Letter: Teachers Union is working hard for a contract

I was pleased to see that our local state representatives are pushing to help get the contract between the Boston School Committee and the Boston Teachers Union resolved (“State reps. urge teacher contract resolution,” June 22). As a teacher, parent, Jamaica Plain resident and member of the BTU Negotiating Team, I share that goal. Our team has spent over 320 hours in negotiations with the School Committee team, including three sessions with a mediator this month.

We have reached agreement on a number of areas, including more input from parents and students on School Site Councils, and a more effective process to place teachers whose schools or positions have been closed. The BTU continues to push for smaller classes for students in transition grades, an evaluation system that includes peer review, professional growth opportunities to encourage excellent teachers to stay in the system, and high-quality professional development to help our members meet the needs of all of our students. In addition, we have offered two options to extend the school day: Our members could work an extended day at a cut rate to help the city in a difficult fiscal environment; or a proposal to significantly extend the school day with the help of community partners.

The School Department’s figure of a $116 million pay increase request from the BTU is disingenuous at best. We have offered a number of cost-saving measures as part of a settlement, and the BPS estimate includes an inflated estimate of the “cost” of salary steps. Its figure ignores the fact that as teachers retire or resign, the steps reduce the cost of teacher salaries by nearly as much as they increase the cost, so the $116 million includes nearly $32 million that is offset by savings from veteran teachers retiring or resigning.

I hope our teams are able to come to an agreement soon on a contract that is fair to teachers, fiscally responsible and, most important, improves education for Boston’s students. Our team has 23 children or grandchildren who are in or graduated from the Boston Public Schools, and we want nothing more or less than excellence for all of Boston’s schoolchildren.

Erik Berg

Jamaica Plain

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