NEA Signals Contract Flexibility
My colleague Nick Anderson , who covers the national education beat, reports today from Capitol Hill on a notable development in the long-running debate over how to rectify inequities in the distribution of effective teachers.
Data show that schools in poor neighborhoods tend to have a disproportionate number of unqualified, inexperienced or out-of-field teachers. That compounds the schools' many academic challenges.
On Wednesday, the head of the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Assn., pledged to the House Education and Labor Committee that the union would push to address that problem.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in prepared testimony that the union would ask "every local NEA affiliate to enter into a compact or memorandum of understanding with its local school district to waive any contract language that prohibits staffing high-needs schools with great teachers. These compacts should also add commitments that would enhance this goal."
Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) took note. "I thank you very much for that," he told Van Roekel. "I think it's very important."
With 3.2 million members, the NEA is a major player in the school reform debate. Any signal that it is willing to bend on contract provisions that affect teacher placement is likely to receive close scrutiny. Critics often accuse the union of standing in the way of reform-- a view Van Roekel sharply disputes.
P.S.: Wednesday afternoon, the American Federation of Teachers, with 1.4 million members, declared solidarity with the NEA on remedies for teacher-distribution inequities.
"Some critics claim that union contracts prevent the assignment of high-quality teachers to hard-to-staff schools," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. "The truth is that contracts can be an effective tool to remedy this problem where it exists, and to make schools positive environments for students and teachers."
Weingarten added: "We applaud the National Education Association for joining the effort to address this issue. With our sister teachers union on board with matching the right teachers to the right school in the right way, we ask our school district partners to join us in this important work."
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