February 28, 2017 Update on Contract Negotiations

On February 28, the School Committee released the following statement on contract negotiations.  

(click here for a .pdf version of the School Committee statement

The School Committee knows this has felt like a long negotiations process, and that many community members and educators want to see negotiations resolved. We do too. We hope this update provides a clear sense of the current status as well as the broader context within which we are all working.
 
Negotiating employee contracts that are fair to staff and responsible to the community is a shared responsibility of both the Brookline School Committee and the leaders of the employee unions. The School Committee’s top priority is an excellent education for every student, and we are grateful that Brookline residents have been willing to support our teachers and staff at high levels to help us reach that goal. We are proud that our average teacher salary is the 5th highest in Massachusetts for K-12 school districts[i], and that the Town pays a very high share of employee healthcare costs (82%) compared to peer districts. We recognize that our valuable paraprofessionals have not been paid competitive wages in recent years, so since the summer of 2015, increasing pay for paraprofessionals has been a priority on both sides of the negotiating table.
 
We are pleased to report that as of last month, five of our six collective bargaining contracts have been settled. The School Committee reached an agreement with the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) on the teachers’ contract last September, more than five months ago. Last month we reached agreement with the BEU for educational leaders/administrators. We have negotiated and signed contracts for building maintenance and food service workers with AFSCME, and these have been approved by their membership. We have agreed to and signed a new contract for secretaries with the AFSCME–BESA Unit that was approved promptly. Although mediation for paraprofessionals between the BEU and the School Committee resulted in a mediator declaring impasse last fall, the two sides have continued to discuss this contract regularly in an effort to reach agreement.
 
The School Committee values the contributions of all of the Public Schools of Brookline’s staff including paraprofessionals. We recognize the educational, physical, and emotional support paraprofessionals provide to our students on a daily basis. We respectfully extended public comment period at multiple School Committee meetings, and listened closely to the input of dozens of teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents, allowing everyone who wished to speak the opportunity to do so. All of the School Committee’s offers to the BEU have included significant wage increases for paraprofessionals. By acknowledging and agreeing to more competitive pay rates, the School Committee is demonstrating the commitment we have long expressed to increased retention and satisfaction for paraprofessionals.
 
There are also competing imperatives and constraints. Student enrollment in our elementary schools has already increased more than 35% since 2005, which has put historic burdens on the budget and impaired our ability to achieve our goals. The still-growing student population continues to put pressure on our school budget; the proposed FY2018 budget includes a projected $1.3 million deficit that we must balance. Despite passage of a substantial three-year tax override in 2015, because of ongoing enrollment increases, the expansion of Brookline High School, and the construction of a ninth elementary school, we will need debt exclusions and an operating override to deal with the structural deficit. At the same time, we are mindful that preserving the economic diversity of residents helps make Brookline great; at some point overrides—which translate into tax increases—will threaten that diversity.
 
The members of the Brookline School Committee have worked very, very hard to keep our promise to voters to hold our FY 2016, FY2017, and FY2018 budgets within the limits of the funds provided by the 2015 override. Specifically, during that override campaign, we promised to limit compensation increases to an average pool of 2% annual wage increases and 3% annual steps and lanes increases—for a total of roughly 5% annual increases. We were grateful that BEU leaders literally campaigned side by side with School Committee members to pass the 2015 override against a well organized “No” campaign.
 
Unfortunately, recent negotiations on the paraprofessional contract have been frustrating. Despite fulfilling the promises to voters outlined above, and despite the School Committee’s offers of significant pay increases for paraprofessionals, the BEU has consistently demanded increases far in excess of those we jointly fought for in the last override. Despite the BEU’s claims, the hourly pay of paraprofessionals already exceeds Brookline’s defined standard for a livable wage, which is $13.71 per hour. Under the existing contract, a first year paraprofessional in Brookline earns $16.04 per hour. This means that the School Committee’s offer for paraprofessionals already fulfills Brookline’s livable hourly wage by-law, and again, the School Committee has repeatedly offered pay increases well above this amount going forward.
 
It is important to understand that in all school districts, including in Brookline, paraprofessional positions are not full-time, full-year positions. The actual pay of a first year paraprofessional who works 6.33 hours a day for 189 days (the current standard) is now $19,189, which the BEU and the School Committee agree is insufficient and negatively affects retention. The School Committee has proposed increases in hourly rates and increases in standard hours that would raise annual pay for this first year paraprofessional to $23,946—a 25% increase. The School Committee-proposed salary increases of between 20% and 36% over a four-year period are significant, and evidence a meaningful and good faith effort by the School Committee to address the concerns of our staff. The BEU has consistently turned down this offer.
 
The School Committee is prohibited from deficit spending, so all of these increases must be offset by reductions elsewhere. As an example, in FY2018 the Superintendent is recommending deferred student technology purchases and a 10% across the board cut in supply budgets, among other reductions.
 
