It might be the clunkiest name for a controversy ever — and that’s saying a lot in education circles. In San Diego Unified, one of the big debates is over a teachers union proposal called “maintenance of standards.” It comes down to a simple question: How can schools limit teacher workloads without tying principals’ hands?

It’s one of several issues that have made bargaining with the teachers union drag on for more than a year now. You can read the actual proposal for yourself, but here are the basics from the last article I wrote about this:

A union proposal called “maintenance of standards” says that “all terms and conditions of employment” would be kept at “not less than the highest minimum standards in effect” as of last June. Camille Zombro, president of the teachers union, described it as a way to prevent schools from overloading teachers with new projects and duties, figuring out how much time the new work would take and offsetting it by removing other responsibilities. …

But several outside experts who reviewed the proposal by San Diego teachers say the wording floated by the union is too vague and could prove problematic later. Paul Kersey, director of labor policy for the free market Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, called it “very sweeping language” that would make almost anything subject to a grievance.

Former Superintendent Terry Grier had expressed a lot of alarm about this idea before taking off for Houston. Now principals are joining the fray, arguing that the plan will be overly restrictive and handcuff principals and the school board when they attempt to make real changes in schools. “Flexibility and creativity will be replaced by rigidity and recalcitrance,” said Bruce McGirr, director of the Administrators Association.

Zombro called the criticism “fearmongering” and said the new policy would not prevent the school district from introducing anything new, only from failing to plan properly for it. For example, she said San Diego Unified could decide that all teachers had to learn balloon-making. “Great. Go for it,” she joked. But the school district would then have to plan for trainings and offset others, Zombro said.

Look for more on this issue soon. I’m lining up some bloggers to take the topic on.


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