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Mass. teacher union OKs deal on ballot question

June 7, 2012
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BOSTON—The state's largest teachers union and a group behind a proposed ballot question that would change the way teachers are evaluated have agreed on a compromise bill they say would avoid a costly fight at the ballot box.

Both sides are urging state lawmakers to adopt the bill ahead of a July 3 deadline for removing questions from the November statewide ballot.

The group behind the ballot question, Stand for Children Massachusetts, said the compromise would guarantee that every public school in Massachusetts gives priority to a teacher's effectiveness rather than seniority when deciding who to place and keep in the classroom.

The group also said the compromise bill also creates a data reporting system to ensure accountability in the new evaluation system and provides $13 million to school districts to ensure administrators and teachers are properly trained in the new system.

Jason Williams, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts, said the bill is "critical for recognizing the work teachers do, guaranteeing a great teacher in every classroom, and closing our state's wide achievement gap."

The group had collected more than enough signatures to get the question on the ballot.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association helped negotiate the compromise with Stand for Children.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Paul Toner said the proposed bill narrows the scope of the ballot question, which he said would reduce collective bargaining rights, weaken due process rights for teachers with professional teacher status and curtail rights for part-time teachers.

"No teacher or union leader wants anything but qualified and excellent instructors in our classrooms," Toner said. "A ballot fight would be divisive and costly, diverting public attention and resources from narrowing the achievement gap, improving education funding and other priorities to help students succeed."

Senate President Therese Murray supports the deal. A spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo declined comment.

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