Menino vs. the MTA

(Go Mayor Menino – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Let the battle begin. Don’t think for a minute that the influx of Race to the Top money into Boston is not the key issue as Tom Menino grabs the third rail in his new found quest to bring sensible solutions to a battle to close the urban achievement gap and a few schools. And don’t for a minute think that Patrick, Reville, and Chester are not pulling the strings behind the scenes. This battle will get ugly and one wonders what the MTA thought they were getting for their $4 million in campaign donations to Deval Patrick.

It certainly is odd when Dems are acting like Republicans and it is no surprise that the charter push is front and center now that the election is over. Lots of this change is being driven by Obama and Arne Duncan. Strange alliances indeed.


Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino this morning forcefully backed a plan to shutter nine schools and called for a dramatic overhaul of the city teachers’ contract to lengthen the school day and tie pay to student performance.

“The question before us is this: Will we – as a city – have the courage to stop doing things that limit student achievement so we can grow the strategies that accelerate it?” Menino asked in his speech.

“There is no joy in closing schools,” Menino said as he reminded the audience of his fight almost two decades ago to keep school committee members appointed, not elected. “We knew they would understand that the right decisions aren’t always the most popular decisions. We knew they would face important moments like tomorrow night when they will vote on Superintendent Johnson’s reform plan.”

The speech at the Westin Copley Place marked the strongest public support the mayor has offered his superintendent since she proposed a strategy to eliminate about one-quarter of the 5,600 empty seats scattered in schools across the city. When Johnson first outlined her plan earlier this month, Menino had just been readmitted to the hospital because he had a reaction to pain medication he took after contracting a bacterial infection on a trip to Italy.

Menino called for four specific changes in the next teachers’ contract, most of which are sure to irk the union. The mayor said he wants increased flexibility for principals and headmasters so they can “put the best teachers where they are needed most.” He demanded that the new contract “reward our best teachers for outstanding results in the classroom.”

“We value years of teaching experience and master’s degrees,” Menino said, “but some compensation has to be linked to student performance.”

He pushed for a longer school day because Boston has “one of the shortest school days in the Commonwealth.” And fourth, Menino called for an overhaul of the system used to evaluate teachers.

To help cut costs, the mayor took aim at the more than $300,000 city schools spend each day on transportation. To underscore that expense, he said that for every dollar spent on transportation the city spends just one nickel on school supplies.

Is this the bargain the MTA signed up for? $300,000 per day for transportation?…

About David Whelan

  • In Boston, the teachers are represented by the Massachsetts Federation of Teachers (MFT), not the MTA. The national group (AFT) has historically been far more open to innovation and the use of data in schools than the MTA.

    And don’t think for a minute that the Patrick/Reville administration are behind this. Patrick and Reville both promised at the MTA convention this summer that student achievement (test scores) would not be an important component to any teacher evaluation. Indeed, in most independent reviews of the Massachusetts/RTTT submission, Massachusetts plan on using data in teacher evaluations was seen as weak and unspecific. See Kate Walsh/NCTQ’s analysis.  

  • I did not know that the MTA was not in Boston so thanks. Certainly the RTTT award made to MA came with strings and lots of money being sent to Boston comes with a requirement to show a willingness to change. Menino is all of a sudden the “education” Mayor? Menino is thrilled with the dollars and knows that changing the way education is delivered in Boston is critical. For that he deserves credit. The idea that any teacher’s union is going to embrace Menino’s rather robust changes without a significant battle is hard for me to fathom.

    I do hope your optimism is warranted.  

  • A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

    Well we have an education crisis at the same time we have the state and its municipalities (save a rare few) facing budget pressures.  In this environment we have the opportunity to make changes that might not be possible in other times.

    As much as I have issues with Menino, he is the ideal person to lead this charge.  He is at or near the height of his power.  He is 3 years away from deciding if he will even run again.  He has also had a couple of instances that remind him that he has less years in front of him than he has behind him.  Finally he wants a legacy in Boston and serving the longest does not seem to be enough.  He is in the perfect position to attempt serious change.

    The only question is will the Governor and others actually let him try and make those changes.  

  • I just cant stop reading this. Its so cool, so full of information that I just didn’t know. I’m glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way.

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