Even Phil Rumore's harshest critics generally tend to agree with his most loyal supporters on one point: He does a good job representing the interests of the teachers. His supporters will note that he doesn't get paid to represent the students' interests.
But is there any overlap between the teachers' interests and the students' interests?
I asked Rumore recently what contract proposals BTF has on the table that would help improve student achievement. (The union's contract -- available here -- you might remember, expired seven and a half years ago.)
He faxed over two dozen pages.
Here's a summary of the highlights:
- Class size maximums would be reduced. For example, the maximum number of students in kindergarten would decrease to 25, from 30. Fourth to sixth grade: 25, down from 32. Maximum student load for a high school English teacher would drop to 125, from 135.
- In determining class size, students "whose reading or math scores are one or two years below grade level will be counted as two and those whose scores are three or more years below grade level will be counted as three." In other words, if you have 15 kids who are all at least a year behind in reading, that would count as a class of 30.
- Contract language would be strengthened to prohibit secondary teachers from having more than two lesson preparations. (In other words, no teacher would have to teach more than two different courses. For example, a math teacher who teaches algebra and calculus has two lesson preps.) The current language says "every effort shall be made" to limit a teacher's preps to two.
- Students in pre-k through third grade would have five periods a week of art, music and phys ed. Currently, students in kindergarten through third grade are supposed to have one period a week in art; one in music; and one in phys ed. (Students in fourth through sixth grade currently are supposed to already be getting five periods a week of art, music and phys ed.)
- All classes in pre-k through third grade would get five 30-minute classes of foreign language instruction a week. Classes in grades four through eight would get five 45-minute classes a week.
- The district would allocate $10 per student for "the incidental purchase of instructional supplies and materials," then increased by $5 per year. Under the current contract, the district sets aside $5 per student for such purchases.
- Mary Pasciak