Are city teachers ready for reform?

Edison: Suit to stop innovation shows teacher union's unwillingness to change.

April 24, 2000

AT LEAST the Baltimore Teachers Union is consistent.

Consistently against change and innovation, that is. Consistently blocking progress and yammering about how the status quo works just fine.

Witness the union's decision last week to sue the State Board of Education over a contract to privatize three awful city schools.

Is it grumbling about whether Edison Schools Inc. can make lowly Gilmor, Furman L. Templeton and Montebello elementaries better? No. The BTU's beef is about teacher angst over Edison's standards.

The union is concerned about Edison's power to set pay scales and disciplinary policies. It's also concerned about Edison's reputation for hiring and firing teachers based on performance. The company doesn't get stuck -- as city schools have for years -- with "lemons" who stay around because union rules prevent their ouster.

Even if the BTU had legitimate educational objections to Edison, is a lawsuit the right way to pursue them? Trashing the whole innovation because of a problem with the contract is regressive.

That's not to suggest Edison doesn't have some issues to address with teachers. There are legitimate questions about what would happen to teacher pensions and benefits in the Edison schools. Edison must provide good answers to those questions, and reassure potential employees that fairness will prevail.

But the BTU is way off base with its lawsuit. It sends the wrong message -- to the public and to city kids, who desperately need a better education.

Unfortunately, the union is all too consistent in that regard.

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