The K-8 World Language Program in the Public Schools of Brookline supports the kind of cutting-edge learning that contributes to the excellent reputation of the town’s schools.
Lauded upon its arrival in 2008, K-8 World Language today is being seriously weakened unnecessarily due to systemic problems faced by too many of its teachers and students. There are too few World Language teachers in pockets of this comprehensive language program, and in some schools World Language is treated as an afterthought, creating inequities that are a disservice to both students and educators.
As a member of the Brookline Educators Union, I call on the School Committee or its designee to immediately return to the bargaining it began over an agreement to ensure the continued success of K8 World Language.
Such an agreement must involve issues of scheduling and staffing. A contractual agreement is the only way to guarantee that the educators responsible for the success of the K8 World Language Program are treated fairly, equitably, and with respect. BEU members stand together knowing that the schedules of our K8 colleagues are intertwined with ours, and that teaching is a joint, whole community endeavor. We reject any district strategy that undermines one subject area or educational service — and thus the educators responsible for it — in an effort to meet the needs of another. We know that schools are communities in which students and adults only flourish when everyone does.
Currently, too many K8 World Language Program educators are given excessively high student loads and untenable scheduling involving erratic teaching locations, no limit to the number of grade levels taught, and no limit to the number of sections. Furthermore, they are typically excluded from staff meetings due to scheduling. These conditions are untenable In a program that meets rigorous state standards using a target language exclusively in classes of students with highly varied degrees of language proficiency. In 2015, Brookline voters approved a tax hike to specifically support the K8 World Language program, whereas today these dedicated educators face precarious employment and are frequently threatened with layoffs.
Over the past five years, more than a dozen K8 World Language educators — over half in the program — have left the Brookline school district.
The BEU sees this as a failure on the part of the district to support an important program with a racially and ethnically diverse staff that promotes respect for diverse cultures and knowledge about the world beyond the town borders. Allowing further weakening of the K8 World Language program would be a devastating blow to the Public Schools of Brookline’s attempts to be a more culturally responsive school district for students and staff alike.
For these reasons, the BEU is demanding immediate action on the part of the School Committee to reach an agreement that protects the K8 World Language Program.
- Schools that are FULLY FUNDED
- Schools that are FULLY STAFFED
- Educators who are FULLY RESPECTED
- A district that is FULLY EQUITABLE
These are the non-negotiable values our union will fight for every single day.
Brookline educators are springing into action on three key issues
Settle a Fair Contract for Paraeducators
- End the exploitation of paraeducators and pay them a living wage; one job should be enough for these skilled and valuable educators.
- Provide fair access to benefits, supplemental pay for substituting duties and better professional training.
- Create a Building Support Professional role to foster a positive culture and climate in schools.
Fair Working Conditions for All K-8 World Language Teachers
- The School committee must bargain fair scheduling and workload conditions for all educators, including all of the world language teachers who currently have unfair demands imposed on them.
- The district must stop targeting our most racially and ethnically diverse cohort of educators with demoralizing working conditions, undermining our efforts to make Brookline schools more diverse.
- The School Committee and school administration must respect the terms and spirit of the contracts it settles with union educators – our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions.
Transparent and fair use of federal ARPA funds for educators
- Brookline received more than $8 million from the federal government to address the impact of the pandemic on our community.
- The town is using some of those funds to pay bonuses to public employees who worked during the pandemic, and while all educators are eligible for such payments, they are not receiving them.
- The town is sending an insulting and demoralizing message to educators by not providing a bonus to every Brookline educator who quickly adapted to support students throughout the height of the pandemic.
Last year, the BEU, with the support of the community, won a major contract battle to move our district forward. We cannot allow old, bad habits to sink in again.
- Brookline residents want high-quality public schools.
- The planning and budgeting necessary to maintain the schools require LEADERSHIP by those entrusted to provide students with the quality of education our community wants.
- The educators who continually prove their ability to support, nurture and guide students through their academic and extracurricular endeavors deserve to be treated as PROFESSIONALS and with RESPECT.
What the BEU wants for Brookline:
- Fully staffed schools that make safety a priority.
- The district to stop the practice of issuing lay-off notices at the end of every school year. We keep losing good, young educators to this cruel and unnecessary budget tactic.
- A school budget that is regarded as a values statement and not as a political lever.
The Brookline Educators Union and the Brookline School Committee signed a tentative agreement at 4:20 am on May 17.
Educators will return to the buildings later this morning.
The BEU will join members of other unions and allies to celebrate the victory and exercise solidarity in a 3:30pm rally at Brookline Town Hall with other union locals that are fighting for fair contracts!
