THE EDUCATION Committee on Beacon Hill is handing public school districts a valuable gift card that can be used to turn around the state’s weakest schools and school districts. The question now is whether the state’s teachers unions will rip it to pieces before it can be redeemed.
The bill, which both the House and Senate are expected to take up early next week, raises the cap on charter schools and works around obstructive unions in schools where poor teaching and inflexible work rules undermine classroom performance. It doubles the capacity for charter schools in the state’s weakest school districts, and it gives school superintendents and the state education commissioner greater say in staffing and school restructuring - including the ability, if need be, to renegotiate or suspend collective bargaining contracts.
The teachers unions are applying heavy pressure to weaken or scuttle the bill. But lawmakers should stand firmly by it, for the sake of thousands of students still struggling to reach the proficiency standard on statewide assessment tests. And there are other pressing concerns with greater claim on lawmakers than self-serving unions. The Obama administration, for example, is sending strong signals that it will reject the state’s appeal for federal stimulus funds for education if lawmakers obstruct sensible reforms. And if legislators fail to adopt the nuanced charter-school proposals contained in the bill, they invite a much blunter effort - a statewide ballot initiative - to repeal the state-imposed cap.
Lawmakers are receiving a bill of great value for the state’s schoolchildren. There’s no excuse to reject it.