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.