Newton teachers strike continues as contract talks stall

The Newton teachers union and the school committee failed to reach an agreement on a new contract on Sunday, prolonging the strike that has disrupted classes for more than 12,000 students since last week.

The Newton Teachers Association (NTA), which represents about 2,000 educators, has been negotiating with the school committee for more than a year over issues such as salaries, health care, workload, and class size. The union says that Newton teachers are among the lowest paid in the state, despite working in one of the wealthiest and highest-performing districts. The union also wants more support for special education, English language learners, and students of color.

Newton teachers strike continues as contract talks stall
Newton teachers strike continues as contract talks stall

The school committee says that it has offered the union a fair and competitive package, which includes a 14% raise over four years, a one-time bonus, and a new health plan that would save money for both the district and the teachers. The committee also says that it has addressed the union’s concerns about workload and class size by hiring more staff and reducing the number of students per teacher.

However, the union rejected the committee’s latest proposal on Friday, saying that it was insufficient and unacceptable. The union then announced that it would go on strike starting Monday, January 15, 2024, marking the first teachers strike in Newton since 1980.

How has the strike affected the students and the community?

The strike has forced the district to cancel all in-person and remote classes for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, as well as all after-school and extracurricular activities. The district has also closed all school buildings and facilities, except for the central administration office and the school health services.

The district has advised parents and guardians to find alternative child care arrangements for their children during the strike, and has provided a list of community resources and programs that are available. The district has also partnered with the Newton Food Pantry and the Centre Street Food Market to provide free breakfast and lunch to students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The strike has drawn mixed reactions from the students and the community. Some students have expressed support and solidarity for their teachers, joining them on the picket lines and organizing rallies and petitions. Other students have expressed frustration and disappointment over the loss of learning time and the disruption of their academic and social routines. Some parents and residents have also voiced their opinions on both sides of the issue, either backing the teachers’ demands or urging them to return to work.

What are the next steps for resolving the conflict?

The union and the committee resumed contract talks on Sunday, January 21, 2024, with the help of a state-appointed mediator. However, the talks ended without a breakthrough, and no new date has been set for further negotiations.

Both sides say that they are willing to continue the dialogue and reach a settlement that is fair and sustainable for the teachers, the students, and the taxpayers. However, they also say that they are prepared to stand firm on their positions and principles, and that they will not accept a deal that compromises the quality of education in Newton.

The strike will continue until a new contract is ratified by both parties. The district has warned that the strike could have serious consequences for the students’ academic progress, the teachers’ pay and benefits, and the district’s reputation and finances. The union has said that the strike is a last resort and a necessary action to fight for the respect and dignity of the teachers and the students.

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