Two Charges Filed at the State Employment Relations Board

The BTU has now filed two charges at Commonwealth Employment Relations Board (CERB) alleging that the Superintendent has violated the law in two different matters.

One, the Superintendent has announced that the position on ETF will be eliminated even though the collective bargaining process on this topic is still ongoing. The Superintendent’s announcement that the matter is settled is bad-faith bargaining.

Two, the Superintendent has recklessly permitted the excessing of 400 teachers and paraprofessionals from select Turnaround and Pilot schools. These excessings are not in accordance with the provisions of the BTU contract.

Why have we filed these charges? Both the union and the School Department agree under our jointly-signed contract to conduct business in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Simply, the superintendent has violated the law and we have no other recourse. At the same time, we continue our bargaining on the master contract. We will keep the membership updated on any developments on both matters.

Most of those noticed for excessing will eventually be returned to their current assignments. Any delay in returning our members to their current assignment beyond the end of next week is inexcusable, inasmuch as building administrators have had the school budget now for close to two weeks.

New Student-weighted Budget Formula

BPS initiated use of a new student-weighted funding formula for budgeting this year. The Superintendent describes it as follows:

“Under a weighted student funding formula, dollars follow students. This means that BPS anticipates what each student needs each year and then delivers the appropriate funds to the school that student attends. Dollars no longer follow programs, buildings or schools. Instead, we allocate budgets solidly based on student need.”

There has already been controversy about the new student-weighted formula. For every budget winner there is a budget loser, i.e., some schools saw an increase, some a decrease.

As a result of the new formula, a few issues have arisen that have already begun to spark controversy:

  1. Is a new budget fairer? Only time will tell. It is important here to separate the concept, which may be good, from the actual implementation, which may have been poorly designed.
  2. Was it properly devised with input from all members of the various school communities? No ambiguity here: the School Department crafted the formula by talking only to its own inner circle.
  3. Was its implementation adequately planned and noticed? Clearly not. The notice to all has been scant and the implementation, hasty.

Upcoming school budget hearings will be an opportunity to address these issues. See here and scroll down.

Education in the News

Schoolwide Bonuses Have Little Effect on Improving Student Performance

A new study from Columbia University featured in Education Next analyzes a recent New York City Department of Education (DOE) policy that tested whether merit pay for all teachers at an effective school could increase student achievement.

The city’s School-Wide Performance Bonus Program, launched in 2007 and endorsed by both the DOE and the teachers union, was implemented in a randomly selected subset of the city’s most disadvantaged schools. Researchers examined data from the first two years of the bonus program, in which teachers received bonuses based on overall performance of all tested students in their school, rather than just in their own classrooms. According to proponents, this design can minimize conflict and foster cooperation among teachers.

In fact, researchers found little effect overall, positive or negative. Read more.

Do Teacher Bonuses Lead to Overemphasis on Test Taking?

The federal government is behind the program with $36 million in funding for 14 school districts across the state. But a new poll shows Tennesseans think otherwise about this kind of incentive pay for teachers.

A Vanderbilt University statewide poll shows 65 percent of Tennesseans do not favor paying teachers whose students do well on tests more than teachers whose students do poorly. Only 35 percent of residents support paying bonuses to teachers whose students do well on tests.

The poll results may be the upshot of parents’ not wanting to see schools so focused on standardized testing.

Read more.

Plan to Rate Teachers’ Colleges Under Attack…from Teachers’ Colleges

Grades are the currency of education – teachers give them to students, administrators grade teachers and states often assign grades to schools.

Now U.S. News & World Report is planning to give A through F grades to more than 1,000 teachers’ colleges, and many of the schools are unhappy, marching to the principal’s office to complain the system is unfair.

Numerous education school deans have protested that the ratings program’s methodology is flawed since the program was announced last month. In a letter last week, officials from 35 leading education colleges and graduate schools “€” including Columbia, Harvard, Michigan State and Vanderbilt “€” denounced an “implied coercion” if they do not cooperate with the ratings.

Read More.

New Access to the Hub for Members on an LOA

A long-standing technological glitch has been resolved for those out on a leave of absence. Those who are out on a leave of absence will now be able to log on to the hub to review paychecks, personal information and jobs to apply for. This has been an on-again, off-again problem, which is now favorably resolved.

Buyer Beware: Those sales people roaming your schools have no special license or authority to pitch their products

You’ve just finished teaching your morning classes and are looking forward to your short lunch break, hoping the microwave doesn’t have a long line behind it. You pop in your item, get out your bottle of water and sit down at the table with a few other colleagues. The microwave beeps, you take out your knife and fork from your plastic bag, and you sit down to eat. Finally.

In walks a well-dressed person with a laptop and some paperwork, and  announces that he or she is from the city or from some insurance company or another. They’re here to talk to you about investments, life insurance, and other important financial planning matters that  you know you need to pay attention to but haven’t had the time to address. The person looks official and has a handout that appears to have the city’s seal on it or the name of a well-known insurance company. STOP!

Whether ‘licensed’ by the city or on an insurance company payroll, these salespeople have no special license, have no special authority, and have no special product to offer you. Their product is no better or no worse than anything else. The product has not been screened or approved in advance by someone looking out for your best interest. The product is being sold to you. BUYER BEWARE. There are many other options to look at.

SHOP AROUND. With regard to tax sheltered annuities, there are dozens of insurance companies and mutual fund companies that have approval to sell you their product’s. By approval, we mean, they have gone through a simple sign-up process at City Hall. That still doesn’t make their products good or bad. It just makes them available to you. Before you sign and purchase any of these tax-sheltered products, you should consult a non-commissioned based financial adviser who doesn’t have a stake in selling you a particular product.

Here is a list of all companies that have permission to sell you a tax-sheltered annuity in Boston. If you are interested in a tax-sheltered annuity, you should also consider joining the Mass Smart Plan which has just about all of the advantages and is at a lower cost to you. Mass Smart, also known as the deferred compensation plan, is licensed and monitored by the state.

For some products, like life insurance or disability coverage, you owe it to yourself to look beyond the city plan, which can be very expensive. You should not let the convenience of the salesperson’s presence determine your purchase of any product.

The BTU ran a seminar on all of the above recently and will run another one in the near future.


The Boston Teachers Union regrets to announce the passing of Ms. Dorothy Saulnier. The Boston Teachers Union sends its condolences to her family, friends and former colleagues. Please see obituary notice in the Boston Globe here.

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Richard Stutman
Boston Teachers Union