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BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND BOSTON TEACHERS UNION ANNOUNCE TENTATIVE AGREEMENT THAT MAKES SIGNIFICANT STRIDES ON INCLUSION POLICIES AND PRACTICES
New Accord Paves the Way to Build a Special Education and Inclusion System That Delivers for Boston Students and Families
Boston - Thursday, July 14, 2022 - The tentative agreement between the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union takes major steps forward on key district inclusion policies and practices. The agreement, announced Thursday morning during a major national teachers conference held in Boston, will put students’ needs at the center of inclusion policy in the City of Boston.
Specifically, the parties agreed to key overhauls in the district's approach to special education in order to better meet student and family needs, including targeted reductions in class sizes and taking a collaborative approach to assessing the needs of students who have individualized education plans (IEPs) and/or who are English Learners. Restructuring inclusion policy in the schools has been a shared priority of Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Teachers Union.
"For far too long in Boston, students with disabilities and their families have faced a system that neither recognizes nor delivers what every child deserves," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "I’m proud of an agreement that supports our educators and takes concrete steps towards building a special education and inclusion model that will help us make Boston a city for everyone."
The agreement will help to advance effective inclusive education and will facilitate a higher level of collaboration among general education, special education, related service providers, and support staff to implement and model a fully inclusive school district. This comes as plans are underway for the 2022-2023 school year, with the first day of school on September 8, 2022.
“As educators, the needs of our students are our number one priority and this agreement lays the foundation to achieve what we call ‘inclusion done right’ for the benefit of all students within the Boston Public Schools,” said BTU President Jessica Tang. “It is our fundamental belief that – when fully supported and staffed – all students benefit from classrooms that are inclusive and equitable. That means working collaboratively to take into account the learning experiences and needs of students with disabilities and the needs of English Learners and ensuring that those who are most impacted have a voice in creating the conditions for success. This agreement makes strides toward establishing that inclusive and intentional approach that the frontline educators of the BTU have advocated for, along with taking other key steps to improve the conditions of our school buildings and to create more family-friendly work policies.”
“The new agreement between BPS and our BTU partners centers on what's most important: our children and our commitment to equity,” said outgoing Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius. “It represents a significant step forward in our work to ensure students with disabilities are served in the least restrictive learning environments. Both BPS and the BTU believe, and research has shown, that more inclusive environments lead to higher student achievement for all students. I’m grateful to everyone who worked together to make sure this agreement furthers our continued work and collaboration with frontline educators to ensure every student gets what they need.”
"I am proud and thrilled to have such an innovative and progressive agreement announced at the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “The theme of this year's convention is ‘Reclaim our Future’ and this contract will help students, families, and educators do exactly that by taking huge steps forward to promote inclusion and create improved learning and working conditions throughout the Boston Public Schools. It is important to note that student-centered changes, innovations, and initiatives within this agreement were driven through community input from educators, democratically elected local leaders, local administrators, and community allies. The improvements and inclusive commitments reflected in this agreement reflect democracy and partnership at their best in public education.”
The agreement includes additional investments to support the changes needed in the approach to special education, including funding for new positions that will provide additional support for students with IEPs and/or who are English Learners.
As part of the expansion of BPS inclusive practices, which refers to the instructional and behavioral strategies that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for all students, with and without disabilities, both parties are committed to increasing opportunities for all students regardless of their level of need. Also named within the agreement is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA requires that students with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment with specially designed instruction, given the appropriate support necessary to implement their Individualized Education Program (IEP), and make effective progress on their IEP goals in light of their circumstances.
“This agreement is all about putting better practices in place. We applaud the measures that were taken during this process,” shared Boston Public Schools Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. “This deal takes important steps for our children so that their needs are being met and ensures that – especially when it comes to inclusion – we are collaboratively improving our policies and practices for the benefit of our students.”
The agreement centers key policy changes within the collective bargaining process, promoting an approach that builds organizational capacity and improves both outcomes for students and working conditions for educators.
“We have reached a historic, equitable agreement that prioritizes the diverse and urgent needs of our students, families, and school communities,” said Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson. “Our students deserve the best possible educational experience. This contract provides complete access to a continuum of services across our schools that will meet their individualized and special needs and improve their academic and social-emotional outcomes. We believe this contract will benefit not only our students with disabilities, but all students across the district who benefit from inclusive communities.”
"This deal is a landmark moment as it places inclusion at the heart of our mission and entrusts that we hold everyone accountable for meeting the urgent needs of our BPS students and families. Our responsibility as a district is to make sure that all of us, including our teachers and paraprofessionals, have the tools and support necessary to create inclusive classrooms and environments where our students can grow, learn and thrive," said incoming Superintendent Mary Skipper. "I look forward to working with everyone in our community throughout the district to uphold these standards as we continue to deliver on our vision of equity and excellence in education."
The Boston School Committee will vote to approve the tentative agreement at a future Boston School Committee meeting once the contract has been ratified by members of the BTU.
Within the tentative agreement, BPS and the BTU have concluded the following:
- Academic Supports - BPS is committed to ensuring that all students have the needed academic support within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework, in which problem-solving and decision making is data driven and practiced across all levels of the educational system in order to support students.
- Staff Training - The district will make additional funding commitments toward professional development around inclusion policies and best practices, including training for school leaders, special and general education teachers, related service providers, school psychologists and specialized training for coordinators of special education.
- Planning Time and Input for Educators - Teacher planning time and preparation is critical and BPS will ensure that all teachers have adequate time to develop lesson plans collaboratively. Together, BPS and BTU will ensure that decisions regarding IEPs are made through a team process consistent with state and federal law.
- Inclusive Education Liaison - For school years 2022-2023 to 2026-2027, the parties will fund an Inclusive Education Liaison who will play a critical role in implementing the shared vision of an inclusive district.
- Paid Parental Leave - Expanding the City of Boston’s family leave policy to all education staff, including some positions within BPS that were previously excluded.
- Green New Deal - Provides greater transparency regarding facilities work orders in BPS buildings to improve classroom conditions.
- Housing Support - The agreement includes a commitment by the City to provide key housing support to unhoused families including a related pilot program.
- Compensation Improvements - The agreement includes wage increases of 2.5% each year over three years with an addendum that will ultimately yield an additional 2% in overall wages over the life of the three-year pact.
About Boston Public Schools
The Boston Public Schools (BPS), the birthplace of public education in the United States, serves nearly 50,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 122 schools. BPS is committed to transforming the lives of all children through exemplary teaching in a world-class system of innovative, welcoming schools. We partner with the community, families, and students to develop in every learner the knowledge, skill, and character to excel in college, career, and life.
About the Boston Teachers Union
The Boston Teachers Union proudly represents more than 10,000 teachers and other professionals including school nurses, psychologists, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers. Together, we advocate for the interests of students, parents and education professionals throughout Boston. We support investment in public education to ensure a stronger future for our students and our city. As a union of educators, we are part of a movement that seeks to improve the quality of life for all working people. We are united against all forms of prejudice and bigotry that would seek to devalue the lives or liberties of our students, families or colleagues.