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Editor’s note: Tang vs. Kerr

How much editorial license should opinion writers be given?

HERE AT COMMONWEALTH we are great believers in open debate; that’s why we run so many opinion pieces. But sometimes the debate becomes so spirited that people want us to step in and become referees. One such instance was the recent back and forth between Jessica Tang, the president of the Boston Teachers Union, and Liam Kerr, director of the Massachusetts chapter of Democrats for Education Reform.

Tang wrote an opinion piece on October 30 defending teachers who end up in the so-called excess pool. The pool refers to those teachers who, because of any number of circumstances, find themselves without a classroom assignment and fail to get picked up by any Boston principal. Those in the excess pool are typically assigned some other work, such as a teacher’s aide, at their full salary.

Tang defended the teachers in the excess pool against what she described as a propaganda campaign run by Democrats for Education Reform. “DFER’s false and insulting narrative is not dissimilar from the divisive rhetoric of President Trump,” Tang wrote.

The Trump reference was too much for Kerr, who responded the following week with an article accusing Tang of weaving a “fact-free narrative” that mentioned Trump to divert attention from the wasteful spending that the excess pool represents. “With a thorny issue like the excess pool, a politician is better off pointing to Trump than proposing a solution,” he wrote.

It would have ended there, but Tang’s office strongly objected to three characterizations contained in Kerr’s article. We offered Tang the opportunity to respond to Kerr, as he did to her, but she declined. Instead, her office demanded that we publish corrections to Kerr’s piece.

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