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editorial

Union resistance to outside tutors is bad form

Blueprint Schools Network, a Newton-based nonprofit, has a promising system to raise math scores at the poorly performing English High School and Elihu Greenwood elementary school in Boston by offering intensive, low-cost tutoring throughout the school day. It’s worth pursuing over any objections of the Boston Teachers Union, which has argued that the tutors should be part of the collective bargaining agreement that covers teachers and paraprofessionals in the city’s schools.

The 12 Blueprint tutors are slated to receive their salaries — $20,000 annually — and health benefits directly from the school department. The union argues that this arrangement is merely a privatization effort that exploits young educators who “deserve a living wage and benefit package commensurate with their required credentials.’’ The school department views the Blueprint “fellows’’ in the same light as City Year volunteers, who perform a variety of in-class and afterschool tasks in the Boston schools as part of their year-long commitment to community service.

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This is a great deal for students and staffers at two failing Boston schools that are in danger of slipping into state receivership. The group’s 3-to-1 student-to-tutor ratio has shown good results in Denver. None of the tutors would push any of Boston’s unionized employees out of the door, which could happen in the event of a state takeover. And a recently announced AmeriCorps grant to the Blueprint group will help to defer costs further for what is already a good deal for city taxpayers. Meanwhile, cordial planning meetings between the tutors and BPS teachers at the affected schools are already underway, according to Blueprint officials.

English High School, in particular, needs immediate help. Roughly half of the school’s ninth graders were held back last year. And high staff turnover has contributed to the overall sense of failure. Blueprint is helping to analyze the management at both English High and Greenwood and recommend changes. The tutoring program is just one component of an educational restoration project that needs to proceed without impediments.

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