Mayor Menino may appear to be using his 2013 legislative agenda to pick an unnecessary fight with the city’s teachers’ union. But the mayor, in calling for a dramatic increase in the number of schools with flexible staffing rules, is making a strong statement by choosing school improvement over labor peace.
State law already grants widespread powers to school districts to sidestep existing teacher contracts at so-called “turnaround schools,’’ a euphemism for the roughly 40 lowest-performing schools in the state. But the difference between the turnaround schools — 12 in Boston alone — and the next-lowest performance level based on standardized test scores is often marginal. There are 48 of these “Level 3’’ schools, which have weak MCAS scores, in Boston. And Menino rightly assumes that many of them would benefit significantly from the imposition of a longer school day, staff shake-ups, alterations to the curriculum, merit pay for teaching staffs, and other measures allowed under state law for turnaround schools.