We are one town, and our budget compromises need to be collaborative and work for very diverse constituents. We hope that an agreement on our last remaining contract can be reached prior to the next phase of negotiations—mediator ordered fact-finding—which will commence on March 10. We also hope that all actions that negatively impact our children and their education will cease, as we all continue to work hard together to resolve the final elements of the last remaining contract. We need to come together as a community to have a shared focus on our students’ best interests, and on the challenges we all face in supporting excellence in education as we respond to the extraordinary growth in our schools.

The School Committee’s November 2016 offer to the BEU included wage increases that would raise paraprofessional salaries as follows by September 2017 (FY2018)

 

Existing Contract Annualized Pay in SY2016-2017 (FY17)*

School Committee Proposal

Annualized Pay in School Year 2017-2018 (FY18)**

 

School Committee Proposal

% Increase between 2016 and 2018

 1st Year classroom paraprofessionals

 

 $19,189

 $23,647

 

 

 

 25%

 Most experienced classroom paraprofessionals

(top step) *** 

 $24,932

 $29,820

 

 

 

 20%

 

1st year specialized program paraprofessionals

 

$19,189

 

$25,269

 

 

 

 

36%

 

Most experienced specialized program paraprofessionals

(top step) ***

 

$24,932

 

$31,143

 

 

 

25%

 
 
 


[i] Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/teachersalaries.aspx?mode=&year=2015&orderBy=AVERAGE%20DESC

 
 

November 22, 2016 Update on Contract Negotiations for Paraprofessionals

On November 22, the Brookline School Committee released the following update on the status of contract negotiations with the Brookline Educators Union. For a full presentation of the most recent School Committee proposal to settle the Paraprofessionals Contract including starting hourly pay for new and experienced paraprofessional, details about salary increases, and comparisons with similar districts, please click here.

Current Status of Contract Negotatiations:

  • The BEU and the School Committee agreed on the Teachers Contract in September; School Committee voted to approve in October; BEU has not held a vote for teachers to ratify the contract
  • For the Paraprofessionals Unit, the state-appointed Mediator declared an impasse because she could not bring the two sides to resolution
  • The Department of Labor Relations has initiated the Fact-Finding Process, which is the next step after Mediation. Scheduling this process is difficult, with resolution unlikely until Spring 2017
  • As of November 2016, the School Committee and BEU continue to work with the Mediator toward a contract for Unit B Administrators

The Brookline School Committee:

  • Understands the important role our paraprofessional educators play in the lives of our students and in our classrooms
  • Places priority on retaining paraprofessionals for an entire school year to minimize disruption for vulnerable students and their families
  • Is committed to increase paraprofessional wages and make them more competitive with other districts in order to improve recruitment and retention
  • Believes we should pay paraprofessionals who work in specialized programs at a higher rate because of the additional skills and training required for these positions

The School Committee’s last proposal for paraprofessionals makes us competitive with Newton and other districts:

  • Classroom Paraprofessionals starting annualized pay increases 28% by September 2018
  • Special Program Paraprofessionals starting annualized pay increases 36% by September 2018
  • Brookline maintains the highest Town healthcare contribution to employee health insurance among neighboring districts (83%)
  • Paraprofessionals will be paid for more hours: a time management system would allow the district to pay them for their actual hours worked (Full Time = 7 hrs) rather than the current 6.33 hours
  • Click here to see a full presentation of the most recent School Committee proposal to settle the Paraprofessionals Contract including starting hourly pay for new and experienced paraprofessionals and percentage increases. 

Statement on Next Steps

  • The School Committee is committed to bringing negotiations to a satisfactory resolution for all parties so we can come together as a community and focus on the very important school issues we are facing – including educational equity and achievement, reducing overcrowding, the 9th school, the BHS renovation, and more.
  • We will continue to bring forward thoughtful proposals that support our great educators and allow us to live within our taxpayer-funded budgets
  • We urge the BEU to have its teachers ratify their contract to help teachers, families, and staff have a sense of closure and progress
  • We commit that we will continue to work with the BEU to find common ground and a resolution for the unresolved contracts
 
 
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News and Updates about Collective Bargaining with the Brookline Educators Union

In response to requests from parents, PTO leaders, and community members for updates from the School Committee about the ongoing contract negotiations with the Brookline Educators Union, the School Committee has created this page to provide detail on the schedule and status of negotiations, including public statements by the School Committee or its negotiating team, the schedule of meetings between the BEU and the School Committee, and detail on how override dollars have been spent to add staff to the public schools as outlined and promised to the voters during the 2015 override debate. 

September 23, 2016 Update:  School Committee and Brookline Educators Reach Agreement on Teachers Contract 

After their third mediation session this month, the Brookline School Committee and the Brookline Educators Union reached an agreement on a contract for teachers (Unit A). The School Committee released the following statement on September 22. 
 
