A message from Merri Najimy, MTA President (Scroll down and click on right for more)
You achieved a huge victory! Today the state’s educator unions reached an agreement with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reducing the student school year to 170 days to give educators crucially important time to plan. When we fight, we win!
This is just the first major victory, however. We need much more from DESE to ensure that our school buildings are safe when in-person learning become feasible.
Last Wednesday, we told you that not only were talks on the resumption of learning stalled — but they were unilaterally canceled by Jeffrey Riley, the commissioner of education. (Note that I call it “resumption of learning” and not “reopening schools” because I don’t want to imply that the buildings need to be physically reopened for learning to take place.) You responded by flooding the commissioner’s office with emails and phone calls – filling the DESE voicemail box and triggering an automatic response that your message was received and appreciated. On Thursday, we reached an agreement in principle on the 170 days, along with a reduction in time-on-learning hours.
Despite that agreement, without advance warning Commissioner Riley released new guidance late Friday citing regulations establishing the 180-day school year for students. This language once again led to confusion and unnecessary anxiety. But today it will become official: I and the presidents of AFT Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union are signing the MOU, and the commissioner will be revising the guidelines. The MOU concludes with the following two points:
“1. DESE agrees that school districts will have 10 additional days at the start of the 2020-2021 school year before instruction of students begins, to work with educators to prepare for the new school year.
“2. The Commissioner will reduce the 180-day and student learning time requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to 170 days and 850 hours (for elementary schools) and 935 hours (for secondary schools) so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than September 16, 2020. If a district is unable to meet the September 16, 2020 requirement, it may apply for a waiver.”
Despite this victory, DESE has not yet agreed to other major demands the unions have been making:
- Cancel the requirement for fully in-person learning plans.
- Cancel MCAS.
- Issue a requirement that there has to be an environmental health and safety assessment of every building.
- Tie the reopening of school buildings to COVID-19 public health benchmarks.