Time to dial down the rhetoric and let kids recover what they lost
As a resident of Newton, I have appreciated the Globe’s coverage of the teachers strike, although it sometimes drew conclusions based on a handful of interviews and tended to portray the city as simply a “tony suburb.” Newton is a remarkably diverse city of almost 90,000 people, some very wealthy and some barely getting by.
I applaud your Feb. 6 editorial “Who won in Newton? Not the students” for stating that no one should take a victory lap over the settlement of the 15-day strike because it harmed our children, keeping them out of school for 11 days.
Unfortunately, some of the coverage in the same edition included a lot of finger pointing, with a Metro headline about the “vitriolic strike” and a front-page story about how “many in Newton” were wondering, “Where was the mayor?”
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller sent out daily updates during the course of the strike. Some Newton residents might have disagreed with her, but we knew exactly where she stood.
Ramping up the rhetoric and trying to find winners and losers will exacerbate tensions and hurt our city. Please stop.
Mayor Fuller’s presence was felt, as was her resolve and good sense
Re “In Newton, mayor’s role questioned: Fuller is viewed as being largely absent from talks during long teachers strike” (Page A1, Feb. 6): Mayor Ruthanne Fuller handled her incredibly tough job sensibly and productively. It seemed the teachers union felt it would gain some kind of advantage by having the mayor at every negotiating session, perhaps by getting her to bend their way to avoid political harm. They obviously do not know Ruthanne Fuller, and that strategy misread the tone and character of how things get done in Newton.
The writer is a former member of Newton City Council.
Don’t demonize teachers. Consider what they were fighting for.
Did columnist Scot Lehigh (“The illegal Newton strike backfires — on teachers,” Opinion, Feb. 7) even read the Newton Teachers Association demands?
It turns out there are plenty of work conditions worth fighting for besides teacher wages, such as the presence of a social worker in schools, humane family leave policies (“Paid parental leave increasingly valued by teachers unions,” Metro, Feb. 7), and a living wage for teaching aides.
Despite being an ex officio member of the School Committee, it seemed Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller couldn’t be bothered to participate in negotiations until well after the strike began. Although negotiations began in October 2022, the School Committee did not submit its first proposal that could be called rational until after the strike began more than a year later (I was a silent observer in the room when the Newton Teachers Association received it).
It is hypocritical for town administrators to allow talks to simmer, then point fingers when they boil over. The obvious solution to standoffs such as these is to make municipal workers’ strikes legal. This would compel both sides to begin meaningful negotiations from day one, thereby making strikes less likely.
Paul Mange Johansen
The writer is an adjunct faculty member in the math department at Berkshire Community College. He sits on the executive committee of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Community College Council, the largest local chapter of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the council.
It took two sides to reach impasse
Nowhere in the editorial “Who won in Newton? Not the students” is there a mention that the bargaining between the Newton Teachers Association and the School Committee had been going on for 16 months before the teachers went on strike. Suggesting that the contract was agreed to only after the fines were poised to rise higher than the union could tolerate leaves out the equally plausible notion that the School Committee and the mayor held out until just that juncture in an attempt to bankrupt the union and send a message to teachers unions in other communities.
A teacher’s salary doesn’t go far in a city like Newton
According to one website, Newton is the most expensive place to live in Massachusetts for 2024. Median income is about $176,000, and the average home price is about $1.4 million. The median salary for public school teachers by the end of the new contract will not come close to that figure, nor will it empower teachers to buy a home in the city. As to aides, they will continue to receive a poverty-level wage.
A realty company cited Newton as having the fastest-growing home sale price in the state. A demographic breakdown of these sales would be relevant. How many people with no kids in the public schools benefit from inflated housing sales largely due to the quality of the city’s public schools and its schoolteachers?
Yet columnist Scot Lehigh and the Globe editorial board focus on condemning the teachers union for striking illegally.