isnot something a voter should have to digest in a matter of momentsin the voting booth. Both Toner and the head of state s chapter of Stand forChildren/Massachusetts, Jason Williams, met with Senate PresidentTherese Murray earlier this week and won her backing for thecompromise, a Murray spokesman confirmed today. The two were set topresent their case to House Speaker Robert A.
DeLeo this afternoon. I feel strongly that this accomplishes the key policy objectivelaid out in our petition, Williams said just before the meetingwith DeLeo. The key themes that say job performance and thequality of a person s work is what we should be looking at instaffing decisions remains. Williams noted however that if the legislation does not make it tothe governor s desk by July 3 -- the final date by which his groupis required to submit its signatures to the Secretary of State soffice -- the measure will make the ballot and be put before thevoters this fall.
The compromise meets the needs of both sides. Each can avoid anexpensive ballot initiative campaign this fall, which would likelycost of each them an estimated $3 million to $6 million. It alsoworks in favor of the Democrats -- who count the teachers unions asa key interest group - by avoiding a highly contentious publicdebate. That battle would potentially drive greater numbers of anti-union,conservative voters to the polls, a bloc of the electorate thatwould likely oppose US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in herbattle to unseat Republican Scott Brown.
The strongest opposition to the legislative compromise will likelycome from the MTA s rival, the American Federal ofTeachers/Massachusetts, a union with far few members. TheFederation represents mostly urban school teachers, including thosein Boston. Frank Phillips can be reached at email@example.com.
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