Teachers, related service providers, and administrators in the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) remain without a long-term contract this spring after starting the school year without one for the third straight year.
Educator morale is at an all time low. Limits on staffing, lack of common planning blocks, and pay that is not keeping pace with inflation is putting retention of excellent educators at risk, including our much needed staff of color. This also puts our students at risk. Brookline’s overall retention rate stood at 88.3% in 2009. In 2019 before Covid, when comparable districts were hitting about 90%, Brookline had slipped to 84.5%. Today, retention is even worse.
Our classroom educators and related service providers are our students’ greatest source of stability in a school system that has had 6 superintendents in 7 years and an unusually high turnover of principals and central administrators. Making a commitment to educators in writing, one that prioritizes a) working conditions that enable excellent teaching, and b) economic fairness, is long overdue.
The BEU seeks community support for:
- A Just Wage: Our salary proposals allow for time to fund cost-of-living increases that are closer to 3% a year than 2%.
- Common Planning Time: Add planning blocks with no loss of instructional time in order to facilitate collaboration across grade levels, academic departments, and schools.
- Adequate Staffing: Maintain current staff, and hire additional Paraprofessionals from Brookline and Boston neighborhoods of our underrepresented students to cover building duties, increase the diversity of our staff, and open up time for educators to provide individualized learning and support.
- Retaining a Diverse Workforce: Consider granting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) educators Professional Teacher Status (PTS), which protects their voice, as early as allowed by law and adopt regular meetings between them and the superintendent.
PLEASE SUPPORT BROOKLINE EDUCATORS BY SENDING THE MESSAGE AT THE FOLLOWING LINK:
Brookline has long been known for its progressive values, quality of life, and engaged citizenry. Today, an increasing number of Brookline residents are calling on the town’s governance bodies and departments to identify and eliminate the structural barriers to participation in Brookline civic life that keep our community from becoming more racially and economically diverse. Such barriers limit access to resources, leave bias unaddressed, and allow the growing wealth gap within our school communities to widen. The Brookline Educators Union is trying to eliminate some of these barriers through the collective bargaining process. We are attempting to stabilize and increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the school staff at every school and all job categories to better and more sustainably meet the needs of all of our students, paying particular attention to the needs of our students of color.
In order to reach this goal, the BEU is calling for a contract between the BEU and the School Committee with provisions that will:
- Attract and retain teachers from under-represented groups by endeavoring to award Professional Teacher Status (PTS), as early as allowed by law: when first hired or after their first year. PTS confers due process rights and such protections make it easier to speak out and exercise leadership. In addition, require that the central office administrators meet with these new teachers regularly to ensure that they are welcomed and supported. Brookline regularly recruits highly effective educators from other districts, who give up PTS in order to join our district. This proposal does not force the Superintendent to award PTS early and would not add additional money to the budget.
- Hire individuals from the Brookline and Boston neighborhoods of our under-represented students into much needed job categories of paraprofessionals — building, lunch and recess monitors and building aides with a dignified, living wage. This will help address the problem of over-scheduling and under-staffing, opening up needed time for teachers and specialists to prep and meet with students and one another, and limit the pulling of paras from their assigned students to cover these duties.
- Pay all educators enough to give a more diverse staff the capacity to gain and maintain a foothold in the middle class if they make a career in the Public Schools of Brookline. The BEU is asking for a 9% cost of living increase over 3 years.
Hiring and retaining the diverse staff our schools depend on requires funding staffing and scheduling that demonstrates respect for the dignity of teaching. Unfortunately the school district has moved in the opposite direction; rejecting our proposals and threatening to impose a contract on educators that would increase the length of the K8 school day for no pay, weaken the right to uphold the contract through grievances, and limit exercise of autonomy by teachers. That stance is damaging morale and making the district less attractive to talented educators.
