• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English. Statistics or facts must include a citation or a link to the citation.

There are 69 comments on Should Teachers Strike?

  1. I am a parent of a first grader in Newton. Sorry, but this seems like a pretty vague and ill informed interviewee. He suggests that there are better options than striking, but all he has to suggest as an alternative is to vote out the mayor. The teachers in Newton have been without a contract for 16 months now. They don’t have several years to wait until the next election to work with a contract. The schools here have visibly been in decline for years, with high school math and science classes having over 30 students, some over 35. Aides are paid less than cashiers.

    The mayor mismanaged our budget for years, and it is her responsibility to fix the mess she created. Yet even seven days into the strike, she has not once sat in on a negotiation meeting. Teachers attempted to speak with her last week, and she responded by hiding herself in her office, calling police to remove them, then lying about how aggressive the teachers were (documented on film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZclXELDtLU8)

    Before this strike, I have sat in on meetings with the teacher union, and the school committee has continually stonewalled them, refusing to discuss or compromise on almost anything. Once the strike started, they counted on the fines as a means of attrition, again not making any meaningful effort to compromise. I think that the greatly reduced fine schedule enacted by the judge at Friday’s hearing reflects his understanding that the school committee was not negotiated in good faith, instead just waiting out the union.

    Of course I want my son to go back to school as soon as possible. However, I, along with most other parents in Newton, fully support our teachers and know that they deserve to be treated fairly. Nobody goes on strike for fun. It is an act of desperation, when all other options have clearly failed. The city of Newton needs to move forward with seriously finalizing this contract.

    1. Teachers aren’t indentured servants and have the option to move to other systems if they are unhappy. It’s hard to claim the moral high ground when you’re breaking the law. Teachers, like any employee, should run away from bad management and seek employment somewhere else rather than harm the communities they profess to love.

      1. In order to make sure they do not have to resort to these measures, pay them well. It is that simple. If all they did was leave, then there would be no one to teach at certain areas.

        1. They don’t have that option once they are 10 years in. Once a teacher has “too much” experience, they are not attractive as candidates bc they are too expensive. This is well known in the industry.

      2. ooooh…looks like somebody with a big smart libertarian brain took an intro level econ class once.
        Teachers, like any employee, should be able to afford to actually live in the communities they serve. Teachers, like any employee, should have the right to collective bargaining with bad management.

      3. So rather than stand up for higher wages for teachers and their colleagues for what will be made up for through snow days added at the end of the year, you are claiming that it would be more beneficial for teachers to run to other school districts? If teachers actually did this, wouldn’t that leave newton with a shortage of teachers since so many just left for another district due to improper pay? Is a shortage of teachers better than teachers standing up for themselves?

      4. Sounds like you think its easy to move to another school. Maybe this is true in your profession but its not really an option for the majority of teachers. Once a teacher has a few years of experience and has actually become a decent teacher they have increased their salary to a point where they are easy to pass off for someone cheaper. I know this happens because in a job interview I was told I would not get the job because I had too much experience and was too expensive. That is not a goal towards a better education for anyone, that is people.

        Additionally, many people can not “run away” from bad management. It simply not that easy. Most people are not simply working to fund their own lives but a family which can be moved but not easily.

        Matt, Its not that simple.

    2. I’m also the parent of a 1st grader and I want this illegal strike to end immediately.

      It’s easy to spout generalities like “the mayor has mismanaged our budget for years” or that the city should (magically) come up with the money. The mayor and the school committee have shared a lot of detail about their budgets. Could the NTA provide some specifics about where it expects this recurring revenue to come from?

      I think the tide has turned against the NTA and this is doing lasting damage to the teachers’ reputation in the community.

      1. This is not from the NTA, but per your request this is a memo from Newton City Council Finance Chair Lenny Gentile sent to the community outlining his thoughts about financial resources available and the ongoing negotiations. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller responded in a letter to Councilor Gentile shared by the Mayor’s Office (which basically said the city councilor is correct).


        The Mayors response: https://figcitynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Mayor-Fuller-Response-to-Councilor-Gentile-.pdf

      2. Are you serious ? Oh well , there’s no money so let’s just go back and struggle with higher cost of living.

        Also, part of what they want is better maternity leave which should be a no brainer. How does it feel to be at home right now with your first grader, it’s tough with no paid childcare isn’t it…..

