‘Virtual’ courses rile teachers union

Non-union teachers could be used online
By Susan Troller
The prospect of a virtual school program in Madison is causing a confrontation in the real world between the Madison school district and John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., the teachers’ union.
At issue is whether the Madison district will be violating its collective bargaining contract with local teachers if it develops a virtual school learning program that includes courses taught online by instructors who are not members of MTI.
A virtual learning proposal, under development by the district for over a year, will be presented to the school board for consideration within the next month or so.
“Our position is that only MTI teachers can instruct kids,” Matthews said in an interview. “If someone providing the online instruction is not a licensed teacher in our district, I can’t tell you what the quality of the education will be.”
Matthews wrote a letter this week chastising Board President Johnny Winston Jr. for his advocacy of the online school proposal.

Winston had written in a letter dated Dec. 14 that “the main purpose of the MMSD Virtual School Program is to meet the educational needs of students who are not having their needs met by the District…an online course is just another tool.”
Matthews maintains that online instruction is a form of subcontracting prohibited by the MTI contract.
But Superintendent Art Rainwater said in an interview Friday that the district had been meeting with MTI in its efforts to develop the online program, and that he felt that when all was said and done, it would meet the needs of students, staff and would comply with MTI requirements.
“It’s my belief that what we haven’t worked out yet we will be able to resolve,” Rainwater said. He added that students taking online courses would be supervised and graded by MTI teachers.

5 thoughts on “‘Virtual’ courses rile teachers union”

  1. Perhaps Mr. Matthews might want to look at his own union’s rank and file when it comes to teacher quality and qualifications before he chastises non-MTI members. In any given group of professionals, there will be a certain percentage of “bloody incompetents” whose union will *still* defend tooth and nail. Mind you, their peers won’t defend them, but their union will. MTI is just as guilty as any union on this count. I’d be happy to drop names but that might result in a defamation suit for SIS;)

  2. MTI will defend them because that is their legal and contractual obligation. It would be illegal for MTI not to defend even the “bloody incompetents”.
    And MTI/Matthews is making it clear that he believes the contract requires MTI teachers must be the teachers used for the virtual school, and the Administration seems to agree.
    One needs to look at the contract language to determine if that seems to be or not be the case.
    What I found ridiculous, however, is the seeming tone of belligerence by Matthews; both he and the Administration believe the contract requires MTI teachers, so what’s the problem — I don’t get it.

  3. I don’t get the issue. Nuestro Mundo, The Studio School do/will use certified teachers and they would be MTI members?
    Additionally, if these educational opportunities do not cost money and bring in revenue, what is the concern, if the curricula meet standards and the teachers are certified?

  4. The concern is the same as the one leading MTI to telling the MMSD that they shouldn’t permit students to receive high school credit for UW courses if a comparable course is offered anywhere in the MMSD, even if the student can’t access it for logistical reasons (e.g., it is only offered on the other side of Madison).
    The issue is not quality of the courses; that can easily be overseen. It is a matter of trying to force all students to only be permitted to get credit for courses taught by union members. The fallacy of MTI’s argument is that some families will respond by leaving the MMSD altogether, rather than just for a few courses they can’t get at their local public school. MTI will end up losing many, many more union members jobs than they believe they are saving through this foolhearty tactic of antagonizing their clients, the students they are being paid to serve.
    The MMSD has budget problems, in part, because their enrollment is declining at a time when demographics says it should be increasing; the reason is middle-class flight to the suburbs and private schools, caused, in part, by MTI demands.

  5. You make a good point, Janet.
    I did not find in reference in the MTI/MMSD contract (2005-2007) that suggested this issue was bargained for. That’s no proof that it’s not in there, but I didn’t see it.
    I also checked recent WERC cases and found nothing in these cases that seemed relevant, or would suggested that the language in the contract has been interpreted to dictate the policy of not granting HS credit for UW courses as you indicated.
    Assuming my cursory search results are accurate, it may be that the policy is solely a decision made by the administration and BoE — perhaps out of concern for an MTI backlash — but nonetheless not a direct result of bargaining with MTI. And the decision is certainly not required by WI Statutes.
    However, the main point of this entry is that, I think, contract language most definitely would require the “virtual school” instructors to be MTI teachers:
    “1. The Board of Education recognizes Madison Teachers Incorporated as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for:
    a. All regular full-time and regular part-time certificated teaching and other related professional personnel who are employed in a professional capacity to work with students and teachers, employed by Madison Metropolitan School District ….”

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