The Crisis in Lawrence Continues
Our teachers in Lawrence are facing a crisis.
The American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT MA) supports what is good for students, fair for teachers, and done collaboratively. The Education Bill of 2010 is not good for students, is unfair to teachers, and gives hearty approval to top-down management.
In Massachusetts, our public school students achieve spectacularly well on national and international tests. All of our students are taught by teachers who work under collective bargaining agreements. Clearly, collective bargaining is not an impediment to student achievement. Yet this legislation has as one of its principles that collective bargaining and teachers in so-called underperforming schools stand in the way of student achievement. No data exists to support such an assumption.
The legislation does nothing to provide more resources to any so-called underperforming public school or to the students who attend them. The Education Bill of 2010 fails children who live in poverty, have inadequate medical and dental care, need better housing, have parents for whom no jobs are available, and feel threatened by random violence in the community. The legislation permits the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to take over a public system, thus allowing the Commissioner of Education to have almost unlimited control over the professional lives of the teachers.
This legislation essentially creates a double standard. It says that if you are a teacher committed to taking on the greatest challenges, we are going to reduce your rights. It establishes two sets of rules: one for educators who work in so-called underperforming schools and another one for those who work in the neediest schools.
The state has taken over the Lawrence Public Schools and is trying not only to reduce the rights of teachers there, but also to impose draconian working conditions on them. The length of the school year and the school day, staff schedules, teachers’ preparation periods, the number of periods teachers must teach, school health and safety issues, professional development, and even teachers’ salaries are all subjects that can now be implemented and controlled by the school principal without teachers, represented by their union, having the right to collectively bargain about them.
Is this professionalism? Is this collaboration?
Noone knows better the educational needs of the children in the Lawrence schools that each teacher in the Lawrence schools. They are the professional who each day interact with the students and are quite knowledgeable about what they need to achieve. Unfortunately, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the current leaders in Lawrence prefer a top-down approach.
The Lawrence school system needs an injection of trust in the capacities of its teachers to make wise educational decisions. It also needs to collaborate with the Lawrence Teachers Union to obtain more resources to help deal with the dreadful poverty.
After all, the teachers of Lawrence want what is good for the students, fair to the teachers, and collaboratively done.
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