EDITOR’S NOTE: A video that was previously attached to this story incorrectly stated that Boston Public Schools was labeled as an underperforming district. In actuality, it narrowly missed that designation.
Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement Thursday, ahead of a national teacher's union conference being held in Boston.
The contract includes money for a 2.5% percent pay raise each year over three years, special staff training, a six-year consulting contract with an "Inclusive Education Liaison," parental leave and housing support from the city, the district said. The agreement also establishes distinct time for teachers to plan and prepare for class as well as a commitment from the city to be transparent about work being done in school buildings.
The changes come after the school district narrowly avoided a state takeover in what is known as receivership last month.
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City officials reached an agreement with state officials in June to follow a Systemic Improvement Plan after Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley criticized Boston for underperformance. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a report in May that blasted Boston Public Schools for struggling to operate on a basic level, including a failure to address "systemic barriers" to equitable education.
Both groups agreed to change how the district approaches special education, including smaller class sizes and the way they assess the needs of students who have individualized education plans or are English learners, along with money for new positions dedicated to those.
"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," Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement. "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."
Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang told members in a statement that the agreement brought several hard-fought wins: "From the beginning, our objective in this negotiation process was to fight for a contract that would get us closer to creating the schools our students and educators deserve."
Meanwhile, Boston will also have a new leader at the helm when school starts this fall. Mary Skipper was selected as the district superintendent last month to replace Brenda Cassellius after three years on the post.
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The Boston School Committee will vote on the agreement after the contract is approved by union members. The first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 8.
The agreement also includes a policy called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires students with disabilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment with special designed instruction.
“It is our fundamental belief that – when fully supported and staffed – all students benefit from classrooms that are inclusive and equitable," Tang said in a statement. "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 agreement makes policy changes within the collective bargaining process as well.
“We have reached a historic, equitable agreement that prioritizes the diverse and urgent needs of our students, families, and school communities,” Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson said in a statement. “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."
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What's in the contract?
- Academic Supports - All students should have the needed academic support within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework.
- Staff Training - The district will pay for professional development training for school leaders, special and general education teachers, related service providers, school psychologists and specialized training for special education coordinators.
- Planning Time - Teachers will have enough time to plan and prepare for class.
- Inclusive Education Liaison - The district and the teachers union will pay for an Inclusive Education Liaison who will help implement changes during school years 2022-2023 to 2026-2027.
- Paid Parental Leave - The City of Boston’s family leave policy will apply to all education staff, including some positions within BPS that were previously excluded.
- Green New Deal - Being transparency about work being done in BPS buildings to improve classroom conditions.
- Housing Support - The City will provide housing support to unhoused families, including a related pilot program.
- Compensation Improvements - Wage will increase by 2.5% each year over three years, which will ultimately yield an additional 2% in overall wages over the three-year pact.