 The Brookline School Committee (BSC) is very pleased that after another mediation session with the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) that went into the early hours of Wednesday morning, the two parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to settle the contract negotiations with Brookline’s teachers in the BEU Unit A. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the membership of the BEU and approved by the School Committee, but we hope that this agreement will allow everyone in the Public Schools of Brookline to continue building on the positive energy and collaborative spirit that has marked the beginning of this new school year.

We will continue to work with the mediator toward agreements for the remaining Unit B (Administrators) and Paraprofessional Unit. The next mediation session is scheduled for September 27.

 

August 23, 2016 Update

After completing two more mediation sessions, the Brookline School Committee and the Brookline Educators Union released a joint statement on the progress they are making on negotiations for a new teacher contract, "We have made substantial progress on the important issue of workload and pay. Three more mediation sessions are scheduled for September."

The two sides held mediation sessions on August 18 and August 22 and worked past midnight during both meetings. The upcoming mediation sessions are scheduled for September 7, 13, and 20.  

June 30th Update

On April 4 the Brookline School Committee and the Brookline Educators Union (BEU) agreed to enter into mediation to help them come to an agreement on new contracts for teachers (Unit A), administrators (Unit B), and paraprofessionals (Unit C). 

The mediation session scheduled for June 29th was cancelled by the mediator. The BEU and School Committee are now working with the mediator to find new meeting dates for mediation to continue. The School Committee Negotiations Subcommittee offered six possible meeting dates. Since April, five mediation sessions have been completed.
 
Please read below for details about the mediation and negotiation process. The Brookline School Committee is providing this information so members of the public will be fully informed of the process. 

The text below is copied from A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law (pages 18 and 19) and, where cited, from Massachusetts General Law Chapter 150E Section 9.

How does the mediation process work?
After a reasonable period of negotiation, the parties [the BSC and the BEU] may petition the Department of Labor Relations for an impasse determination and the initiation of mediation. The DLR will investigate whether the parties have negotiated for a reasonable period of time and if an impasse exists.

Once an impasse is found, the DLR appoints a mediator to assist the parties in reaching agreement. In some instances, the parties themselves agree upon a mediator. [Note: The BSC and BEU agreed on the same mediator and have completed five mediation sessions as of June 16th. The sixth mediation session was scheduled for June 29th]

Suppose the parties still cannot agree? Will a neutral third party be brought in to make findings of fact?

After a reasonable period of mediation from the date of appointment, the mediator shall issue to the board a report indicating the results of his services in resolving the impasse. (MA General Law Chapter 150E Section 9)
 
If, despite the best efforts of the mediator, the impasse continues, the mediator will recommend to the DLR Director that the case be certified to fact-finding. A fact-finder will generally be selected from a list sent to the parties by the DLR. If the parties cannot agree, the DLR will appoint the fact-finder. The fact-finder's primary responsibility is to preside at fact-finding hearings and issue a written report with recommendations for resolving all issues in dispute. The fact-finder has the authority to mediate the dispute at the request of both parties.

At the conclusion of fact-finding, the fact-finder must submit his or her report to the parties and the DLR within 30 days. The recommendations contained in the report are advisory and do not bind the parties. If the impasse remains unresolved ten days after the receipt of the findings, the DLR is required to make them public.

If the fact-finding procedure fails to resolve the dispute, what can the parties do?
Normally, if the impasse continues after the publication of the fact-finder's report, the issues in dispute [may] go back to the parties for further mediation.

If, after further mediation the parties are still at impasse, either or both parties may request the DLR to certify to the parties that the collective bargaining process [including mediation or fact-finding] has been completed. If the DLR determines that the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for in Section 9 of the Law have been exhausted, it will certify to the parties that the collective bargaining process has been completed.

Is either side required to agree?
No, but both sides must bargain in good faith to agreement or impasse. If an agreement is reached, it should be reduced to writing and executed by the parties.
 

June 16th Update

At the June 16th School Committee Meeting, Rebecca Stone, the chair of the School Committee Negotiations Subcommittee read an update about the School Committee's most recent proposals to the Brookline Educators Union (BEU). The two sides have already completed five mediation sessions and another is planned for June 29. The full statement can be read below.

June 16th School Committee Update on the Contract Negotiations with the Brookline Educators Union

June 16, 2016

I am sorry to report that after 5 sessions with a seasoned mediator, we do not yet have agreements with the Brookline Educators Union. 

