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Editorial: BTF trying to undermine longer school day

The Buffalo Teachers Federation is still fresh off its victory in securing a new contract – one that the district demonstrably cannot afford. You’d think, under the circumstances, that its leaders would be content and for a while, at least, hold off on the red herring.

But no.

The BTF and its president, Philip Rumore, are back to their old tricks, this time complaining that the district wants the extra 25 minutes of class time included in the new contract along with big raises to be devoted to actual instruction. Imagine that. It is also perturbed that Superintendent Kriner Cash has the gall to use the authority granted to him under state law. Whatever could he thinking?

Let’s just say it: The additional 25 minutes of time isn’t meant for teacher planning or shuffling papers or drinking coffee. The point is to increase the amount of student learning time. Nothing else is acceptable.

The union, it seems, wants not just to represent teachers but to run the district. That might serve the BTF nicely, but it would do nothing useful for students, parents or taxpayers.

That said, if the district failed to nail down exactly how this time would be used during contract negotiations, it blundered. Cash and board members should know by now that Rumore will pick at any opening he sees or even that he can imagine. With this group, the rule has to be to secure all the details.

Regarding the issue with Cash, the state’s receivership law, which governs schools deemed in need of emergency intervention, grants the receiver significant authority over their operations. The receiver here is Cash. As part of those duties, he decided to change starting times at three schools – D’Youville Porter Campus School, a pre-K to 8 school; Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School, a grade 3 to 8 school; and Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence, a pre-K to 8 school.

The union sued.

It claims the change was meant not to improve education but to save money, which it says exceeds Cash’s authority under the law. The district, for its part, acknowledges the change will save about $4 million in transportation costs, but says the primary reason for the change was to better align bus schedules, ensuring there are sufficient drivers and buses to make use of the extra 25 minutes of school time.

This smacks more of resentment about a law that diminishes the BTF’s authority than it does any legitimate grievance. It’s about jamming a stick in the spokes of an important power given in certain dire cases to receivers whose job – not to overstate the case – is to save children from the lifelong consequences of a woefully substandard education.

The BTF will charge off in as many directions as its indifference requires. That’s its thing. For the sake of the students, though – the children for whom union leaders shed big, crocodile tears – parents and taxpayers have to hope that the extra 25 minutes they are paying for is used for actual instruction and that Cash’s crucial authority over schools in receivership is upheld in court.

The union prefers the status quo, but that hasn’t worked out well for anyone else.

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