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Status quo unacceptable; Doing nothing may be fine for the BTF, but students continue to pay the price

So, they're gone. The experts from Johns Hopkins University, who were going to help turn around two of Buffalo's most troubled schools, abandoned the effort this week, unable to plan their strategy because of the wretched inability of adults in the school district to agree on a teacher evaluation system.

This is a disaster for students at Lafayette and East high schools, where the university's Center for Social Organization had planned to lend its assistance. The center hasn't actually shaken the dust from its feet as it walked away, offering the possibility of reduced assistance and of fully implementing a program when local conditions allow, but we're not sure why the center might expect that to happen.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation doesn't care so much for children or schools or community as it does for preserving the status quo.

With the chances of producing an acceptable agreement seeming to be remote, the possibility that Johns Hopkins and perhaps other support groups will simply leave is not insignificant.

Why stay in a district where your hosts are actively undermining the chances of success, when other districts will welcome the assistance? Actions have consequences and, despite the BTF's standard response, lawsuits won't always change them.

The holdup is allegedly over a teacher evaluation system that, in a fair and sensible way, factors in the performances of all students, including those who are chronically absent. The BTF is resisting, ferociously. And they are doing so in the face of other districts and unions that have adopted this system, and of clear evidence that teachers really do influence attendance.

It raises suspicions that the absentee question isn't even the real issue.

What then? Perhaps just the status quo. If nothing changes, then nothing changes. Teachers keep teaching, no one is required to undergo the stress of getting better and BTF President Philip Rumore gets to scratch his I'm-in-charge-here itch.

But there are consequence, and just one of them is the Johns Hopkins decision to take a pass on subsidizing dysfunction.

There are also likely to be layoffs as Buffalo forgoes millions of dollars in federal turnaround funds and new state aid dollars that will go only to districts that have adopted acceptable teacher evaluation systems.

And, of course, Buffalo students will continue to get substandard educations. Graduation rates will remain abysmally low. Children who might have succeeded in life will be handicapped as college and prosperity loom just out of reach.

But at least nothing will change.