News & Events

Bold risk for teachers union

THE BOSTON Teachers Union is trying to turn the tables on its critics by opening a pilot school that removes layers of bureaucracy between students and their teachers. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned that “naysayers will be rooting for it to fail.’’ Not likely. If anything, Bostonians and education advocates across the political spectrum are longing for more successful schools, regardless of who runs them.

The Boston Teachers Union, an AFT affiliate, has long sent mixed messages on pilot schools, which often feature longer school days, flexible budgeting, more intensive scheduling, and less attention on union work rules. In principle, the union approved the creation of such schools in its contracts, partly to counter competition from state charter schools that take a similar educational approach. But BTU leaders later turned around and blocked specific proposals for new pilot schools. Onlookers would have a right to be confused now that the union is opening a pilot school of its own.

The important thing, however, is to create a high-performing school, not untangle the city’s twisted relationship with its teachers union. The ability of the new school to guide its students to proficiency on MCAS exams will determine whether the BTU can quiet those who believe the union and its work rules often interfere with quality education.

The union knows that non-union charter schools are generally successful at creating a warm school climate that is hard to match in public schools with labor tensions. The Boston Teachers Union School, which opens with 150 students in grades K-2 and 6, will replace the traditional principal and assistant principal positions with two classroom teachers who also share day-to-day administrative responsibilities.

onger-range decisions, according to union president Richard Stutman, will be made collaboratively by the entire faculty. It’s an intriguing idea, running counter to the prevailing view that principals need more control.

Despite Weingarten’s assertions, the knives aren’t out for this school. If anything, most critics of the union would love to be proven wrong for the sake of the city’s schoolchildren.