NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Principals Given More Power In Massachusetts

April 19, 1999

Boston has long been one of organized labor's most reliable strongholds. But now Democratic legislators are joining Republicans there to champion a bill which would strip teachers unions of some of their traditional powers.

Gone would be the unions' powers to control everything from teacher-evaluation standards to school-dismissal times, supporters predict.

  • The bill would give district school administrators the same management flexibility enjoyed by increasingly popular charter schools.
  • Principals would regain control over such basic questions as how much of the day is spent on English instruction, how long students are in class, whether teachers serve cafeteria duty and how teachers are evaluated.
  • The unions, however, would still negotiate salaries and benefits.
  • The new chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education observes that the legislature "is looking for ways to show its independence" from teachers unions -- and adds that "influence has its limits."

The revolt gained considerable steam when it was revealed that more than half of prospective teachers flunked a competency test last year. Massachusetts had prided itself on its schools and observers say the announcement was a humiliation.

Schools in 34 states and the District of Columbia operate under collective-bargaining laws that allow teachers unions to negotiate over working conditions. Sixteen states do not, according to the National Education Association.

Source: Nancy E. Roman, "Teachers Unions Fight to Save Power," Washington Times, April 19, 1999.


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