For the record, here are the offers the BEU has rejected:

  • For the teachers (Unit A), the School Committee has offered a 2% general wage increase for the next two years; in the current year, we offered to bring the increase up to 2% (half of which was already implemented at the start of this school year). This effective 2%-2%-2% for FY15-FY18 is consistent with the funds made available by the override, and is commensurate with contract settlements in comparable districts. 
  • When added to the automatic annual increases (known as Steps) that are built into the contract and cover about 70% of our teachers (30% are at the top step already), this is equivalent to raises of 5% - 7% in each year of the contract. 
  • In order to create space in the elementary schedule for the time teachers have requested, we have also proposed a fourth contract year that would add enough minutes in the elementary schedule to be able to provide longer prep periods. Our proposal would bring the workday of elementary teachers up to the workday already established for high school teachers, providing pay equity K-12. Fully two-thirds of the time proposed can be used at elementary teachers’ discretion. 
  • To reflect the proposed workday increase for our K-8 teachers, we have offered a 3% increase on the base salary for that fourth year, plus a new “step” for all of our most experienced teachers already on the top step, bringing their wage increase to 4% in that year. Those increases would be for everyone in the bargaining unit, including the hundreds of teachers whose workday would stay the same.

To sum up, the offers we have made in mediation amount to a total of 4 years of guaranteed contracts, resulting in combined general wage increases of more than 8% on top of the automatic annual increase for those in steps, which average close to 4% each year.

In return for these increases, we are asking our K-8 teachers to have a workday that matches the workday of their teacher (Unit A) colleagues at the high school so that we can have breathing room in the elementary schedule to give them the prep time and discretionary professional time they have been asking for.

The BEU’s response has been for general wage increases of greater than 5% each year, with a 7% general wage increase for the proposed Year 4 with additional time. (Just to put those proposals in perspective, every 1% costs approximately $800,000.) 

Paraprofessionals Contract: The School Committee is aware and concerned that Brookline’s paraprofessional wages – especially for paras with extra special education skills – are not competitive, so we have made offers for both pay and hours worked that improve the pay scale for the largest number of our paraprofessionals. 

In addition, we have offered a very substantial increase – half a million dollars in new money next year – to increase wages even more significantly for the almost 100 specially-skilled paraprofessionals who have been the most difficult for us to recruit and retain in Brookline. The BEU has rejected these offers as well.

While I am sympathetic to the complaints of all public school teachers that they have less autonomy in this era of state and federal education mandates, Brookline is still one of the best places in Massachusetts to be an educator. Our teachers are some of the highest paid in the Commonwealth, and they have a shorter work year than most (183 days) and shorter contractual workdays. The Town pays 83% of employee health insurance premiums at a time when other districts are negotiating that number to 70% and below. The School Committee fought successfully to protect the Materials Fee program so our teachers can have their children at school here in Brookline, and we consistently invest in professional development and opportunities for teachers to innovate in their classrooms, augmented by our generous partners in the PTOs, the BEF, and 21st Century Fund. 

To those frustrated by the lack of an agreement, I share your frustration. We have made serious, respectful, responsive, and substantial offers. I hope very much that we will hear something from the BEU very soon besides ‘No.’

 

 April 26th Update

On April 4th the Brookline School Committee and the Brookline Educators Union agreed to pursue mediation in order to help the parties reach an agreement. Mediation is a non-binding process that is facilitated by a trained mediator assigned by the Massachusetts Labor Relations Board. The Massachusetts Labor Relations Board assigned a mediator and the first mediation session took place on April 25th.  

March 10th School Committee Statement on Negotiations with the Brookline Educators Union

Click here to read the statement made by Rebecca Stone, Chair of the School Committee's Subcommittee on Negotiations, that was shared with Townwide PTO leaders on February 29th and read into the record at the School Committee meeting on March 10, 2016.   

 

Collective Bargaining Schedule

Negotiation sessions between the BSC and the BEU are scheduled by the two negotiating teams at mutually agreed upon days and times, with agendas also agreed to by both sides. Negotiations began on July 8, 2015 for successor agreements to the contracts that expired August 31, 2015. The expired contract agreements, including annual wage increases in the salary schedules for steps and lanes, continue to be honored until new agreements are signed

Completed Bargaining Sessions and agendas since July 2015 between the Brookline Educators Union and the Negotiations Subcommittee of the Brookline School Committee

July 8, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

July 16, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

July 21, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

August 31, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

October 5, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

October 19, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

November 16, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

November 30, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A, Unit B, and Paraprofessional Unit

December 9, 2015

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Paraprofessional Unit

January 19, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A, Unit B, and Paraprofessional Unit

January 25, 2016

Strategy Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A, Unit B, and Paraprofessionals

January 28, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Paraprofessional Unit

February 1, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

February 22, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Paraprofessional Unit

March 1, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

March 24, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A

March 31, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A & Paraprofessional Unit

April 4, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit B

April 25, 2016

Collective bargaining session between School Committee Subcommittee on Negotiations and BEU -- bargaining related to BEU Unit A, Unit B & Paraprofessional Unit

See how the PSB has used and plans to use override funding to add staff to school buildings in support of teachers and student achievement

 
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