School Choice & Charters

Union, District Court Charters

By Jessica L. Tonn & Jessica L. Tonn — April 18, 2006 1 min read

The Boston Teachers’ Union and the city’s school district sent letters to teachers and administrators at local charter schools last week, inviting them to consider converting their schools to in-district “pilot schools.”

As pilots, the letter explains, the schools would be incorporated into the 58,000-student Boston public school system, but would still retain autonomy in budget, staffing, curriculum, governance, and schedules. Charter schools, which are authorized by the state, are independent of the district.

Teachers at any charter schools that switched to pilot status could become members of the BTU—and thus, eligible for union salary schedules and benefits. Attached to the letter are the pay scales for BTU members and a list of pilot-school-employee benefits compared with charter school benefits.

“A teacher with a master’s degree and 15 graduate credits, for example, who entered the [Boston public schools] with three years’ charter school experience would have been paid $56,183 this year, with a generous sets of benefits,” the letter says. Teacher salaries vary widely among the city’s charter schools.

Representatives from the BTU, the school district, and the Center for Collaborative Education, a Boston-based group that works for school improvement—the three co-signers—plan to attend a meeting April 24 for charter teachers and administrators to discuss the possibility of turning charter schools into pilots.

The union would benefit from the dues of teachers whose schools joined the district, and the district also has a financial incentive to encourage the conversions.

Jonathan E. Palumbo, a district spokesman, noted that each year, the district must make tuition payments to charter schools for the Boston students who attend them.

Though teachers and principals were the only charter school staff members to receive the letter, it acknowledged that the ultimate decision to convert to pilot status would be made by each charter school’s board of trustees.

Marc Kenen, the executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, doubted that the letter would persuade any schools to convert.

“None of the schools will join [the district],” he predicted. “It’s just a publicity stunt by the union to create dissension in our schools … and to get our teachers agitated about the charter schools’ salaries versus the union salaries.”

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