Following over eight and a half hours of bargaining through the night, the Brookline School Committee failed to address the issues necessary to reach a contract agreement with the Brookline Educators Union, forcing educators to strike beginning Monday.
Throughout bargaining Saturday night into early Sunday morning, the Brookline School Committee refused educators’ need for:
- Guaranteed daily duty free prep time
- Guaranteed time for colleagues to collaborate weekly
- Substantive action on attracting and retaining educators of color
The School Committee also would not present any proposals on the record. In addition, the BEU has agreed to a financial package that acknowledges the town’s fiscal mismanagement while standing firm that educators will not allow their wages to further erode.
The BEU has greatly pared down its list of original proposals to bare essentials. The BEU has made financial proposals that give the town tremendous flexibility to plan and prepare. The BEU has asked the superintendent to go beyond existing practices and consider using existing laws and policies to attract and retain educators of color and to commit to creating a report on the district’s workforce in regards to racial diversity and inclusion.
The School Committee is hiding behind a questionable interpretation of the Open Meeting Law to avoid bargaining that could prevent a strike.
Brookline educators can no longer tolerate the School Committee’s dismissive attitude toward educators or its willingness to dismantle the quality of our schools.
We remain open to negotiating with the School Committee throughout Sunday and beyond, to resolve a fair contract that preserves the working and learning conditions that our students and educators deserve.
The members of the Brookline Educators Union overwhelmingly voted on Thursday evening to authorize a strike to begin Monday, May 16, should the Brookline School Committee and the BEU bargaining team fail to reach an agreement this weekend. The BEU and its supporters will be holding a rally at 10 a.m. Saturday at Brookline Town Hall. The BEU issued the following statement following the vote:
Brookline educators have been working for nearly three years without a contract that addresses fair and reasonable compensation as well as working conditions that meet the realities of a modern, comprehensive education. We have been patient. We have been bargaining in good faith. The Brookline Educators Union has never walked away from the bargaining table, contrary to what the School Committee claims.
Educators are simply fed up with the Brookline School Committee’s approach to bargaining – or rather its active avoidance of serious bargaining.
The BEU is adamant that agreements on the time that educators must prepare for their work with students, the time that they have to collaborate with colleagues and the ability for the district to attract and retain educators of color are not only legal subjects of bargaining but also of immense importance to the quality of education provided to the students in Brookline. The fact that the School Committee deems these concerns unworthy of discussion demonstrates a disheartening disregard for educators; it is also alarming evidence of the extent to which the committee is willing to erode the quality of education provided by Public Schools of Brookline.
Assertions by the School Committee and others about lower student enrollment are distractions. The needs of our students are greater than ever before, and the expectations of public schools to support the emotional and social as well as the academic needs of students have never been higher.
The inexcusable delays in settling contracts and the complete unwillingness to even talk about issues that have such an impact on students and the quality of education that we provide them have brought us to a point where Brookline educators must take bold action. We will no longer stand for the disrespect displayed in the approach to bargaining nor stand by while the School Committee persists in gutting a school system that many have considered to be not only among the best in the state but the best in the country. That quality is a product of the work done by the teachers, related service providers, aides, librarians, counselors, coaches, and staff working directly and daily with our students. We will always fight for what our students need and deserve.
The BEU is pleased that the School Committee is finally countering our proposals – after months and months of showing no willingness to move and stalling negotiations at every turn. Contrary to what the School Committee has stated, we did not walk away from the table on May 9 and we made a counter proposal prior to their last proposal of the evening (which was an increase from their prior offer of ½ % more over 6 years). We have just sent the School Committee our latest counter proposal. We hope that the School Committee will work with us intensively in the next 2 days to reach a tentative agreement that can be signed by Thursday at 5 pm so the BEU can hold a ratification vote at our scheduled 7pm General Meeting.
Here’s what the BEU has proposed today (May 10) as a counter to the School Committee’s salary offer:
— 6% over three years, plus a 1% increase to start the following year for all money items
— 8% over the following three years, plus a 1% increase to start the following year for all money items.
We feel this is quite fair, as it meets the School Committee almost where they were, and by putting money on the end of the contract it gives them time to find the money to fund their contractual obligations. Our proposal also includes stipends and longevity. Longevity payments allow the 37% of educators who only get a cost of living increase to attempt to keep up with rising costs, showing that Brookline values our most experienced educators.