        And , teachers work their butts off. They are there early morning , late afternoon, work evenings prepping for the next day lessons , correcting hw, spending their off hours learning how to administer new state tests, spending their own money on needed supplies, spending their own free time helping kids falling behind , and have to put up with the bs of politics. Teaching is not easy these days and we are going to lose quality teachers rapidly if we don’t start treating them with respect and give them the pay they deserve. Being with those kids all day is not easy. Some kids personalities are tough. Teachers are not glorified babysitters. I have a funny feeling that you think that is what they are.

    3. Thank you, Jane, for your post. I am a Newton resident, and I feel just like you.
      Mayor Fuller has clearly set her politics to NOT prioritize public education in Newton. Last year, we were called for a vote on an override decision to raise our estate taxes to keep supporting costs for Newton public school. 53% of voters opposed to such tax raise, and as a result, since last year, there have been major cuts in teaching staff, increasing the number of students in the classroom, and dramatically reducing the number of supporting teacher (for kids with disabilities).

      A mayor who cares for public education would not ask residents to vote for such an issue. They would just raise taxes, if need be. But of course, this would make them unpopular, and likely not make it at the next elections.

      To not mention the kind of propaganda received via email from mayor Fuller or NPS, about how bad teachers are, and how much teachers use our kids as pawns, while they (Newton admin) care so much… ridiculous. Multiple emails….

      Like many other families, we moved to Newton to raise our kids in a good public school system. My fear is that now there may be a great turnover of teachers, and NPS system may not remain as good as it has always been.

      In all this, I am really sorry for those families with kids who more directly suffered from the impact of this strike (mine are in 8th and 11th grade), and I hope school will re-open tomorrow.

  2. I am a faculty member in Wheelock College and my wife is a striking teacher in Newton, so both of these factors influence how I think about the issue of teacher’s striking. First, I believe strikes should be illegal. Civil disobedience should not be easy and needs to meet a high bar, but I believe such actions are sometimes called for.

    I am not sure how opting out of school activities and extracurricular events, not attending staff and parent meetings, and not writing college recommendations (work to rule) do not also harm students. While this is a very difficult time for students, I expect the lost learning time will be made up at the end of the school year or during vacation time.

    Teachers are not advocating just for salary. They are advocating for a livable salary for teacher’s aides who average less than 28K per year. They are advocating for full-time social workers in all schools. They are advocating for planning time so they can teach their best. The school board has not agreed to any of these demands which should be no brainers.

    I agree in theory that elections are the best way to assure accountability, but the reality is that elections do not come close to aligning with contract expirations. The current mayor in Newton has two more years in her term. and the next contract would go well beyond her current term. Elections create little motivation for school systems to settle contracts when they fail mid-cycle of mayoral terms.

    There is little movitation for school systems to seriously negotiate. The Newton School Committee has not demonstrated any urgency since the contract expired. There are no fines for a school committee who does not feel a sense of urgency.

    Are strikes harmful to students? Yes, but long-term underfunding of education is even more harmful, just less visible. I am in every way proud of my wife for joining her colleagues by taking a difficult action that will result in long-term benefits to students, teachers, and parents.

    1. As a fellow faculty member from BU Wheelock I agree with Dr. Thayer’s assessment. Strikes should not be called at a whim. As he stressed in his comment, this strike was NOT called hastily. Additionally, it is important that the negotiated terms are clear … the teachers are demanding pay and resources in order to support students.

      It is imperative that Newton voters voice their dissatisfaction with the strike to the mayor and the school committee. They are the ones that must come to the table with reasonable change options so that classes can begin again.

      I support the radical notion of change in education.

    2. To be fair, there were elections in Newton and the voters voted *down* an override to the budget. I suspect that there was already significant voter frustration over the teachers’ union handling of COVID and keeping kids out of school back then … this strike likely won’t help.

  3. If workers don’t have the right to withhold their labor when offered compensation they do not accept, why would management ever pay workers? The educators had a contract to provide their labor until August 2023 and fulfilled that contract to the letter. It’s strange economic thinking to infer that their consent to a previous contract obligates future work that they never agreed to. If you hire a contractor to fix a deck for 5K, they don’t have any obligation to fix your next deck for 5 K.

  4. From inviting the CEO of Warner Bros to speak at graduation to publishing pieces disparaging our brave teachers, BU has shown how no matter how “liberal” it pretends to be on the surface, it will always stand up for capital and the rich at the expense of working Americans.

    1. Absolutely agree with this! BU admin are doing everything they can to poise a negative view on unions and I wonder how long until it is evident towards their own graduate student union.

  5. This interview is bizarrely vague and Goodman does not seem invested in explaining his anti-strike (and anti-union?) viewpoints. This seems like such a missed opportunity to delve into labor inequities amid the recent wave of unionization efforts in the U.S. and locally (e.g., Starbucks).

