The Boston Teachers Union on Wednesday night voted to ratify a three-year contract worth about $141.6 million that includes money for new hires to help integrate students with special learning needs into general classroom settings, a 9.5 percent pay rise for educators over the course of the contract, and 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all union members.
“For more than a year, our members, united with parents, students, and community allies, have been advocating for a contract that addresses the district’s structural challenges and our students’ unique needs,” BTU President Jessica Tang said in a statement after the vote. “This contract helps us move forward toward creating the schools our students deserve.”
Ratification of the contract comes after a protracted and sometimes tense negotiating period that lasted months. BTU was unable to come to an agreement with Boston Public Schools before the end of June as planned. With pressure mounting and potential state receivership of BPS looming, Mayor Michelle Wu and the union struck a deal in July.
The main sticking point throughout negotiations was how to better support the education of students with individual learning plans as well as those who are learning English; union members had raised concerns that educators already were spread too thin. The state also identified the inclusion of these students as one of the main objectives BPS has to meet as part of its school improvement plan. The new contract insures there will be more money to hire personnel in a multitude of roles with expertise in both education specialties.
“Our members have been laser focused on improving student outcomes and building a more equitable public education system in Boston,” Tang said. “They see this contract as taking significant steps towards providing the resources and tools to deliver on that vision.”
Amid a national teachers shortage, the union secured a 3 percent raise for its members in year one with an additional 3.5 percent raise in year two and another 3 percent raise in the final year of the contract, which will cost the district an estimated $102.8 million. The increases were a marked improvement over the district’s April proposal, which called for wages to rise by less than 2 percent over the three-year lifespan of the contract, an offer the union rebuffed.
BTU members will also be entitled to 12 weeks of paid parental leave moving forward, as long as they have worked in the BPS system for a minimum of 12 months. This is a revision of the previous policy, which only allowed paid leave for educators in their second and third years of working in the district.
Additional stipulations in the contract include the expansion of the city’s pilot program to house up to 4,000 homeless youth and their families, firmer caps on class sizes, and a more flexible timeline for educators to obtain new licenses. These new policies will apply to more than 8,000 active teachers and other professionals.
The contract is still pending approval from the Boston School Committee, which is expected to vote on it in the coming weeks. The committee will have to request the City Council add an additional $38 million to the school budget for fiscal year 2023 in order to meet the terms of the contract.