Mountains and molehills

October 11, 2007

What an example of petulant behavior is being played out for Baltimore's schoolchildren by leaders of the city's teachers union. They have called for schools CEO Andres Alonso and the Board of School Commissioners to be ousted over a contract request that teachers commit to 45 minutes of shared, instead of individual, planning time.

For Mr. Alonso, who took over the top job just three months ago, it's been a short honeymoon. But the union is making a mountain out of a molehill. Instead of ratcheting up the rhetoric - and the stakes - union leaders should end the stalemate and agree to some shared time

Months before Mr. Alonso was hired, the school board sought to have teachers give up one preparation period a week, at the request of the principal, to allow teachers and administrators to collaborate on ways to help individual students as well as the school. It's a common practice in many successful schools and is seen as an important professional development tool for principals who are being given more responsibility at the same time they are being held to tougher accountability standards.

Some principals in Baltimore have already implemented the idea, and their teachers embrace it. But union leaders say it's unfair to ask city teachers to give up any individual planning time.

What's really unfair, though, is for union leaders to elevate this issue to crisis levels, calling for the new, reform-minded schools chief to get the boot for not giving in, while also holding up a contract that offers decent benefits and pay increases.

The two sides conceded weeks ago that they had reached an impasse, but union leaders have seemed more interested in making noise than in sitting down with an arbitration panel and school system officials to hammer out a settlement. It's past time to turn down the volume and come to an agreement that's in the best interest of students.

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