Strike update: Where things stand Wednesday

How close are the Newton Teachers Association and the School Committee to an agreement to end the strike.

Closer than before, but still not there.

The School Committee has upped its offer related to cost-of-living raises for teachers. Under the new proposal, a teacher making $62,116 now would make $81,599 in 2027. A paraprofessional (Unit C staffer) making $22,81 an hour now would make $32.20 an hour in 2027.

The NTA has rejected that offer, saying it would mean having to drop their fight for better health care benefits and more social workers in the elementary schools, among other things.

During Tuesday night’s string of press conferences and strike updates, Ryan Normandin of the NTA said the money gap has gone from $20 million (over the life of the four-year contract) a few days ago to $15 million. It was about $36 million at the start of negotiations, according to the School Committee.

But to hear both sides, it’s as if neither side has moved an inch.

“Today the School Committee told us what we have always known to be the case, that they will no longer be bargaining with us,” Normandin said. “They are done.”

Normandin said he had heard that through a mediator.

Later, School Committee Chair Chris Brezski denied that claim, insisting no one said the School Committee was done negotiating.

Then, Brezski accused the NTA of having a political agenda and not wanting to compromise at all.

On Tuesday night, negotiators were expected to work through the night to reach a deal.

That did not happen.

The School Committee has presented new proposals this week to the NTA, which the NTA insists do not go far enough to address low pay for staff, parental leave and mental health.

“We want nothing more than to be back in the classroom with our students, but let us be very clear,” Normandin said “To go back without these most basic of needs met means that the current crisis in the Newton public schools will continue. And the impact of that crisis will have lifelong consequences for the students and for the future of this city.”

Normandin said the NTA would present a “reasonable compromise proposal that satisfies our members’ core issues and settles this contract.”

That also did not happen. The School Committee announced Wednesday morning that the NTA had delayed presentation of their proposal until 12:30 p.m.

Tuesday night marked the first time Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has joined negotiations. But both Fuller and Brezski say that won’t make any difference in what the city can give the schools.

“To think that her showing up at the table is magically going to produce some sum of money that doesn’t otherwise exist, or some sum of money that’s going to be allocated that we didn’t advocate for, I just don’t think has any bearing in reality,” Brezski said.

The Newton City Council held a press conference Tuesday calling for all parties to work toward an end to the strike and reminding the public that the City Council does not negotiate school contracts or decide what money to allocate to the schools.

On Wednesday morning, National Education Association President Becky Pringle visited the NTA and spoke at a rally.

Superintendent Anna Nolin and the School Committee are preparing the community in case April vacation is cancelled to make up school days lost to the strike. There’s a meeting Thursday night to discuss that.

State law mandates 180 days of school per academic year.

There’s been a rumor that the NTA is having a “bar crawl” Wednesday afternoon. While it’s true some teachers are meeting at bars in the area, the NTA negotiators are not joining. They’ll be busy negotiating.

None of this helps parents, who have had to figure out childcare for more than a week and are now faced with the possibility of learning loss and emotional upheaval.