Basics | Union Membership | Health Benefits | Other Benefits | Retirement | Loss of P&D, Loss of SEIMS, and Missing Substitute Teachers | Class Size
- What is the role of the Boston Teachers Union?
The Boston Teachers Union is the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the school system’s 10,000 teachers, other non-administrative, professional employees, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers. We also represent 2,600 retirees.
- What are the BTU's primary responsibilities?
- Negotiate and enforce the contract
- Provide the best education we can for the system’s students
- Represent the membership in all matters related to their professional work
- Answer job-related questions and assist in any job-related matter
- Promote the growth of — and respect for — our profession
- Work with the community to ensure our schools are the best as they can be
- Promote the strengthening of public education
- Work to ensure adequate funding to support improvements in public education
- Work through COPE to elect pro-public education, pro-union candidates.
- What else does the BTU do?
We sponsor a range of social and charitable events including:
- BTU night at the Celtics
- BTU members’ holiday party for children and grandchildren
- BTU golf tournament to benefit domestic violence hotline
- Homework help/parent outreach at the Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club
- Scholarships to BPS students & dependents of BTU members. Last year we gave $66,000.
- Fund Raiser for Pine Street Inn and Rosie’s Place in March
- A variety of social get togethers, at the beginning, mid, and end of year including a reception for new staff and a reception for new teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitute teachers in the Fall. (You will receive an invitation)
- Educational forums. In recent years, we had several forums featuring: Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book The Death and Life of the Great American School System and arguably the most influential education commentator on today’s education battles; anti-standardized test crusader Alfie Kohn; Richard Rothstein, author of Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap; Jim Crawford, noted author of Educating English Learners: Language Diversity in the Classroom.
- How do I join?
Although your benefits and rights begin generally when you do (see below for details about health insurance), you are not officially a union member until you sign a membership application card. Signing the card and giving it to your Building Representative ensures membership, the right to vote in union elections, and membership with our affiliates.
- When does the BTU meet and where is the office?
The regular BTU membership meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 4:00 PM. Meetings generally last for 2 to 3 hours and are held at our headquarters at Bayside Mall in Dorchester, near the Boston Globe, and the U Mass Red Line T Stop. Get directions.
- How does the Union communicate with me?
First, get a membership application card from your BTU Building Rep. Fill it out, and return it. Then you’ll become a member and receive a BTU Membership card. You will then get on our mailing list and you will receive:
- Membership letters
- BTU e-Bulletin sign-up here.
- Boston Union Teacher, the monthly union newspaper
- The Advocate, the AFT-Massachusetts monthly newspaper
- AFT magazine
In addition, provisional teachers receive periodic mailings:
- Fall: welcome letter about rights and benefits
- Winter: Understanding the teacher assignment process for the upcoming year
- June: More assignment information, what to expect over the summer
- How do I get in contact with the BTU?
- Visit the BTU office at 180 Mount Vernon Street in Dorchester. Business hours are 8-5, all weekdays including school vacations. The office is closed on state, local, and national holidays, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Good Friday.
- Call 617-288-2000.
- Exlpore this website.
- Email individual officers and staff (see below).
- Sign up for BTU enews bulletin online.
- What is the leadership structure of the BTU?
All policy is set by the membership at its regularly scheduled monthly membership meetings on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 4:00 PM at union headquarters. All members are welcome to attend.
The BTU’s policy board is its Executive Board, served by 12 members elected at large every two years.
Serving as a direct link between the union office and the membership are elected BTU Building Representatives from every building and program in the city. BTU Building Reps are elected each year to service the members at each school site and act as the liaisons between the union office and our membership in our schools.
- How can I get involved in the union?
You can start by attending a membership meeting. We also have various committees, some of which are looking for volunteers. Many members write articles for the union newspaper. Still others become Building Representatives. We are interested in involving new activists. Please feel free to stop by or call one of us and we can discuss your interests.
- I have a question about the contract, my rights, or the like. Whom do I call?
Before you call, ask your local Building Representative. He or she represents the union in your school and has generally had experience in many of the matters that affect each of us.
If you still need help, there are eight of us you can call. Initial questions on contract implementation, payroll problems, possible grievances, and the like should be directed to:
Michael McLaughlin, Elementary Field Rep.
firstname.lastname@example.org — if you’re an elementary teacher/nurse/etc.
Caren Carew, Secondary Field Rep.
email@example.com — if you are a secondary school teacher, etc.
Josefina Lascano, Paraprofessional/Substitute Teacher Field Rep
firstname.lastname@example.org — if you are a paraprofessional or substitute teacher
If you have questions about the union’s political activities or about our Committee on Political Education (COPE), please direct them to:
Angela Cristiani, Political Director
If you have a question about the union’s operations, dues, and the like, please call:
Charles Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer at 617-288-2000 or email@example.com
Questions about outstanding grievances, contract questions or interpretation should be directed to:
Pat Connolly, Vice-President at 617-288-2000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any other questions, please call:
Richard Stutman, President at 617-288-2000 or email@example.com
Although each of us has individual responsibilities, we all routinely pinch hit for each other and are reasonably familiar with all aspects of the union’s work. In other words, if you need an immediate answer, we ought to be to help you right away even if the appropriate person is not in the office at that time. In any case, leave a message or email one of us and you will get a quick return call.
