With Newton’s public schools closed for a ninth day on Wednesday, city council members are calling for the teachers strike to end.
“This strike has to end. We need to get our kids back in the classroom and we need to do it now,” City Council President Marc Laredo said Tuesday in a briefing posted by WCVB-TV.
“We think this proposal is difficult for the city, financially. Make no doubt about it, this is not easy. This will be hard,” Laredo said. “Our children are suffering because they are not in school.”
On Wednesday, Laredo said he wants to see the School Committee and teachers union “bargain and negotiate until this is done.” He declined to speculate on when the strike might end.
“The city council has no official role in the negotiations,” he said. “We’re not at the bargaining table. But we’re extremely concerned about the situation.”
The school committee and the Newton Teachers Association came closer to an agreement on Tuesday, but the two sides have yet to reach a deal. Sticking points include cost of living raises for classroom aides — the union has asked for a roughly 20 percent increase over four years, while the district’s latest proposal calls for a 14 to 15 percent increase — and cost of living raises for educators.
On Tuesday, the teachers held a rally at City Hall, while union leaders negotiated with city and district officials and shared updated requests for cost of living increases. The School Committee also released its latest proposal Tuesday afternoon.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who is also a member of the School Committee, said in a statement that she had joined the negotiations for the first time during the strike Tuesday night.
“Tonight, School Committee Chair Brezski and the School Committee negotiating team asked me to join them at the bargaining table, hoping my presence will reinforce for the union the urgency of getting students back in classrooms and my commitment to the School Committee’s competitive offer,” Fuller said in a statement on Tuesday. “Newton Teachers Association President Mike Zilles joined us in the room along with NTA educators and Massachusetts Teachers Association representatives. Mr. Zilles expressed his commitment to academic excellence and social and emotional learning. His team needs more time to put their ideas into writing and we expect to receive a new proposal from them at noon tomorrow.”
It is illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts, and the teachers union has been fined $525,000.