State to step in as Newton teachers strike hits Day 11

Local News

The $15 million gap between the union and the School Committee’s proposals is now down to less than $4 million, union leaders said.

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller spoke to reporters at a press conference held inside the Newton Public Schools Administration Building. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Newton teacher’s strike is hitting its eleventh school day Friday, which marks two weeks since the Newton Teachers Association voted to walk out of classrooms. 

NTA President Mike Zilles said at a press conference that the $15 million gap between the union and the School Committee’s proposals is now down to less than $4 million. 

“We did everything we could to squeeze and find efficiencies and find creative solutions and we were able to do that,” Zilles said Thursday night. “It’s a real shame that we had to be out of school for two weeks for that to happen, but that’s a significant difference.”

Newton students, which number almost 12,000, have missed 11 days of school as of Friday. In a special meeting Thursday night, the School Committee said they will be canceling February break to make up school days.

Ryan Normandin, an NTA negotiator and a math and physics teacher at Newton South High School, said that gap, which is over the four years of the contract, fits in the School Committee’s budget. 

The union and the School Committee have agreed on a 12-week, paid parental leave policy. The union said their other priorities, including social workers in all schools and “livable” wages for aides and behavioral therapists, are still not satisifed.

“We should be done,” Normandin said. “The schools should be open. We are ready to move forward.”

In a statement, School Committee Chair Chris Brezski said their contract includes increased compensation for aides and behavioral therapists and an increased number of social workers. 

“It was the collective failure of the School Committee, the NTA and the City that we couldn’t agree to a contract,” Brezski wrote. “But the strike itself is not a collective failure. It is a unilateral decision and a willful action to close our schools while negotiations progress.”

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said at a press conference that their contract for teacher’s is competitive and won’t force layoffs.

“We have provided every possible available dollar for the needs of our students and the settlement of his contract,” Fuller said. “There is no more additional money.”

In court, the state is stepping in. The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board added a motion to an injunction to end the strike, court documents show.

They’re calling for twice-daily status updates with the state’s Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, who will be able “to speak to the educational harms faced by Newton students each day that Newton’s schools are closed.”

If an agreement is not reached by tomorrow, the court is calling for binding arbitration with a third-party.