On June 30, both the Brookline Educators Union and the School Committee ratified a contract for Paraprofessionals that will move educators in that bargaining unit considerably closer to a living wage and parity in sick and other leave time that has long been denied them. We celebrate the success of the partnership between the union and school district that is reflected in this agreement. However, the School Committee unfortunately fell short when it came to reaching a fair agreement for all of the other unionized educators in our district.
For Units A and B, the BEU made every effort to meet the School Committee “where they are ”:
- we pared down our list of issues to make a quick agreement possible,
- we limited our Unit A & B salary proposals to reflect a conservative assessment of the rising cost of living. We asked for only 2-3% more in each of the years of the contract (which includes a proposed increase in long stagnant stipends for clubs and other enrichment),
- we structured the timing of the increases so that much of those increases were delayed, giving the district time to work with the budget and incoming, increased funding.
The School Committee’s response was to come back with an offer of 5.5% over 3 years, even as the CPI (consumer price index) for Cambridge/Boston/Newton has risen 3.2% from a year ago (5/20-5/21). Inflation would quickly wipe out the School Committee’s proposed pay increase. Thus, we are still at the bargaining table to reach a fair agreement for the A & B units and we ask for community support.
As Brookline educators, we strive to provide what the Public Schools of Brookline vision statement seeks, “an extraordinary education for every child.” Our contract proposals and “open bargaining” approach are designed to support a “community [that is] well informed and involved in the schools [and] supports these efforts that continue a tradition of challenging ourselves to do better, efforts that ensure the enduring value of a Brookline education.”
This past school year has been the hardest year of many of our careers, and it followed a decade marked by an unprecedented surge in enrollment that was never matched with proportional staff increases. During all of these years, the School Committee has expressed regret that they could not afford to lessen the burden on educators with higher pay and/or smaller classes and caseloads so that we could deliver the highest quality education. With enrollments as volatile as they are, the district needs to plan long term for a large system.
Fortunately, the federal and state governments have given Brookline a way to finally properly design and implement a responsible, longer-term school budget. Thanks to organizing efforts in which unionized educators have played a key role, a robust federal stimulus package will make a major difference while serving as a bridge to the committed, additional long-term funding coming from the state. The Massachusetts Student Opportunity Act will be bringing millions of additional dollars into our schools annually. Major new funding will also likely be coming from a tax on income over one million dollars. We hope our partners on the School Committee and others in the community will join us in working to ensure the success of the Fair Share tax. These increased short term and long term sources of funding have given us a chance to greatly improve upon our local budgeting approach and implement a new system that truly serves our community over the long run by helping us recruit and retain highly skilled educators. We have an opportunity with unprecedented federal and state funding to join together to return Brookline Schools to the time when they were the envy of all.