Evaluate Baltimore teachers, but pay them fairly


I am concerned that your Sept. 4 editorial, "Progress depends on teachers," fails to represent fairly the Baltimore Teachers Union position and its role in the school reform efforts taking place in the city.

During the last legislative session, our efforts were focused only on fixing the bill so that employees' rights to bargain collectively and their accrued benefits were not impaired. The BTU has consistently supported the reforms -- both in funding and management -- specified in the school legislation.

Contrary to your suggestion that we do not support reform and will not cooperate with the new reform efforts, we have been involved throughout the summer in helping to initiate and develop the goals included in the Transition Plan as we met weekly with the Academic Advisory Board established by the new school board.

It was the BTU a year ago that introduced to the school board a systemwide discipline code, which identified clear and consistent rule of behavior with real consequences.

A review of SB 795 will show that it clearly states that no part of the additional $30 million can be used to move salaries toward parity until a performance-based evaluation system has been developed. We know this part of the law well. We do not contend that there is a flaw in the settlement as was suggested in the editorial.

The problem is that too many people are misquoting the law and using the law as an excuse for not doing what is right and fair. the BTU, at the request of interim schools CEO Robert E. Schiller, with the help and advice of many experts, has worked on and submitted such a plan.

This "coherent and meaningful" evaluation plan, in the words of Dr. Schiller, is evidence that we are doing our part. An evaluation plan should support improved teaching. The evaluation plan adopted should result in recommendations that improve student achievement. But there is evidence that supports more effective ways of evaluating teachers so that achievement can improve.

Teachers are not afraid of being held accountable. We support ** finding a way to hold people accountable that is not intended to be just punitive but a way that results in increased achievement for students.

Fair compensation has been the promise for the last three years. From the very first, the BTU has been open and clear about the need to address the issue of salary raises. We believe that addressing the financial needs of working people does not mean that the needs of students cannot be met.

We do support reform and the improvements that are planned for this school system, but we must bring fair and equitable salaries to our members.

At the last board meeting, more than $29 million of the $30 million was approved without one mention of any plan to adjust salaries of employees. Was this a message to the employees? Where is the effort to show commitment to key stakeholders in this education system on the part of the board?

And what about the other $700-plus million in the school budget? Nothing in the legislation prevents this board from dealing with salary issues using the regular funding available.

"Working-to-the-contract" is a message that says we have a committment to the students. We will work hard to improve academic achievement. But it is obvious to us that our extra efforts to support auxiliary events are not appreciated.

Efforts to improve this system can't be a one-way deal. There needs to be reciprocation. Teachers and paraprofessionals are integral parts of the reform process; they cannot continue to be used and abused.

Marcia P. Brown


The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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