NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – If it seems like many teacher union leaders often talk out of both sides of their mouths, it’s because they do.

crying baby suitWhen it comes to matters of salary and benefits, union leaders demand that teachers be compensated as professionals who are highly trained in the ways of teaching and learning.

But when taxpayers and lawmakers attempt to hold those same professionals accountable for the results of their work, union leaders claim that teachers are powerless to affect student learning in the face of persistent poverty and inattentive parents.

The union’s circular reasoning is currently on full display in Massachusetts’s New Bedford school district, where the local superintendent recently revealed her plan to turn around a chronically failing high school.

Last month, Superintendent Pia Durkin’s announced a “turnaround” plan that requires all current New Bedford High School teachers and administrators to re-apply for their jobs, with the condition that only 50 percent of them can be re-hired, reports

As could be predicted, New Bedford Education Association President Lou St. John is flipping his lid over the plan, calling it “shameful” and “simply wrong” to hold teachers accountable “for things that are beyond their control.”

We’re guessing St. John won’t dwell on the things teachers can’t “control” the next time he’s demanding a pay raise for district teachers.

Leaders of the Massachusetts Teachers Association – the state affiliate of the NBEA – are also howling in protest over Superintendent Durkin’s plan.

“The MTA strongly opposes school turnaround models that rely on the forced turnover of large numbers of staff,” MTA leaders Paul Toner and Timothy Sullivan wrote in a letter to Durkin. “ … The negative impact on the morale of educators in the district from such an action would greatly impair the district’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified educators in the future and would lead to an atmosphere of fear, anger, sadness and distrust for years to come.”

The idea is to find some highly-qualified educators. The current crop is obviously not getting the job done.

We can’t help but wonder if Toner or Sullivan have ever used the words “shameful,” “negative impact” and “anger” in response to reports that New Bedford high school students are failing to meet learning expectations and graduating totally unprepared for life.

We’re guessing they haven’t.

The unhappy unionists and their supporters are planning a show of force on Friday afternoon. reports that “more than 40 other unions, mostly educational, from around the state” have indicated that they’ll have representatives at Friday afternoon’s rally outside New Bedford’s City Hall.

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