Statement by MTA President Paul Toner on proposed legislative alternative

The MTA announced on June 7 that an agreement has been reached between the MTA and Stand for Children on a legislative alternative to Stand’s ballot initiative.

The following is a statement by MTA President Paul Toner:

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has been advocating for quality education and high professional standards since its establishment in 1845. We remain fully committed to these goals, and we are determined to continue helping every student succeed.

No teacher or union leader wants anything but qualified and excellent instructors in our classrooms. Indeed, the hard work and input of unionized educators have been key to making our schools number one in the nation by many measures.

We have been working hard to keep the Stand for Children proposal off the November ballot because it is a long and complex initiative that contains 31 distinct proposals, many of which we believe are harmful and would detract from our efforts to support teacher quality and the success of Massachusetts students.

Today we are announcing that the MTA and Stand have developed a legislative alternative that will be productive for the Commonwealth and will protect teachers’ voices in education decisions at the local level. If enacted, this alternative will achieve our goal of keeping the petition from the ballot. We call on legislators to adopt it and ensure that adequate resources are provided to help it succeed.

As proposed, the ballot initiative would greatly reduce collective bargaining rights, would weaken due process rights for teachers with Professional Teacher Status and would eviscerate those rights for part-time teachers. It would greatly diminish the voice of teachers, which is essential to the success of our public education system.

We also know that a ballot fight would be divisive and costly, diverting public attention and resources from narrowing the achievement gap, improving education funding and other priorities to help students succeed. Moreover, we believe that the ballot question would impede implementation of the new educator evaluation system, which was established through a collaborative process that included many education stakeholders, including teachers and their unions, superintendents, principals, parents, students and business and community groups.

Our Board of Directors and delegates to the MTA Annual Meeting approved meetings between the MTA leadership and Stand earlier this year to see if we could find sufficient common ground to keep the initiative off the ballot. Under the alternative reached last week, we have reduced the number of provisions from 31 to two: one concerning the role of performance evaluations and seniority in layoffs and other personnel decisions and the other providing for discussions between the superintendent and the principal when teachers are being reassigned from one school to another. These provisions have been significantly improved from the language contained in the original initiative so that they respect both experience and teacher performance.

In addition, we have agreed that these changes will be delayed until 2016-17 in order to give districts sufficient time to implement the new evaluation system and train all evaluators and all teachers.

We believe that this proposal is vastly superior to the ballot question as drafted and will better serve the interests of both students and teachers than the initiative petition.

The MTA and Stand are asking the Legislature to rapidly pass a bill containing the two provisions described above, along with funding for training.

If the Legislature agrees to this course of action, we will have turned a highly divisive initiative into a measure that is adaptable to our union’s agenda of promoting a high-quality education for all students while ensuring that the educator voice is heard.

 Media Contact: Jim Sacks, 617-878-8308 or Laura Barrett, 617-878-8267