In May, the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union signed a contract with each other that calls for a modest pay increase for teachers and a guarantee that every school has a full-time nurse in every school, and an aide in every kindergarten classroom.
In an interview with Boston Public Radio on Thursday, BTU President Jessica Tang said that the goal of the last round of contract negotiations was to focus more on the needs of students and less on the needs of teachers.
“In this contract, we absolutely are prioritizing the needs that we heard from our students,” Tang said. “When I became president, I literally visited every single school, and said, ‘Tell me what’s working well [and] tell me what are the things that we need to change.’”
Tang said she hopes that some of the changes will help put the BPS more in line with schools in more affluent suburbs, such as raising the wages for paraprofessional and including them in kindergarten classrooms.
During the interview, Tang also shared her thoughts on the expansion of charter schools throughout the state. In Tang’s view, charter schools and public schools do not inherently work against each other, but under the current system in Massachusetts, the two are often forced to compete with each other for a limited pool of funding.
“We all understood ... that the current system right now, in which the way charter schools are set up in their funding, and also their enrollment, causes greater inequities for the public school systems that serve a majority of students,” Tang said. “So, we do have a lot of concerns about the expansion because the expansion does come at a cost of the public schools because of the way it’s funded right now.”
Appearing to call on the state legislature to increase funding towards education, Tang said that the state has the means to ensure that every school in the state, charter or not, receives an adequate level of revenue.
“Massachusetts is a very wealthy state, and if we wanted to make sure that every school had a nurse, an art teacher, a phys-ed teacher, science, music, [English-as-a-second-language programs], inclusion done right — which was another huge issue for our members in this contract — we could,” Tang said.