We insist on keeping working conditions proposals and racial justice provisions in our proposal, as they speak to the crushing workload and need for collaboration time that many of our members face and the importance of retaining our educators of color. However, despite many concessions and compromises that the BEU offered on these provisions over the past two years (including this week), the School Committee has steadfastly refused to offer any counter proposals about working conditions – directly impacting the conditions for students in the classroom!
The school committee’s message sent last night did not tell the whole story. The BEU did not “walk out” on mediation last night, and is taking the last school committee proposal under advisement. Furthermore, the BEU has in fact made counter offers on the economic proposals, but the School Committee has refused to address our proposals on working conditions and racial justice. We have made proposals regarding prep and planning time and proposals aimed at attracting and retaining educators of color.
These proposals are based on the professional judgment of educators that will benefit our students.
Yet to the school committee, these proposals are not even worth talking about.
The committee also is trying to sell the old trope that educators receive annual “step raises.” Steps are not raises; steps represent the base pay for educators stretched out across several years. Compared to other professions, educators agree to wait several years before achieving maximum potential earnings. They do this to help the municipalities that they work for. Raises are the actual increases in pay to address the rising cost of living.
As it stands now, the movement we saw last night is not concrete and the School Committee can withdraw its offers. The BEU is asking the School Committee to sign a written agreement by 5 p.m. Thursday.
The School Committee has time to make serious, concrete offers that address our concerns. The BEU bargaining team is ready to negotiate. We are ready to settle if the committee speaks to the two non-monetary issues that are crucial to the quality of education that we provide our students. We are also ready to take further action if the School Committee continues to ignore its obligation to bargain over our working conditions which are our students’ learning conditions.
Thank you for your solidarity and for the support that you give to our students every day.
On March 25, 2022, the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) submitted an on-the-record proposal to the Brookline School Committee (BSC) in lieu of a mediation session that had been canceled that day. The concept behind the proposal was to create more stability in our schools by settling the current contract for Units A and B (9/1/2020-8/31/2023) AND the successor contract (9/01/2023-8/31/2026) for Units A, B and Para at the same time. In addition to the value of the substance of the proposals, the BEU sees many benefits for both sides to enter into the non-traditional agreement between the BEU and the Public Schools of Brookline. However, on April 8, 2022, the School Committee rejected the proposal outright. In an all to familiar approach, they showed no interest in exploring the idea with us with an eye toward working creatively with us.
The BEU and the BSC have been engaged in collective bargaining for the better part of the last four years. For three years in a row, teachers have started school with an expired contract. It is past time to introduce more stability than this into the school system.
TIMELINE — THE CONTRACTS ARE EXPIRED AND DO NOT MEET CURRENT NEEDS
- In the winter of the 2018-2019 school year when Andrew Bott was superintendent, the two sides entered into bargaining of a successor contract to the 2016-2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with an end date that coming August. Protracted negotiations were still underway during the following 2019-2020 school year when Covid hit in March.
- While the BSC and the BEU were bargaining the first COVID MOA, both sides agreed to a one year, money only contract that covered that current 2019-2020 school year.
- A second Covid MOA was negotiated, now for the 2020-2021 school year, and now with a second another interim superintendent, Jim Marini, in the district. The MOA was settled in December of 2020 only after the BEU was forced to engage in a one day strike to get the district to agree to six foot distancing in classrooms.
- Bargaining resumed for the successor 2020-2023 CBA but was sidelined when the BSC triggered a clause in the COVID MOA that would cut distancing in the 2nd MOA to three feet. Sessions on Covid matters concluded with no agreement in March of 2021. The district implemented three foot distancing as the original second COVID MOA allowed them to impose a change after a limited number of sessions.
- Negotiations resumed for the 2020-2023 CBA in May and June of 2021 with several marathon sessions. During these sessions, the current rate of inflation was raised as a key concern by the BEU. In an effort to get an agreement, the BEU consolidated over 15 pages of non-wage proposals for improving schools into five proposals addressing pay, hiring and retention of staff of color, preparation time, and a joint labor-management committee to analyze the “teacher day” as defined in the CBA. The BSC only countered with wage proposals that didn’t come close to keeping up with Cost of Living increases as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and rejected out of hand the proposals dealing with staff retention and unsustainable workday obligations.
- A paraprofessional agreement was reached, however, and ratified on June 30, 2021.
- In October 2021, with a new superintendent, Dr. Guillory, a 3rd Covid MOA was settled with the school committee with CBA negotiations suspended because the District had said they would not negotiate COVID and the CBA simultaneously.
