The Boston Teachers Union is pleased to report that we recently reached an agreement with the School Department resolving BTU’s claim that BPS’s implementation of inclusion beginning in the 2014-2015 school year (and its ongoing rollout thereafter) violated our collective bargaining agreement. This comes after three years of litigation at the American Arbitration Association, four days of testimony, and the expenditure of much time and significant resources from our Field Reps and officers, retired officers, expert legal representation and consistently strong advocacy from our BTU Inclusion Committee over the last few years.
The successful conclusion of this case is a win for the students and families we serve as well as all of our members who have persevered through challenging circumstances over the last few years. By “successful,” we mean a conclusion that we believe is a step in the right direction for teachers and students. We know this does not resolve concerns in all of our schools. We very much support special education inclusion and getting inclusion right across the district will continue to be a priority in our current contract negotiations.
We have, in fact, negotiated a successful model of inclusion in place at the Henderson School and BTU has also negotiated detailed contractual provisions in Article V A2 governing both class size and the procedures that BPS has agreed to follow when introducing inclusion at schools where it did not previously exist (see a PDF of our full contract). Those contract provisions address a model and a process for inclusion that are good, both for students and teachers because they limit the size and regulate the composition of inclusion classrooms, and call for joint planning time, while giving teachers considerable opportunities to weigh in on how inclusion should be configured in their schools. We objected to the top-down rollout of inclusion back in 2014 precisely because it ignored these important features of our contract and disserved students and educators alike.
For the most part, the new settlement agreement pertains to schools where the top-down rollout of inclusion began in the 2014-2015 school year; the agreement refers to these as Exhibit “A” schools. Exhibit “B” schools are the schools where the advent of inclusion preceded the top-down rollout and some form of inclusion was already in place, or inclusion was implemented after the 2014-15 school year.
The Exhibit A Schools are: Bates, Blackstone, Bradley, Chittick, Clap, Condon, Conley, Curley, Edison, Everett, Harvard/Kent, PJ Kennedy, King, Lee, Mattahunt, Murphy, Otis, Quincy, Sumner, and Taylor.
The key features of the settlement agreement are as follows:
- Each of the 20 schools listed in Exhibit “A” must immediately convene the school inclusion planning team called for by the contract.
If the planning team meets outside of regular work hours, teachers will be paid for their participation for up to ten hours at the contractual hourly rate.
- The Assistant Superintendent for Special Education will meet with school site councils at all schools with inclusion programs to receive feedback on current or proposed inclusion models prior to any expansion of the program.It is important that our members attend these presentations and provide feedback.
- The agreement defines an inclusion student as one whose IEP calls for them to receive 240 or more minutes of special education service in a general education classroom and have a special education code of “3.”
- Students whose IEPs call for 240 or more minutes of special education services outside a general education setting (with a code of “4′) are not inclusion students and are not to be placed in an inclusion class.
- The size of classrooms with inclusion in the twenty Exhibit “A” schools will generally be limited to 20 students, with a cap of no more than 5 inclusion students (in the 13 classrooms listed on Exhibit “C” where the current number of inclusion students enrolled is 6, that can continue but if an inclusion student leaves that class, the cap on inclusion students is automatically reduced to 5).
- Special education services for students with an IEP and a special education code of “1” or “2” must be delivered by a special education teacher who is not the inclusion teacher.
- Students with IEPs at Exhibit “A” schools may not exceed 50% of the total number of students in the class at the start of this school year.
- All inclusion classrooms will be staffed with a minimum of a 1.0 FTE para.
- Inclusion teachers in SY 2018-2019 will receive not less than 4 hours of voluntary professional development which, if undertaken, will be paid at the contractual hourly rate.
- Inclusion teachers in Exhibit “A” schools may opt to receive two (2) hours of support from an inclusion specialist in SY 2018-2019. Again, this is voluntary.
- Teachers in the 13 classrooms listed in Exhibit “C” will receive the support of a licensed SPED teacher one (1) day per week in the current school year.
- Teachers who obtained SPED licensure as a result of the rollout of inclusion are eligible for reimbursement, up to $1,500, for expenses incurred in connection with their acquisition of SPED licensure. We will be conferring with BPS on an ongoing basis this year to identify eligible recipients.
- There will be no expansion of inclusion at schools not listed in Exhibits “A” and “B” without compliance with our contract.
Having testified along with my colleagues at the arbitration, let me assure you that this was an arduous process. Our thanks go out to Erik Berg who pushed this case forward relentlessly, our attorney Matt Dwyer and also, to the following individuals who stepped forward to testify. Their evidence, cooperation, and persistence made a successful result possible:
- Richard Stutman
- Antonietta Brownell
- Marjorie Crosby
- Caren Carew
- Michael O’Halloran
- Dana Romanczyk
- Michelle Ahern
- Steven Benjamin
We also want to emphasize that this settlement does not foreclose our rights in the arbitration case we are still actively pursuing over BPS’s recent establishment of mixed program areas and its demand that teachers acquire more than one (1) license. Nor does it mark the end of our discussions with BPS on the important topic of inclusion. Again, we are aggressively pressing at the bargaining table for a sensible, long-term and district-wide solution to the impacts of inclusion on both our members and the students we serve.
President, Boston Teachers Union