    I fully support the teachers of Newton and their efforts to improve their working conditions which impact the education of their students. Moreover, I hope unionized BU faculty, staff, and graduate workers are inspired to fight for more when they return to the negotiation table.

  6. What a crazy headline that shows how backwards our country views striking workers, as a BU student I was horrified to see this in my inbox the morning. Maybe the question that should be asked (as other commenters have pointed out) is “Is Newton’s mayor’s refusal to engage with our teacher’s demands hurting students”

  7. The city has a history of kicking the can down the road and hen it comes to union negotiations. The teachers knew that they would not have the ability to make up the years of disinvestment in the schools if this wasn’t handled now. I have been stunned by the combination of arrogance and incompetence of the city elected officials.

    They have delayed the process hoping the “illegal” strikes and fines will settle things without a fair contract. While 16 months is how long the union has been without a contract the reality this has been over a decade in the making.

    The analysis by my colleague is simple. But living the reality on the ground is far more nuanced.

  8. I agree 100% with the commenter above. As a Newton Public School alum and parent, I support our teachers and the reasonable requests they are making.

    The teachers have been trying to negotiate since 2022 (!) and have been working without a contract for 5 months. They have already tried the approaches mentioned by the interviewee and got nowhere. The strike was a last resort and all of the teachers would much rather be in their classrooms than on the picket line.

    The mayor has to do her job, demonstrate her committment to “Equity and Excellence” for NPS, and allocate the appropriate funds to the schools.

  9. Fairly annoying to see this attempt at manufacturing consent in a university newsletter. If teachers and school staff are essential, why don’t we tax the owner class more to pay them accordingly?

  10. Surprised to see such a one-sided take from a former teacher and professor of education. Yes, teachers are essential, but is a loss of just 4% of educational time really worth sweating over? It’s making Newton parents uncomfortable, sure, but teachers should have a right to advocate for their best interests. Our society and democracy, and particularly Newton’s reputable public school system, are built on the backs of tireless educators who never quite make a living wage. “Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others” – you cannot be expected to serve others if your own needs aren’t met. We treat teachers as martyrs in so many respects, and I welcome this new era where they begin to push back and demand more than the bare minimum.

  11. Prof Goodman is as out of touch as Mayor Fuller. Withhold college recommendations? What nonsense. Does Prof Goodman also think daycare should be $10/day?

    The teachers union operated for three semesters, well over a year, in good faith without a contract. The town failed to act in good faith in return. Notice they waited until after the semester ended, after most college applications were submitted.

    Teachers are only viewed as essential services when it cuts their opponent’s arguments. Do more and take less “For the kids”. But when fair compensation dialogues open, they’re glorified babysitters and “wouldn’t it be nice to get summers off”. The teachers WANT to be teaching these amazing kids. But it’s a job, not a charitable donation

  12. This is a vague article with a sensational title and a biased perspective that omits major details of the situation in Newton. To any readers, please do not rely on this “article”. Please find additional sources of information to understand the nuances of the situation in Newton.

  13. It is hugely disappointing to see a former public school teacher discuss strikes this way, especially after the historic mistreatment of teachers and teachers unions during Covid.
    As a staff member at BU, and a former public school teacher, I expect representatives of our schools of education to be much more supportive of teachers and teaching staff when they fight for better conditions.
    Furthermore, the ban against striking in this state is unconstitutional, and very reminiscent of red states and their mistreatment of public workers.

  14. Mayor Fuller can find the money. One example: The mayor is in the process of spending $8.2M on toxic (PFAS-and vinyl-chloride-containing) synthetic turf, yet insists that layoffs must occur before anything like synthetic turf can be on the table for re-consideration. The mayor has almost burned through all the $8.2M but still has $2.2M to go where she wants to replace a grass field with a toxic heat island at Albemarle field. Supporting our teachers is way more important than replacing natural fields with toxic petrochemical heat islands.
    There are other examples of misplaced spending priorities. She can find the money.

  15. This article is a union-busting joke. Every question asked is essentially a variation on, “What a bunch of greedy teachers, huh?”

    If “essential” workers shouldn’t be allowed to strike, then why are all private-sector employees allowed to do so? Why are nurses and doctors legally allowed to go on strike? Parcel workers? Dockworkers?

    The entire point of withholding labor is to strike a blow to the system, the only true weapon workers have over their employers. And just as a reminder, the United Nations maintains that the right to strike is a fundamental human right and an international law afforded to everyone in the world.

