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Boston Public Schools, Boston Teachers Union Reach Agreement on Three-Year Contract
On the evening of Thursday, May 30, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Interim Superintendent Laura Perille announced a tentative three-year contract has been signed with the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) that provides 2% salary increases, a full-time nurse in every school, additional licensed mental health professionals, reduced class sizes for English learners, and strengthens the ability of school principals to hire effective and diverse educators.
“This tentative agreement gives teachers a reasonable wage increase while providing supports that we all know our students need, including more school nurses and mental health professionals,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “We’re also lowering class sizes and staffing ratios for English learners, and making it easier for schools to hire the most qualified and diverse teachers possible. I’m thankful to the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union for taking a major step forward in providing better outcomes for our students.”
BPS is committed to maintaining salaries for teachers that are more competitive than most districts, and the district and union have agreed to a 2% wage increase for educators for three years, retroactive to fiscal year 2019. There is a potential rise to 2.5% for one year, in either FY20 or FY21, contingent on the outcome of further negotiations. Those issues relate to layoff protocols under a state law that went into effect in 2016, requiring the incorporation of performance evaluation ratings in the consideration of layoff and recall actions and contains issues pertaining to leaves of absence policies under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“The tentative agreement is good for students, fair to educators, and strengthens the collaborative relationship between the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union,” said Interim Superintendent Perille. “Together, we’re serving the needs of students by adding full-time nurses in every school along with mental health positions, adding staff to inclusion and early-childhood classrooms, and strengthening school-based hiring practices. We are grateful for the BTU’s partnership as we work together to make fiscally responsible investments that are focused on what’s best for students.”
“I am grateful to the two negotiating teams for their hard work over the last year,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, who begins working as the new BPS Superintendent on July 1. “This agreement provides an opportunity for continued engagement with the community as we develop our shared priorities for strategic investments on behalf of the students and families of the Boston Public Schools. I look forward to building a constructive and collaborative partnership with the BTU and all of the district’s bargaining partners in service of all BPS students."
The new contract enhances a number of supports for students with high needs. These student-facing investments reflect the common objectives of BPS and BTU to provide the types of comprehensive supports to help the social-emotional growth of all students, which lead to better academic and life outcomes.
- School Nurses: All BPS schools will have at least a full-time nurse. Currently, 44 schools in BPS have a nurse that splits his or her time with another school. This change will result in the hiring of about 22 additional nurses.
- Mental Health Staff: BPS will add 23 licensed mental health professional positions to its centralized budget, bringing the total of centrally allocated mental health professionals to more than 100. In addition, because many schools additionally hire their own licensed mental health professionals, the student-to-staff ratio is close to 1:200.
- Early Childhood: BPS will ensure a full-time paraprofessional in every kindergarten (K2) classroom, and will reduce the “Sheltered English Immersion” class sizes for pre-K (K0 and K1) and kindergarten (K2) English learner students from 25 to 22.
- Homelessness: BPS is adding $100,000 to assist students experiencing homelessness, which is in addition to nearly $2 million currently allocated to help this often not-fully-accounted population of students.
Additional investments aimed at better supporting high needs students include increasing wages for teachers at lower performing schools to better recruit and retain effective educators, and increasing compensation for language acquisition team facilitators.
The new contract also strengthens the district’s continuous commitment to a process called mutual consent hiring, which gives school principals/headmasters and their communities greater ability to hire effective educators to meet their schools’ unique needs, which includes removing some traditional constraints such as forced hiring based on seniority. The district first adopted mutual consent hiring in 2014, and the new contract reflects further advancements in this practice. These additions include:
- Supporting teachers who were excessed from a school but are without a permanent assignment, who are considered teachers in positions of Suitable Professional Capacity (SPC), by guaranteeing them interviews if they’ve applied to at least five positions in-district for which they are qualified;
- Suspending building-based attachment rights for teachers who are hired into permanent positions in schools after being assigned to positions of SPC;
- Expanding mutual consent hiring for paraprofessionals in positions serving students with severe intellectual or multiple disabilities.
The changes listed above are additional safeguards to the mutual consent hiring process, which avoid forced placements and incentivize the mutual consent hiring of teachers in SPC. BPS continues to adhere to and reaffirm our commitment to mutual consent hiring.
The tentative agreement also provides additional support for students with special needs and teachers working in inclusionary settings, reflecting the ongoing, shared commitment of improving practices for students in these learning environments. New aspects of the contract include:
- A commitment to forming a joint working group in which the parties will examine specific components of inclusion programming to build a common understanding of best practices and areas in which improvement is needed.
- A restriction on the total number of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in a single classroom in accordance with laws and best practices governing special education.
- Additional staffing supports for single-teacher inclusion models to ensure multiple certifications are required only when appropriate.
BPS was committed to avoiding unintended consequences of incorporating restrictions on special education programming into an employment agreement. The parties determined it would be best to pursue the majority of the special education goals through a collaborative, strategic planning process with the incoming superintendent, Dr. Cassellius.
Additionally, the new contract increases flexibility in scheduling for schools, which empowers school leaders to take advantage of opportunities for innovative programming and increasing course offerings for students. These changes include:
- Increasing the number of consecutive minutes educators can teach from 160 to 165 minutes in high schools, which unlocks potential new school schedule designs for school leaders and communities to consider;
- A pilot initiative of high school scheduling to experiment with potential innovative scheduling changes with approval of school faculty.
Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto said the School Committee will take up consideration of the tentative agreement at its meeting on Wednesday, June 12.
“I wish to thank and congratulate Interim Superintendent Laura Perille and her negotiating team of consummate professionals, as well as the negotiating team of the Boston Teachers Union, for their steadfast commitment to finalizing this agreement,” Loconto said. “The tentative agreement reached between the parties is focused on improving opportunities for students and providing important supports for our school communities and talented educators across all settings in a fiscally responsible manner. Our priority was to reach an agreement that was good for students and fair for educators, and I believe that is what this deal represents.”