The Massachusetts Teachers Association has positioned itself as perhaps the most aggressive foe of a charter school expansion in the state.
Barbara Madeloni, the fiery president of the union, has pledged an all-out fight. “We’re going to put everything we’ve got into it,” she said last month.
But the union is not quite ready to make the full investment.
Over the weekend, MTA’s board of directors slowed approval of an aggressive, $9.6 million plan to fight legislation and a related ballot measure aimed at lifting the state’s cap on charter schools.
Instead, the panel provided interim funding to get the grassroots portion of the campaign started, pushing a decision on the larger budget to a much bigger body — the MTA delegates, who will hold their annual meeting in May at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
The move set off a round of recriminations within the union. Deborah McCarthy, chairwoman of the MTA’s government relations committee, took to Facebook to excoriate the board for making the decision in executive session, out of public view.
“I was crying as I shared with you how embarrass[ing] it was to be thrown out of the room,” she wrote. “At a time when we needed to push internal politicking aside and fight tooth and nail for our teachers and students, we were acting like a superintendent or Charlie Baker were running our board.”
Janet Anderson, a member of the board who is challenging Madeloni for the union presidency, replied in her own post that she voted against going into executive session. But she wrote that the plan approved by the panel, pushing the final decision to the MTA delegates, “is an example of democracy at its best.”
And while the panel instructed the MTA to participate in legislative negotiations over charter schools, she wrote, that does not mean a retreat from the union’s hard-line opposition to lifting the cap. “I want to make clear that the Board’s decision ... does not include a call for a compromise. Period.”
The debate over funding the anti-charter campaign comes as the US Supreme Court is deciding a case that could significantly weaken public-sector unions, eliminating requirements that workers join the unions and pay fees.
Madeloni, in an interview this week, declined to speak directly to the impact of the Supreme Court case on MTA’s decision-making. But she said the best way to maintain solidarity is to be a “fighting union.”
“We’re doing well,” she said. “We’re strong.”