    The fact that the United States is far behind in labor law then the rest of the civilized world is a true tragedy, not something that should be touted by a world-class university such as BU.

  16. As a parent from a neighboring town, I had reservations about the Newton Teachers’ strike, which disrupted regular school attendance. The initial coverage solidified my disapproval of the NTA actions. However, after reading the comments and learning about the lack of cooperation from the school committee and the mayor’s office, my perspective has shifted. I now stand in solidarity with the striking teachers. As an educator, I understand that teachers prioritize their students’ best interests, and the decision to undertake an illegal strike signals that serious issues need to be addressed.

    I would like to urge BU Today to strive for a balanced approach in reporting complex matters. It is crucial to include diverse and informed perspectives to prevent the spread of misconceptions and misrepresentations. While the comments section is useful, people tend to not read them most of the time.

  17. These teachers should be fully banned from striking. The NPS is one of the most funded school districts in the country. Teachers unions are rent-seeking cartels, plan and simple.

  18. As a Master’s of Social Work Student and long-time public school educator, the thoughtful comments on this article resonate deeply with me. The interviewee fails to truly recognize the reason for the strike and the stakeholders involved who would have the power to reallocate the municipal funds teachers are asking for. The vague language and one-sidedness of this article reminds me of BU’s handling of its own labor negotiations with its burgeoning grad school union.

  19. BU Today respects all opinions, we also ask that you keep this conversation civil and avoid name calling. Our interview is with one faculty member, who was thoughtful and willing to answer our questions. His voice does not speak for the University, as is the case with all the Question & Answer faculty interviews we do. This is a hotly debated subject, we respect that. Today’s Boston Globe Editorial headline is “Newton Teachers Should End Illegal Strike.” And their news story speaks to parents who feel strongly on both sides of this matter. Please respect all opinions and keep the comments civil. Thank you. — The Editors

    1. This is a terrible response to backlash. It’s frankly embarrassing and shameful to publish (and then promote in our inboxes) what is essentially clickbait. This is simply just lousy journalism. Being a professor does not make you inherently informed on specific topics, and toting this article as expert insight to the issue is dishonest, especially since the interviewee hardly says anything at all. Interview the educators who are actually on the ground working.

    2. This is an important thing to remember as commenters and as content creators. Our institution and the people working at it help set policy that affects millions of people around the globe – perhaps we at BU should also be sure to represent all sides of an argument when discussing hotly debated topics like this one in a public forum. Please take these strong reactions to heart before publishing content like this again.

    3. Respectfully, I do not believe pointing out that the Globe editorial also framing the strike in an inappropriate way excuses this BU today piece, especially seeing as that editorial spoke to parents but not educators. If you are going to run biased and anti-union editorials, please respect that you are going to receive heavy criticism.

    4. As you admit, your “article” (I’d call it an opinion piece) is one-sided. How about another one that will voice and “respect all opinions?”

  20. Horrible thing to see in the inbox this morning, as many have said! Oligarchical, capitalistic drivel. The teachers, who have given far beyond what should be expected from their compensation, the teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pockets because of mismanaged/insufficient funds from the districts, yeah they’re definitely the ones harming our students. Are you kidding me? Teachers mold our students, provide instrumental developmental aid, and they’re treated like trash, and you expect them not to push back? Especially when the world is getting worse and worse, the wealth divide getting steeper and steeper, and the cost of living increasing at astronomical rates? This is a disgusting take, I’m ashamed of BU for this. For an institution that claims to be progressive, BU sure has been on the wrong side of history since the pandemic especially. Supporting Zionism, opposing fair pay for some of our most essential workers, giving a platform to the CEO of Warner Bros. who was directly harming our alumni, and taking a stance against political action? Shame on you, BU.

    1. Wow, I’m actually shocked that you censored my comment in this way. Are you afraid of being called out for being antithetical to MLK and Dr. Thurman’s teachings? Then maybe… don’t be? The university continues to clearly display that it does not actually subscribe to the teachings of these phenomenal, influential men, but will continue to capitalize off of their legacies. It’s so blatant that it’s all a cash grab to lure more students in with the promise of progressive thinking, equality, and a passion for justice. But if you can’t live those ideals, especially as technology and awareness are progressing rapidly, you are going to achieve quite the opposite. Gen Z does not suffer injustice. It is only a matter of time before current students discourage new applicants from applying. Shame, shame, shame!