- What were our 2017 union dues?
For your tax purposes, union dues in 2017 were:
- Teachers: $1,298.46
- Paras: $649.23
- What are my major benefits?
Too numerous to mention. See the benefits section of the appropriate Contract Highlights section of this website for detailed descriptions. Essentially, if you work at least half time, you are eligible for a variety of excellent, negotiated benefits including a sick leave bank, a dependent care/flexible spending plan and a job-sharing plan.
- Tell me about health insurance.
Health insurance is provided to the membership through the city of Boston’s Group Insurance Office at 617-635-4570. Call that number for more information or visit the office at Boston City Hall, Room 807. Or visit the BPS website.
You have only 60 calendar days from your first day of service to register. The 60 days is FIRM. Sign up for health insurance by calling 617-635-4570.
Health insurance coverage is delayed by city contract; if you sign up for coverage in August, it won’t normally begin until October 1.
You can only change plans during the next Open Enrollment period, which occurs in the Spring for health insurance that will take effect on July 1.
- What is the Health and Welfare Plan?
The BTU’s Health and Welfare Plan includes eye care, dental care, legal care, and a sick and personal leave plan. Visit the Health and Welfare Fund’s website for more information. For enrollment in the plan, call the Health and Welfare Office at 617- 288-5883. Ask for a brochure which gives a detailed explanation of all benefits. Or visit their offices are next door to the BTU offices at the BTU union hall.
- Flexible Spending/Dependent Care Programs
The Flexible Spending Program allows our members to set aside funds on a pre-tax basis for medical needs, day care needs and transportation (T, parking) costs. It has its annual open enrollment period coming up from 10/12 to 11/5. Hundreds of our members currently participate in this tax-advantaged program.
Dependent Care Plan: The Dependent Care FSA is a great tax savings for people who have children in daycare or parents that require elder care. The IRS allows you to set aside up to $5,000 pre-tax from your paycheck to pay for these expenses. In most instances, participation in the Dependent Care FSA results in a greater tax savings than the Dependent Care Tax Credit. (We recommend you speak with your tax advisor to determine which would provide the greatest tax benefit for you.) Some examples of eligible Dependent Care Expenses are: daycare, pre-school, before school care, after school care, and summer day camp.
The Medical Dental Care plan allows a set aside of $5,000 for out-of-pocket medical expenses: doctor visits, prescriptions, deductibles, and so on. See here for more examples of deductibles.
- Transportation Benefit Plan
The Transportation Benefit Plan allows you to set aside an amount pre-tax from your paycheck to pay for certain parking and transportation expenses subject to the following limits:
- Parking Reimbursement Account: Allows you to pay for your daily or monthly parking expenses up to $230.00 per month.
- Mass Transit Reimbursement Account: Allows you to pay for your mass transit expenses related to your commute to work up to $230 per month.
- BTU Dependent Scholarships
Every year the BTU awards roughly 16 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to high school seniors who are dependents of BTU members. Click here for the application.
In addition, the Retired Teachers Chapter of the Boston Teachers Union awards three scholarships to deserving high school seniors who are children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews of RTC members. One of these scholarships is earmarked for a student who might choose to attend a vocational school or equivalent institution. Click here for the application.
- How do I find out more about retirement?
All members belong automatically to the public pension system, which entitles all vested employees to a fixed, predictable pension at retirement age. In addition, all employees are eligible to join either — or both — voluntary retirement savings programs: the 403(b) plan, which operates like a 401(k); and the 457 plan, which also operates like a 401(k).
Michael McLaughin (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds a seminar twice a year, in October and March. Check the website for the date. He has a packet of information, too, for the asking. Call the union office for a copy.
Basically, the city offers two types of plans that are voluntary retirement savings programs: a Tax Sheltered Annuity 403(b) Plan that you can set up with a variety of vendors, 40+ in all; and a 457 or State Deferred Compensation Plan plan run by ING,(formerly Aetna). Both work similarly, though each has unique characteristics.
Visit the Planning for Retirement page for more information.
The BTU contract provides help with a number of coverage issues. Let’s go over some of them:
- General Instructions
The following forms — Class Coverage, Planning & Development and Administrative Sped Periods — are paid out twice a year; in January and June. These forms should be submitted in January and June (prior to the end of school and no later than June 30).
- Class Coverage
Class coverage is used to compensate Paraprofessional and Teachers who are needed to cover a class for another teacher during the course of the school day. The class coverage form is not intended for missed P & D’s (there is a separate form for that purpose). Substitutes do not receive Class Coverage; they should be compensated through a stipend. This form is also used for teachers whose class is asked to accept students from a class which has a missing substitute teacher.
- Planning & Development and Administrative Sped Periods
The forms for Planning & Development and Administrative Sped Periods are used to compensate those teachers who miss their P&D period(s) and administrative period(s) for Sped. These forms are to be used for teachers only; Substitute teachers do not receive compensation for missed P&D periods or Administrative Sped Periods. Substitutes should be compensated through a stipend.
