MMA letter to governor urges continued opposition to legislation that would remove management authority over certain non-teaching school employees

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His Excellency Charles D. Baker
Governor of the Commonwealth
State House, Boston
 
Dear Governor Baker,
 
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to express our opposition to H. 1390 An Act Relative to Protecting the Rights of Custodial and Other Non-Teaching Employees of School Districts. We are grateful that you vetoed this legislation when it was sent to your desk at the end of the 2016 legislative session (H. 2319), and we respectfully urge you to continue your opposition.
 
We oppose H. 1390 because it would remove the management authority explicitly authorized by the Education Reform Act of 1993 in hiring, promotion, and termination decisions pertaining to custodial, maintenance and cafeteria workers, as well as administrative assistants, secretaries, consulting counsellors, speech therapist consultants, and other non-teaching employees. The landmark reform law purposefully gave principals the authority to make hiring, promotional and termination decisions for these non-teaching positions in order to enhance school performance and accountability. Any effort to erode this authority would seriously undermine the intent and scope of the Education Reform Act, which recognizes that principals and their superintendents, not elected school committees, are in the best position to make these day-to-day management decisions. At the same time, school principals and superintendents must still comply with all employment and civil service laws where applicable, ensuring that these employees are adequately protected under the law.
 
Two important policy questions are at stake here. The first is whether principals and superintendents should retain their authority to make decisions regarding hiring, promotions and terminations for non-teaching positions. We believe the answer to this question is yes – the education reform law recognized that principals, not school committees or collective bargaining agreements, should control these essential management decisions. In turn, principals are held accountable for all aspects of school performance. H. 1390 would weaken the ability to manage daily operations in school buildings, and would undermine the accountability framework envisioned in our education reform law.
 
The second question is whether non-teaching employees have adequate protections under existing employment, collective bargaining and civil service laws. The answer to this question is also yes, which means that this bill is unnecessary. The Supreme Judicial Court reached the same conclusion in two notable cases that reaffirmed principals’ management authority under the education reform law, but also found that other aspects of collective bargaining statutes ensured appropriate protections for non-teaching employees. In School Committee of Pittsfield v. United Educators of Pittsfield (2003), the SJC reaffirmed the authority of school principals and superintendents to make personnel decisions while also ruling that an involuntary transfer was subject to the collective bargaining agreement and thus was outside the purview of the broad authority bestowed on school management by the Education Reform Act. Similarly, in School Committee of Newton v. Newton School Custodians Association, Local 454, SEIU (2003), the SJC reiterated the authority of principals and superintendents to make personnel decisions for non-teaching positions so long as those decisions do not run afoul of collective bargaining agreements. In Newton, the SJC ruled that the inclusion of certain criteria to be considered when hiring decisions are made does not encroach on school management’s authority, so long as school management’s personnel decisions are consistent with the applicable collective bargaining agreements.
 
Thus, H. 1390 is not only unwise because it would undermine the performance and accountability framework in the education reform law, the bill is also unnecessary because non- teaching employees are appropriately protected under other employment, collective bargaining and civil service statutes. For these reasons, the Massachusetts Municipal Association joins with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents in strongly opposing H. 1390, and we respectfully urge you to veto the bill.
 
Thank you for your interest in this very important local government and education management issue. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Lisa Adams at (617) 426-7272 at any time.
 
Sincerely,
 
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO
 
cc: The Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth
Secretary James Peyser, Executive Office of Education