“I’m so excited about how this new agreement with the Boston Teacher’s Union paves the way for our school system to take meaningful steps to support our educators,” Wu said at the American Federation of Teachers National Convention on Thursday. .
The this agreement, among other things, will transform how Boston Public Schools places more students with special needs in mainstream classrooms. This was the main point of contention between the union and the city that delayed agreements for months.
The contract includes funding for new positions to provide additional support for students with individualized learning plans and English language learners. Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang said the agreement establishes a framework to ensure that the inclusion process is “done right” over the next few years.
“The goal is to be able to not only provide more opportunities for inclusion, but to ensure that there are enough staff and support resources for them and other students in the classrooms,” said said Tang, adding that there “will have to be a greater investment in staffing so that everyone can see their needs and services met.
The education of English language learners and special education students was among the list of improvements required by Massachusetts education officials in an agreement reached by the city to avoid a state takeover or being labeled underperforming. By August 15, the district must demonstrate that it has taken initial steps to improve special education services and ensure that English language learners, including those with disabilities, will receive appropriate services.
“There is still work to do,” Tang said. “But, again, it’s a framework that’s really about making sure educators have a say in the planning, and that there’s a really thoughtful process for determining how to improve inclusion in the district. .”
In addition, the contract includes salary increases of 2.5% each year (the first year is retroactive) and an additional 2% increase in overall salaries spread over the following two years, or 9.5% over the duration of the contract. It was a victory for the union, which was first offered 1.5% raises over three years.
And for the first time, the agreement also provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all union members, no matter how long they have been in their job. Previously, parental leave was only offered to teachers and paraprofessionals in their second or third year of career because they hadn’t had enough years to accumulate sick days.
Wu also announced on Thursday that a city pilot program to find housing for BPS families without a permanent home will be launched as part of the contractual agreement. Under the plan, these BPS students and their families will receive vouchers to help them find accommodation in the city. Currently, students who are not housed are often placed outside of Boston.
The deal ends months of negotiations because the teachers’ union had been without a contract since last summer. It also occurs during a review shortly after BPS recently hired a new executive and narrowly avoided a state takeover.
An out-of-court labor settlement could prove to be an important political asset for Wu as the city works to meet the extended demands of the state agreement, as well as repel any potential new attacks. The celebratory announcement of the new contract highlights how Wu and Tang rallied before the state board of education against the receivership. A continued alliance between the union, BPS and Wu may prove necessary as the threat of receivership persists, as at least one state board member has indicated Boston should face harsher consequences. if it does not respect the new decrees.
In his remarks Thursday, Tang sounded more like a strategic partner than a negotiating adversary.
“We were also able to do this work because we have leaders in the city who believe in the power of work,” Tang said. “This includes the fierce advocacy of our city’s mayor, Michelle Wu, who didn’t shy away from a fight with the state . . . saying this is our city and our schools and we have the solutions.
The union will present the contract to its members in September; if ratified, it will go to the school committee for final approval.
“We put children first by ensuring that the educators who are most responsible for their care and upbringing have what they need,” said school board chair Jeri Robinson. “But we are also going to need everyone’s help to achieve this.”
The settlement follows another major contract won by BPS in May, when the Boston School Bus Drivers Union approved an agreement with Transdev, the district’s private transportation contractor. This contract was also negotiated in partnership with the BPS and the administration of Wu.
One of its main goals is to improve bus punctuality by requiring drivers to practice their routes before the first day of school and no longer allowing drivers to take off without prior warning or permission.
The Big sharing is an investigative team that explores educational inequality in Boston and across the state. Sign up to receive our newsletterand send ideas and advice to [email protected].