Support swells for teachers as union strikes over weekend

Newton teachers voted to go on strike Thursday night, bringing the city’s education system to a screeching halt as the union and the School Committee try to work out a contract.

Negotiations have been ongoing for more than a year. After voters rejected one of the three overrides Mayor Ruthanne Fuller proposed last year, money allotted to the schools was tight and contract talks spun out of control.

On Thursday morning, just hours before teachers voted to go on strike, most members of the City Council signed a letter urging them not to.

Following the strike announcement, the city’s PTO leadership drafted an open letter to the community and the mayor urging her to allocate more funding for the schools and end the strike.

“We are united in concern and frustration,” the letter begins. “As leaders of Newton’s parent organizations, we have come together to express grave concern for the well-being and learning of our students.”

Teachers rally at Newton City Halll on Jan. 19, 2024. Photo by Bryan McGonigle

The letter urges an end to the strike and cites budget cuts as the cause of it.

“Our trust in Mayor Fuller is broken. We believe that Mayor Fuller has failed to present an adequate budget allocation for the Newton Public Schools (“NPS”) for many years, leading to budget cuts that have hurt our kids, our teachers, and our communities. We worry that she is out of touch with the reality of our public schools. Our trust in her has eroded every time she’s chosen not to prioritize our children.”

But by Friday, word of the Newton teachers’ strike had sparked a groundswell of support from parents and elected officials alike.

“As a former public school teacher, I know how hard our teachers and educators work,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, wrote in a statement Friday. “Newton teachers are asking for a contract that recognizes that hard work and invests in their schools and students. I urge the Newton School Committee to negotiate with urgency and come to and come to an agreement so that the teachers get wages, benefits, and working conditions they deserve and students can return to the classroom.”

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Boston, posted on X in support of the NTA Friday morning.

“Our educators are on the front lines—pouring into our students, contributing to our communities, $ strengthening our democracy,” Presley wrote/ “I’m proud to stand with @NewtonTeachers as they fight for a fair & just contract that reflects both the value of their labor and their humanity.”

Racing the clock

On Friday, a Middlesex County judge has ordered the NTA to call off the strike by Sunday afternoon And return to classrooms Monday morning.

Violating that order could result in hefty fines for each day teachers aren’t at work.

On Saturday, the School Committee sent out an email to parents letting them know that representatives from the committee and the Newton Teachers Association had been at the negotiating table all day and would do the same on Sunday.

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller speaks to reporters on first day of teacher strike. Photo by Bryan McGonigle

“Both parties expressed their urgency to return to schools on Monday,” the email reads in part.

On Sunday afternoon, Fuller sent out an email update saying the negotiating parties were hard at work.

“The Newton School Committee is providing a pathway to the union for re-opening our schools tomorrow while allowing negotiations to continue by providing substitute teachers for members of the core bargaining committee. We are doing this to put our kids first,” Fuller wrote. “The union can decide right now to let our kids be in school while the adults negotiate.”