NEWTON, MA — On the first day the Newton Teachers Association began incurring escalating fines for a strike that is against state law for public employees, NTA members were back on the picket lines on Tuesday as schools across the city were canceled for a third day.
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The NTA said it presented Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and the School Committee with a proposal on Monday that it said put the city “in a position to swiftly reach an agreement with educators” but the School Committee countered that the proposal would soon lead to teacher layoffs and a reduction in the very mental health and social services the NTA is seeking to expand.
The NTA said contract negotiations were expected to continue on Tuesday with picket lines at schools throughout the morning and a City Hall rally early in the afternoon.
(More on Patch: Newton Teachers Hit With Harsh Fines As Strike Enters Third School Day)
The NTA was fined $25,000 as of 8 p.m. on Monday night for the third day of the strike with fines doubling each day ($50,000 on Tuesday, $100,000 on Wednesday, $200,000 on Thursday) each day the work stoppage continues.
“The members of NTA will only return to work once a contract is settled and the necessary conditions to prevent retaliation against educators are agreed to,” the NTA statement said. “The NTA fully expected the state labor board to seek fines against our union, and we fully expected a Massachusetts superior court to issue those fines. That has occurred in all other previous educator strikes in Massachusetts, which still prohibits strikes by public employees.
“Our fight for the funding our schools deserve is greater than the need to obey laws that attempt to silence us. With the support we have from the community and other educators across the state and across the country, the members of the NTA have no doubt that we are doing the right thing and taking a just stand.”
The School Committee said on Tuesday night that the teachers should return to the classrooms pending the negotiations and that while it agrees “our educators need a competitive wage. And we agree the district needs to provide mental health support and social work services to students. And we do need smaller class sizes, particularly at our high schools,” it has been working to address those issues before what it called “this unnecessary strike” but accepting the NTA’s latest proposal would work against those efforts.
“If we met all the current demands of the union, we would not be able to reduce our high school class sizes or add social workers in our elementary schools,” the School Committee said. “Not only would the demands of the union consume our ability to improve programs or services, we believe we would have to lay off approximately 60 educators within a year and an equal amount over the following five years.
“We need a contract that will allow the Newton Public Schools to provide the services our students require. We believe that the School Committee has put that proposal on the table. We will continue to work toward returning our students to the classroom as soon as possible.”
Fuller said Monday night that the School Committee’s latest offer would “provide competitive wages and benefits to our teachers without requiring layoffs of essential city employees — including teachers — later.”
The strike comes amid a five-month contract impasse with the teachers calling for a new deal with pay increases, better paid parental leave, increased mental health support for students, and
guaranteed time to prepare coursework and collaborate with colleagues.
Newton teachers voted Thursday afternoon to walk off the job effective Friday morning after the union said 98 percent of its membership voted in favor of the strike.
Superintendent Anna Nolin said that all school buildings will be closed — with all school-related events canceled — for the duration of the strike.
Newton Public Schools offered “grab-and-go” breakfast and lunch pickup for students in need on Friday and Monday in a manner similar to the distribution during the COVID-19 health crisis.
All school days missed due to the strike will have to be made up at some point during this academic year.
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