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Boston Teachers Union Releases First Proposal In New Contract Negotiations

The Boston Teachers Union has released a major proposal for its next three-year contract.

Union leaders said their priorities were based off of input from a wide group of stakeholders outside of the teachers they represent, including parents, students and community members.

"Facilities definitely came out as one of the top priorities," said Jessica Tang, the president of the Boston Teachers Union. "I think the pandemic sharpened our focus on facilities because of its impact on our efforts to try to get our students back in school as safely as possible."

The new proposal includes some big items for school facilities, like having HVAC systems in all school buildings. The union also wants any new building or major construction project include green space on-site or nearby.

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Smaller facilities requests were highlighted, too. The union is asking that every teacher be equipped with hardware such as power strips, extension cords and mounted projectors. The union also wants teachers get a three-month supply of cleaning supplies like disinfectant spray, paper towels and hand soap.

When it comes to social and emotional learning, the BTU wants the district to maintain an average systemwide ratio of one school psychologist per 500 students enrolled in BPS schools and that there be at least one designated social worker per school.

Other student focused proposals include plans for offering kindergarten seats to all 4-year olds in Boston by the 2023-24 school year. The union also wants the district to provide extra support staff for students with both a disability and English learning needs.

In an email, officials with Boston Public Schools said they appreciate the hard work and dedication of district educators, who just completed the most challenging year of their careers. The district added that it is "committed to engaging in constructive dialogue to negotiate fair and equitable working conditions with the Boston Teachers Union at the bargaining table."

The current BTU contract is set to expire on August 31st. Union leaders said they're not optimistic that a new three-year contract will be approved by that time, but they acknowledge that pandemic-related issues have understandably delayed the process.

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Formal negotiations with Boston Public Schools began last week and Tang said additional negotiation dates are in the calendar. She added that if an agreement is not reached by the end of next month, union members will continue working under the old contract and try to negotiate a new agreement as quickly as possible.

Tensions between the BTU and BPS have been high over the last year as the two parties negotiated working conditions when COVID-19 infection rates in the city were either rising or hovering at concerning levels. Shortly before students with complex learning needs were set to return to school buildings in December, the union passed a vote of no confidence in district superintendent Brenda Cassellius on a 97.5% margin.

BTU President Jessica Tang said the union wants to look past those experiences during the upcoming contract negotiations.

"I think it would be a mistake to hold on to bad feelings," said Tang. "The pandemic was challenging for everyone. And if we really want to move forward then we have to start fresh."

Carrie Jung Twitter Senior Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.

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