- In November 2021, CBA negotiations began again. While the BEU submitted the same proposals that had been on the table in May and June, the BSC added completely new proposals that significantly curtailed union rights, exercise of professional judgment by teachers, and lengthened the contractual workday for elementary (k-8) teachers. When the BEU wouldn’t accept uncompensated added work time or pay in general that didn’t even keep up with inflation, the BSC filed for mediation, which the BEU opposed. Initially the Board of Labor Relations agreed with the BEU that the two sides had not met enough times for there to be a mediator assigned, the BSC forced the issue by being unwavering on pay increases that were half the rate of projected Cost of Living over the life of the contract and by refusing to rescind the late-added items of extending the school day and diminishing the rights educators and the BEU.
EXCELLENT SCHOOLS WITH FAIR CONTRACTS ARE FOUNDATIONS OF THE TOWN’S FISCAL HEALTH
As the sides prepared for mediation, the BEU formed a data team that looked closely at the town’s financial picture and demographic trends in order to see if Brookline was as “broke” as the school committee claimed in negotiations sessions. We also looked at the stability of school staffing because the core of schools is its educators.
In regard to town revenue, even aside from the $25+ million dollars that the town has spent to acquire property this year, the BEU found that the town of Brookline has the ability, capacity, and obligation to increase ad/or reallocate revenue to fund what the BEU has demanded at the bargaining table.
- Over the last five years, the town of Brookline has amassed an annual excess of $5.9 million in tax receipts than estimates used for the purpose of fiscal planning.
- Brookline’s tax rate is well below the state average. It is 31st lowest in the state.
- Thus, while tax bills may be high due to high property values, the cost of owning high priced houses in Brookline is well below the cost in other districts.
- “Living well” costs less in Brookline than it does elsewhere, and because of this, there is an excess capacity to tax under Prop 2.5 of close to half a BILLION dollars in the town of Brookline.
- Residents in town have seen their median household income increase almost 14% between fiscal years 2016-2019 while teacher cost of living (COLA) increases during that time averaged less than half of that. In fact, income growth in town from FY2010 through FY2019 increased almost 42.5% while salary growth for teachers with a masters degree at top step only increased about 23%.
BROOKLINE EDUCATORS ARE LEAVING
Clearly there is an ability and an argument to increase revenue in town, but there is also a need to weigh how existing revenue is allocated.
It is well known that property values on which revenue depends are driven by the quality of public schools, and that quality is first and foremost a reflection of the quality of teaching. 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.
In the absence of a contract that is more fair, Brookline’s educators, including much needed teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service providers, are leaving the district. Before COVID hit, Brookline had the lowest rate of retention among peer districts with just under 85%. For reference, Newton was at 89% and Wellesley, Needham, Lincoln / Sudbury, Lexington, and Concord / Carlisle were over 90% staff retention rates. Through February of this year, Brookline remains among the lowest retention rates of peer districts at just under 83%. Weston and Wellesley are comparable in these numbers, but both have CBA’s where top earners make more than Brookline teachers. Districts such as Newton and Concord Carlisle pay their veteran teachers more than Brookline as well.
SETTLING LONG-TERM, FAIR CONTRACTS IS GOOD FOR BROOKLINE
On April 19, 2022, the Select Board released $3.5 million of federal Covid emergency funds to the schools. Now it is time to agree to a fair contract. Past time.
All budgets and all contracts commit to costs that stretch into the future and it is past time that the first priority be a commitment to the teaching staff. The BEU’s current proposal makes this planning easier than usual by giving the town even more time to reallocate and/or increase revenue. This includes using federal emergency Covid funds as a bridge to shifting its priorities to providing such supports.
The union’s idea that the School Committee rejected proposed settling two contracts for a total of six years (two of the years are already in the rear view mirror) which would have begun to erase the labor strife and uncertainty that teachers, administrators, and district leaders have endured for too many years. The cost of this labor peace proposed by the BEU would have been less than 3% per year with increases can be back loaded to allow time for much needed overrides and / or a true needs assessment and stakeholder review of where money is being spent and why by town leaders. These needs in the buildings have been identified by educators and outside reviews such as the most recent assessment of the Special Education Program Review which noted significant shortcomings in staffing levels and opportunities for all students, general and special ed, to access adequate academic and social emotional support.
Brookline schools have been a shining light in the state for a long time. In order to begin the work to build them back to where they should be, accept this contract proposal and let us get back to work with job security and retention fears allayed. The BEU proposals help provide the foundation on which educators can address the needs of the district and make it everything it once was.
— Eric Schiff, Chair, for the BEU Negotiating Team