- What should I do if I lose my P&D?
Those who lose their P&D are almost always entitled to compensations. Keep good records — missed P&Ds are worth $30.94 per session.
- What if I don’t lose my P&D but the principal places students from another class into my room because a substitute to cover that class is not available, for whatever reason?
As above, you are entitled to receive compensation under a wide range of circumstances. Fill out this form, and keep records on how many students are assigned to your class and for how long.
Many administrators routinely break up classes instead of calling for substitutes because it saves them money. Certainly schools need more resources, and it’s always good to save where one can, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of loading up “receiving” classes, which helps no one. The arbitration cited, which can compensate individuals up to $141.52 in the aggregate, is meant to be a deterrent to this practice. See “A” above.
- What should I do if I lose my SEIMS period?
As above, those who lose their SEIMS time are almost entitled to compensation. Keep good records.
- I am asked to be present or to otherwise participate in a Special Ed CORE meeting. Does that time come out of my SEIMS time?
No, it does not. That time must be provided you in addition to your SEIMS time. See the burgundy contract booklet, p 38 1 a. (Do you need a contract booklet? Ask your building representative to pick one up for you at tomorrow’s membership meeting.)
- What if the principal says that there’s no money in the school budget to hire substitutes for either the absence of a teacher or a missing SEIMS period?
Respectfully, that’s not a true statement. There is money in every school’s budget for the aforementioned coverage items, although school leaders often choose to use their resources elsewhere. Schools are required to provide coverage for each of the above.
- What if my principal does not call for substitutes as a matter of policy?
The BTU contract mandates that “it is the policy of the Committee that substitutes be hired to cover classes of regularly assigned teachers when they are absent. (Burgundy booklet, p 33, 8 b.) If your school is not calling for substitutes when needed, please speak with either Caren or Michael.
- What if I have other questions?
- What are the class size limits?
In general, the class size limits are as follows:
- Grades K1-2: 22
- Grades 3-5: 25
- Grades 6-8: 28
- Grades 9-12: 31
Please note the following important exceptions:
In schools designated Level 3 or Level 4 by DESE, the maximum in grade 6 is 26, and in grade 9 the limit is 30.
In inclusion classes, there can be no more than 20 students with a single teacher at any grade level.
In Bilingual, ESL, and SEI classes, there can be no more than 20 students at any grade level, or 25 if a paraprofessional is provided.
SLIFE classes are capped at 15 students.
Self-contained Special Education classes are capped at 8 students, or 12 with a para.
In elementary schools where there is only one regular education class in a grade level, the above maxima may be exceeded by one or two students. Similarly, in secondary schools where there is a singular regular education course offering (for instance, only a single section of French 4, or AP Physics, etc.), the maxima may be exceeded by one or two students.
Some very specialized classes may have a smaller class size.
- Are these strict limits?
Yes. BTU members, and the students we serve, have among the strongest class size language in the state. While we might want the actual limits to be lower, the limits themselves are firm.
When the Boston Public Schools assigns more students to a class than are allowed under our contract, they do a disservice to those students. It is our job to ensure that the children we teach get the differentiation and personalized attention that they deserve. We can do this by insisting that our class size limits are enforced. Paying a stipend is generally not an acceptable way to resolve a class size grievance.
- What should I do if my class size is over the limit?
First, file a grievance immediately. For school year 2019-20, you can do this online at https://btu.org/member-resources/csg/. At the same time, please download and print the form and record your class size each day throughout the year. We will need this at the end of the year to process your grievance and ensure proper payment if compensation is required.
Second, you should insist that the class size issue is addressed. This could involve moving a student or students to a different class or section, opening a new class, or adding a teacher. While the district may offer a paraprofessional or payment to you, our advice is to “insist that the class size maximum be enforced.” This follows our contract, and ensures that our students get the education they deserve.
- My principal gave me a form to waive the grievance and accept payment. Should I sign it?
No. Do not sign any form without consulting with the union office. In recent years, the BPS has convinced many teachers to sign a form accepting a “stipend” in order to settle their grievance. The School Department did not negotiate these settlement forms with the BTU, we do not believe they are valid, and we are challenging their use. We believe that class size issues are properly addressed by moving students or adding personnel, not paying money. If your principal offers you a form to sign, please check with the union office before signing.
- What payment is owed to teachers who taught oversubscribed classes and the grievance was not resolved by the end of the school year?
There are two arbitration decisions governing this situation, named for the arbitrators involved:
Golick and Dorr. The calculations are different for elementary and secondary/specialist teachers, but in every case, teachers are owed significantly more than $1500 per student.
- I filed a class size grievance in a previous school year. What is happening with that grievance?
There is a case being heard by an arbitrator that covers the years 2007-2015, and another case covering 2015-2018. While we don’t know when any of these cases will be resolved, it is our hope and intention that the arbitrators will rule in our favor and teachers whose classes were over the limit in the past receive appropriate compensation. Rest assured that we are hard at work to accomplish this.
- Who do I contact for more information?
Please contact BTU Executive Vice President Erik Berg at email@example.com or at 617-288-2000.