The Newton Teachers Association (NTA) and the School Committee agreed last year to a one-year contract extension through August 2019, reportedly in order to grant time to come to an agreement. But in the past couple of weeks, the NTA  has held several protests, campaigning with signs for a “Fair Contract Now.” Judging from past contract disputes, these protests are typically a sign that the NTA is concerned about the pace or status of negotiations and is escalating efforts to call attention to their concerns. 

Meanwhile, the Newton Police Superior Officers are working off a contract that expired in 2014; contracts for Teamsters, Newton Patrolmen’s Association, nurses, engineers and parking control expired in June 2018; and several collective bargaining units have contracts that expire this coming June. 

Once upon a time, Newton residents learned about these matters by reading their local newspaper. These days we have no idea what’s going on. Why have superior officers gone five years without a renewed contract? Does the NTA believe it’s being offered an unfair contract? Did the one-year extension move the parties any closer to an agreement? Or, as NTA President Mike Zilles stated at his back-to-school address to teachers in August, is the mayor not allocating sufficient funding to the schools? For that matter, why is the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) the only union that goes public with its plight?

Mayor Fuller’s office won’t comment on collective bargaining and I recognize that I may be raising questions that will never be answered. But salaries and benefits consume 86 percent of the school budget and presumably a large share of the city budget. We should be asking these questions.