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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

Override Update, March 15, 2023

Updated: Mar 16, 2023


Dear Colleagues: In an email to staff today, NPS Superintendent Kathy Smith expressed her disappointment in the results of this override vote. I share Kathy’s gratitude for the votes to support the building projects at Countryside and Franklin, as well as her disappointment that we did not win funding for the building project at Horace Mann, nor for meeting operational expenses.

So what do we, as a union, do now? However disappointing the final vote, I think we should, first of all, be incredibly proud of ourselves. We supported this override in every possible way we could. So many of you participated in stand outs, offering testimonials, and showing up to meetings in your buildings. You demonstrated how deeply you care about Newton’s schools and your students. We gave are all. Should we, can we, fight these current cuts? We fought hard last spring against the cuts that were threatened then, and we won much of the funding needed to restore many, but not all, of those cuts. We fought hard for the override, and we won for Countryside and Franklin. But what I am going to say now may sound harsh, because it runs against the grain of your deep wish to protect your students. The best thing we can do now is not fight to restore the cuts, but fight hard to win the fair contracts we deserve. Here is the risk, and the challenge: We are going to hear many voices in this community say that, in light of the budget deficits the schools face, Newton cannot afford to give us reasonable cost of living adjustments or improved benefits. That educators must accept less to close the budget gap, next year, and in the following years. I fully expect that we will hear this at the bargaining table, perhaps as early as this Thursday. But think about this. What will they really be asking us to do? They will be asking us to subsidize the Newton Public Schools. They will be asking us to sacrifice our well-being, and our families’ well-being, for our students. To engage in the battle to fight to restore the cuts will be to give in to that narrative. Many of you remember our old “friend,” former chair of the school committee Matt Hills. Even before the override vote, in an interview with the Newton Beacon, Hills claimed that it is “because of decisions made by the School Committee three years ago with respect to compensation costs” that the NPS has a structural deficit. “[L]eadership agreed to cost changes that were well in excess of revenue increases, which created a large structural deficit. It’s just simple math.” But this is an old, and tired, and unfair trope. We are not paid too much. That’s not why the schools face a deficit. The days of Matt’s tired austerity narrative are over. The days of demanding that educators subsidize schools are over. Because in fact, the story is quite different. In 2019 the School Committee and Mayor Fuller didn’t “decide” to increase its “compensation costs.” WE fought hard for, and won, agreements on contracts that provided us fair cost of living increases, higher starting salaries for ESPs, better leave benefits to care for our families, and protected our health insurance coverage. This year, as I’m sure you are all following in the news, educators across the state have been fighting hard for, and winning, contracts as good as, and sometimes better than, the contract we won in 2019. Matt, to you, and anyone else who once again wants to trot out this tired and worn austerity narrative, we’ve been in the business of fighting back for some time now. And winning. We will keep on fighting, and we will keep on winning. We won’t go back. What must we, as union members do? Fight for, and win, the fair contracts we deserve. Click here to line the halls. We need you tomorrow!

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