Mass unionization

The first Massachusetts charter school to unionize (nearly a year ago) now has a collectively-bargained contract with its teachers. Charters in other jurisdictions have unionized, so what’s so special about this one? The contract includes a merit-pay provision! Not only are performance pay schemes typically anathema to collective bargaining, but this one, unlike most, is not a school-wide bonus. In fact, in the second and third years of the new contract, teachers will be placed in an eight-tier pay schedule based on their performance, with placement determined by a committee of teachers and administrators. State test scores will--regrettably--not be one of the criteria though other kinds of (unidentified) student assessments will be allowed. And while the details haven’t been completely hashed out, teachers will not have the right to appeal their performance-pay-scale placement. Head of school (and former this and that, including a less-than-stellar deputy schools’ chancellor for New York City) Diana Lam says that the Conservatory Lab Charter School is “dedicated to including teachers in the development of performance criteria and the professional development process.” When teachers unionize, there’s obviously dissatisfaction in the ranks that is not being addressed by the administration. They have the right to pull together and then (in most states) to bargain collectively. That they’ve bargained for merit pay is good. But how much sense does it make to devise a compensation system that’s basically a step pay scale with another name?

 “Teachers pact reached for Massachusetts charter school,” Associated Press, September 17, 2009

Updated: Unionized Boston Charter Will Decide New Pay Structure,” by Steven Sawchuck, Teacher Beat a blog of Education Week, September 17, 2009 (subscription required)

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