This community has always stood with its educators and we hope you will join us now in our call for a contract that will attract and retain a more racially and ethnically diverse staff to meet the needs of all our students.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS–PLEASE SUPPORT EDUCATORS BY SIGNING THIS PETITION:
We can secure the legacy of Brookline’s excellent schools
Be it ending structural racism, making teaching in Brookline a sustainable career, respecting the professional judgment of those in the classroom, or responding to the educators’ urgent demands to address untenable working conditions, the management of the Brookline Public Schools is demonstrating a gross lack of commitment to the quality of our schools.
BEU educators are dedicated to working with district management to secure a legacy of excellent Brookline schools. Sadly, the attorney employed by the school district is advising the school committee to not make contractual commitments with the BEU in regard to several issues that educators– the BEU members – have raised as bargaining priorities.
The school committee will not agree to the following: to strengthening due process protections for educators of color so they can bring their desperately needed voices forward. They will not commit to stopping the erosion of the economic value of public school teaching in Brookline. Nor will the committee members provide for proper staffing needed to deliver the services that they are promising families and that educators need for manageable workloads.
When the district had time in the budgeting process to commit to what educators knew was needed, they squandered it by finalizing a budget that did not pay its labor bill. When the BEU changed our proposals to give the district more time — over a year and a half — to plan fiscally, the school committee said “no.” Rather than work with us, the committee members went in the opposite direction and dug in on a bargaining package which suddenly diminished union rights and increased the length of the school day, unpaid.
Now, the Brookline School Committee is abusing a system that is supposed to uphold collective bargaining rights. While maintaining no more than a veneer of good faith bargaining by offering only miniscule changes to proposals, the committee has manufactured an impasse that can eventually be used to justify an endgame where management imposes their “last best offer” on the table prior to mediation. To that end, the school committee is holding pay hostage to those proposals submitted very late in the game — proposals that we could never accept — insisting that they will stay in a package offer until and unless we give in on pay. That’s not right.
In the meantime, Brookline educators have been forced to take it upon themselves to make workloads tenable. At the beginning of February, parents and guardians will see that the comments on report cards will not be as detailed as they have been in the past. Teachers simply no longer have the time to do everything that is being asked of them within the confines of a reasonable work day. Our priority remains providing the best possible education to all of our students, and that task requires a degree of planning, preparation, and collaboration among colleagues, all of which the school committee is saying it will not talk with us about. The committee’s actions are an insult to educators and a disservice to students and the greater community.
Brookline can afford a fair contract for educators
For several years, the School Committee and Town administration have diminished the investment made in the Public Schools of Brookline. Spending on Brookline public schools has shrunk as a percentage of the overall town budget despite the increase in students and services provided. Our community has crossed the line from fiscal responsibility to damaging austerity.
The Brookline Educators Union is fighting for a fair contract, one that the town can afford and that delivers the quality of education that our students deserve.
Revenue is available:
- Brookline has underestimated its tax revenues by roughly $5.9 million annually for the past five fiscal years.
- The town and schools also have access to tens of millions of dollars through the federal government’s Covid-relief programs. These funds can bridge initial expenses of meeting staffing and wage needs and allow for time to plan future budgets.
Reasonable approach to planning:
- To meet staffing needs, the schools do not need to hire only full-time certified teachers for every position necessary to allow for the adequate preparation, planning and collaboration time that the BEU is bargaining for. Our educational support professional workforce can be expanded.
- The BEU’s proposed cost of living adjustments barely keep up with inflation and routine wage increases for professionals. The BEU is also flexible with the structure of the wage package in order to give the town ample time for budget planning.
- By agreeing to the racial justice protections the BEU is proposing, the school system can do better in attracting and retaining a staff that is diverse in national origin, ethnicity, and race, which our schools need.
Brookline educators are well-paid in comparison to other similar districts, however, salaries actually grow less competitive the longer an educator works in our district. The salary “steps” are not raises, but rather they are an incremental progression through a wage scale that provides a discount to the PSB for every educator not on the top step. Brookline must make the value of each step fair and equitable for the duration of an educator’s career, valuing the educator’s experience and adjusting for increased living costs.
