Romney courts teachers union
By Corey Dade, Globe Staff, 10/13/2001
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney met with educators to discuss his
platform yesterday at Boston Teachers Union Hall in Dorchester, where 36 hours
earlier Bill Clinton stumped for Democrat Shannon O'Brien.
Romney outlined his plans to fire poorly performing teachers, separate children
with behavioral problems from the rest of the student body, and increase parent
involvement. Romney was joined by current and former Boston public schools
educators supporting English immersion, an antibilingual initiative opposed
by the teachers unions.
Meanwhile, O'Brien has received the support of Boston Hotel Workers Union Local
26, a burgeoning group in politics making a significant turn after endorsing the
three previous Republican governors. With 5,800 members in the area, the union
is considered a powerful political force. The group is scheduled to announce its
decision formally today from its offices in the South End.
Romney's appearance at the teachers union hall yesterday was not hosted
by the union itself, which supports O'Brien. Romney reiterated the major planks
of his $36 million reform proposal for public education with a focus on
underperforming students in Boston and other cities.
''We're ahead [of other states] with this MCAS test ... and we're doing very
well, but we've identified a number of school districts that are failing our
kids, and they tend to be in urban areas,'' Romney said. ''The rural and
suburban districts are
doing OK, but we can't just sit by while the other districts are failing. I
don't begin to believe it's the teachers fault; it's the entire approach.''
Modeled on a policy at charter schools, Romney's plan would allow principals in
cities to replace up to 10 percent of faculty - a proposed stopgap before a
school falls into state receivership, in which case every teacher could be
removed. He also advocated merit pay and full-day kindergarten.
''His ideas are ideas that I believe in,'' said John Rigas, a retired Boston
teacher and one of three educators flanking Romney behind the lectern.
Rigas, who emigrated from Greece at the age of 10 knowing no English, said
bilingual education is flawed. As a teacher at West Roxbury High School, he
said, he knew that school administrators prevented some parents from taking
children out of bilingual education classes.
Romney's stance on bilingual education spurred the hotel workers union, whose
membership comprises mostly immigrants, to support O'Brien, union officials
said. Not since Michael S. Dukakis had the organization backed a Democrat.
''There isn't a single parent within our union who doesn't want English as a
first language and who doesn't want their children to learn English. It's about
the approach,'' said the union president, Janice Loux. ''It's been said there is
dime's bit of difference between moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats. We
think that in this race there is a real difference.''
Corey Dade can be reached at email@example.com.
This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 10/13/2001. © Copyright 2002
Globe Newspaper Company.