BOSTON TEACHERS are on the verge of losing $9 million in well-deserved bonuses for going the extra mile to turn around failing schools. Meanwhile, their union leadership is blithely using the potential loss of funds as a bargaining ploy to squeeze the city for a richer teachers’ contract.
In 2010, the US Department of Education awarded $9.3 million to Boston and $12.6 million to Springfield from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund. The money is for the recruitment, retention, and training of top educators to work in the systems’ toughest schools. In addition to giving top teachers a pay boost, the federal government seeks to prompt districts to adopt new teacher evaluation systems in the process.
The grant requires that the Boston Teachers Union and school department reach an agreement on how the funds will be used. Union head Richard Stutman insists those details be worked out as part of the overall negotiation of a new teachers contract, which has been dragging on for almost two years. Basically, he’s playing chicken with the paychecks of his hardest-working teachers.
It would be shameful to lose this funding. All that is needed is a simple side agreement between the union and school department. The latter is ready to get it done. But the union - in what has become a familiar attitude - won’t budge.
The entire state grant could be jeopardized if Boston doesn’t resolve the issue soon, according to state education commissioner Mitchell Chester. He said he needs an agreement in hand by the end of the month - that’s next week - to satisfy federal deadlines. And if he doesn’t get it, he’ll move quickly to find a more reasonable recipient than Boston.
If the teachers’ union hopes to gain public support during a critical stage in its contract negotiations, this isn’t the way to do it.