Teachers union files grievance over special ed documentation mandates
MCPS says new reporting is required by state, federal law
The local teachers union has filed a class action labor grievance against Montgomery County Public Schools for implementing new reporting requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic that it says hinders their work with special education students.
When the coronavirus pandemic closed school buildings across the state and moved teaching to online platforms, MCPS began requiring additional paperwork to document compliance with students’ individualized education plans.
School district officials responded to the grievance by saying the new documentation is required by the state and federal governments. But representatives of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) disagree and say the extra work adds to an already overburdened caseload for special educators.
“MCPS decided kind of unilaterally that they needed to ask for additional reporting requirements, so a lot of our special educators who already have tremendous paperwork burdens … said, ‘This is unsustainable and I can’t do this,’” said Chris Lloyd, MCEA’s president. “And, frankly, they’re concerned that all this paperwork is taking away time that they could spend helping kids.”
In an interview this week, Kevin Lowndes, director of the MCPS Office of Special Education, disagreed and said, “This is information we have to gather and provide to the state and federal officials.”
Lowndes said MCPS and MCEA “have the same goal of serving all students.”
“I think we all understand that we’re in an unprecedented time and it can be a lot or overwhelming,” Lowndes said. “We are committed to working with our special education teachers to help.”
Lloyd said the teachers union attempted to resolve the conflict informally with MCPS directly for the past two months, but the school district was not responsive.
After several meetings with MCPS officials, the union on May 5 sent MCPS a cease and desist letter to block the implementation of the new reporting requirements. MCPS did not respond and MCEA filed a class action grievance alleging MCPS violated the collective bargaining agreement.
The agreement says district officials must work with the union to develop and implement new reporting initiatives and “strive to decrease” the amount of paperwork special educators must complete, Lloyd said.
MCPS responded the next day, according to Lloyd, and “asked us to also withdraw the grievance, to allow more time to find a solution.”
The school district told MCEA officials it would:
- assign additional paraeducators to help with paperwork or provide support for special education students
- assign secretarial staff to schedule meetings and help with documentation
- hire substitute teachers to support teachers
- provide additional hours for part-time teachers to help special educators
As of Sunday, while some teachers have received the additional help, “these supports have not materialized for a significant number of educators, and we informed MCPS that we therefore could not rescind the grievance,” Lloyd said.
Lowndes said MCPS has been proactive to implement the support outlined to MCEA and if other teachers need help, they should reach out to MCPS administration.
“We can’t help if we don’t know there’s a problem or where the problem is,” Lowndes said.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org