Brookline public schools are reaching a breaking point
The Public Schools of Brookline have long been regarded as among the best public schools not only in the state, but also in the entire country. Yet, the legacy and reputation of PSB are in jeopardy. The lack of investment that the School Committee and the PSB Administration are willing to make in our schools is taking its toll. Every year it becomes harder for educators in Brookline to maintain the tradition of providing a dynamic, comprehensive and challenging course of learning for every student we work with.
Quite simply, the austerity budgets we continually face make it increasingly difficult—and in some cases impossible — to teach to the whole child.
The Brookline Educators Union is trying to reverse that trend through contract negotiations.
Staffing is at a crisis level.
- It takes adequate staffing to provide high-quality programs and to create new programs that our students need and deserve. We have built a K-8 World languages program. We have greatly increased inclusion programs for students with significant special education needs. We are creating more programs around racial justice. We are expanding social and emotional learning advisory offerings to students. We must start developing a robust environmental education curriculum that is central to all of our students’ learning.
- Our existing staff is excellent, but it has not grown at the same rate that demands on staff time have grown. Federal, state and local mandates have piled on responsibilities that in many cases are not congruent with the BEU’s mission or PSB’s legacy of teaching the whole child. Rather than forgo beneficial learning experiences to address mandates, Brookline educators have worked tirelessly to protect professional autonomy that has long benefited our students. At current staffing levels, there just is not enough time in a 24 hour day to get everything done.
- Our staff of color and staff with national origins other than the U.S. are being taxed with added responsibilities that are insufficiently supported by working conditions and pay that will strengthen hiring and retention and increase respect on the job. They are relied upon too heavily to address diversity, inclusion and racial justice, while not being provided the support necessary to thrive.
Wages have not kept pace:
- Pay in Brookline has flatlined, a problem that is hidden behind the appearance of increases on steps that are designed to delay the achievement of professional pay. The pay has also failed to reflect how job responsibilities for educators have soared. In essence, the town has been demanding more while not paying for more, either through raises or increased staff.
Respect educators’ professionalism:
- Effective teaching requires effective planning. Educators are asking for small amounts of guaranteed time to prepare and to collaborate. The BEU is also advocating for educator-driven professional development.
The BEU takes pride in the quality of education provided to our students. We cannot tolerate a work environment that feels like constant triage. And we refuse to simply “check the box” for mandates and initiatives and consider that an adequate education.
Support the BEU in its work to bargain a fair contract with the Brookline School Committee and demand that the town once again value—and properly invest in — its public schools.
There are three types of pay increases that make up the majority of educator salaries in the United States. They are “steps,” COLA (cost-of-living adjustment), and increases “on the base” other than COLA that reflect community recognition of the value of the work. (We’ll touch briefly on lanes as well).
Steps are what make teaching into a career and not just a short-term job for those that are early on in their careers. Without steps few people would want to stay in teaching for any length of time. Historically steps were a way to make educators provide a discount early in their career, but not later. Would someone with 20 years experience and a masters degree take a job that pays $50,000 per year?
Lanes are another compensation for experience. Lanes are the way that educators are compensated for their educational background: bachelors, masters, doctorate.
The other two ways that salaries are adjusted are responses to a changing social and economic context, and to account for inflation.
Sometimes an increase on each salary, which appears in a “salary schedule” table as an increase in every “cell,” is described as a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) in recognition of the impact of inflation. Without such increases, an educator would be taking a pay cut because the value of the dollar is decreasing. Nobody would expect a teacher to work for a starting salary today that is the same as a starting salary from 20 years ago or even five years ago. Who would take a teaching job that had a starting salary of $36,000, particularly in this region where the cost of living is as high as it is??
Another reason our salaries have increased is that working people have demanded that their work be respected. Our work as educators becomes more valued by society and as a result the compensation system has become more fair.
To summarize, steps are salary increases to pay for experience while COLA and other raises are to keep the profession current with today’s salaries and the value of the work. People often confuse “steps” with “increases on the base” of the salaries at every step. Without both, teaching does not continue as a respected profession.