Education News

New Boston Teachers Union agreement makes way for district’s special education expansion plan

The Boston Public School district and the Boston Teachers Union have reached a new tentative contract agreement. The deal was settled on Tuesday night and announced Thursday morning during opening remarks at the American Federation of Teachers national convention, which is taking place in Boston Thursday through Sunday.

Officials with the BPS and the BTU have been negotiating the terms of the contract since the previous agreement expired in August of last year.

Policies around special education were among the notable updates in the new contract. That’s because the district will be making a major shift in the way it provides special education, by expanding its program that allows high needs students to learn alongside general education students. Previously that was an option in only a handful of “inclusion schools,” but beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, every school in the district will have that distinction.

“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 Mayor Michelle Wu said in a written statement.

According to city officials, the tentative contract agreement also includes funding to support new staff who will provide additional support to students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and non-native English language speakers.

Among that new staff will be “inclusive education liaisons” who will help the district transition all schools to the inclusion school model. The tentative agreement also guarantees that teachers will have adequate planning time to “ensure that decisions regarding IEPs are made through a team process consistent with state and federal law,” according to a BPS release.

The move is part of BPS’s promise to state education officials to improve special education services. Previous state audits have described the system as being in “systemic disarray.” The struggles within the district’s special education department came under close scrutiny by state leaders who had been threatening a state takeover of the district this year.

In a speech at the AFT convention Thursday, BTU president Jessica Tang called the receivership threats “misguided” and a “distraction.”

“We were able to get this work done because we have leaders in this city who believe in the power of labor and believe in the power of real relationships and the importance of building trust,” said Tang. “And that includes the fierce advocacy of our city’s mayor.”

Also included in BPS’s tentative contract agreement with the BTU is a 2.5% yearly wage increase over three years, the expansion of the city’s parental leave policy, and an expansion of a policy that identifies housing for the district’s unhoused families.

Once the tentative contract is ratified by members of the Boston Teachers Union, which counts more than 10,000 members, it will be voted on by the Boston School Committee.

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