AS EDUCATION reform moves forward, Boston Teachers Union president Richard Stutman says he wants an inclusive process. Testifying at a recent State House hearing, Stutman told the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education that “the solution to better school lies in working with us, not in working against us.” But no collaborative spirit is evident in the union’s resistance to bringing the acclaimed Teach for America program to Boston or creating more pilot schools.
Teach for America trains new college graduates who weren’t education majors to work as teachers in urban and rural districts, generally in hard-to-fill areas such as math, science, and special education. The school system opened itself up to union criticism by signing an agreement with Teach for America that could be construed to give its teachers more job security than union teachers, offering Teach for America recruits two years of employment while regular recruits can be laid off after one. The School Committee has pledged to rectify the discrepancy.
In theory, a quick settlement could be a model for the kind of cooperation Stutman says he wants. But the union has a more basic, and less justifiable, objection: It maintains that laid-off teachers should be retrained for empty positions – even if, in practice, the laid-off teachers aren’t cut out for the vacancies.