      1. Wrong. Your comment was edited because you used language that does not adhere to our policy, not because of any reference to MLK or Dr. Thurman. This is our policy. Stick to it, or your comment will be deleted or lightly edited if we have the time. — The Editors

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  21. The subject line from BU Today’s email blast at 6am was “Are Newton’s Striking Teachers Harming Their Students?” what a shameful, inflammatory message to see. This interview is quite short and lacking in helpful information or solutions. Why are the teachers on strike? Why are negotiations taking so long? Why are the teachers willing to break the law?

  22. I would encourage the BU today staff to publish a follow-up to this article that actually speaks with affected Newton teachers, staff, students, or parents – perhaps some of the commenters could be of help in this regard. Most of this article is the interview subject’s personal opinion – which frankly is not relevant here.

  23. I agree with Jane in that I was disappointed in the vague and general nature of the responses in this interview. Had he followed his comment about how there are “better ways” to cause action with even one realistic suggestion of what those better ways are, it might have been valuable. Instead this article is just a reflection on the fact that this standoff is an unfortunate situation – but sheds no new light.

  24. The “harming the students” narrative whenever teachers go on strike is at best, tired, at worst, insulting and harmful to the teaching profession (and even democracy).The last people who want to be on strike are the teachers themselves.

    Further, the argument “4 percent of the knowledge they would have gained this year” is lost because of having missed 4 percent of the school year falsely assumes that (a) presence in school alone correlates to learning, as if learning occurs through osmosis and (b) that students are learning nothing of value from bearing witness to (and supporting) this strike.

    Public school teachers serve a valuable civic function in a democracy; incredibly disappointing to see them framed as merely economic commodities.

  25. What an awful headline and framing to this issue. As per usual, BU is out of touch with reality. I’m angry so let’s address this one question at a time.

    1) What a wild thing to say. Public education is continuously underfunded, understaffed, and demonized. If change doesn’t happen on a large scale I can assure you the learning loss will be exponentially worse.

    2) The alternatives to walk-outs he offers would still result in harm to students and families. Additionally, many of the teachers did not want to strike, they viewed it as a last resort.

    3) Where and how have these demands been successfully fulfilled by political processes? Additionally, how is putting the labor of convincing voters onto the teachers union a reasonable solution. I might add this ignores the fact that most teachers can’t afford to live in the communities they teach in – especially with the current conditions in Massachusetts’ real estate market.

    4) This is a wild take given how much more funding police and fire departments get from the government. Teachers also don’t get overtime pay or any of the types of bonuses first-responders are eligible for.

    Profoundly disappointed but not surprised by this wildly one-sided framing and ill-informed “expert.”

  26. As one of the Newton teachers on strike (and married to a BU faculty member , Newton resident and mother of two BU alums – one of which is also a teacher and left Newton to work in a system that pays more) I’d like to share some writing guidelines I teach my second graders
    If writing an opinion piece, you first need to research both “sides” of a situation in order to base your opinion on factual information and you need to be informed beyond a “surface” or “sound bite” level. Then you reference this information to share about both perspectives before explaining your own opinion (which is backed up with facts).
    What’s “harming” our students right now, before we took the action of striking, is the need for qualified staff to help when our kids (students) are disregulated. Too many times in my career, I’ve had to carry a walkie in order to call for support when a student (who does not want to be. “That student”) is being assaultive and/or destructive. Too many times I’ve had to evacuate my classroom with the rest of my class, while one student is out of control and unsafe (with themselves and/or others). We cannot hire enough qualified staff, to sign up to be bitten, spit on, punched and choked, for less than $28,000 a year. We cannot help our neediest students when we have social workers spread across several elementary schools resulting in them being present at a school one and a half days a week. Those are two of the biggest things we are out fighting for after 16 months of begging the school committee to listen. Are we also asking for a cost of living raise? You betcha! We are also losing excellent teachers to other districts who pay better.
    As someone who has had many BU student teachers spend time in my classroom, I ask you, as a representative of BU, to support the expectation for quality education instead of demonizing those of us who are standing up for the needs of our students.

  27. Why am I not surpised to read yet another anti-union piece from BU? My own brother who works with disabled students is on strike with NTA. He is not harming his students. I wonder if the person being interviewed has ever been in dire straits at his own workplace (as I was for the years I was an underpaid or even unpaid PhD student/candidate at BU). Unions are one of the few workplace protections we have in the US, and frankly I don’t see many who are opposed to unions who aren’t wealthy. “One day longer, one day stronger!” – standing with NTA!

  28. I am a Newton parent and the child of a career teacher. While I absolutely believe that teachers deserve a “living wage” I have a hard time being sympathetic to this prolonged strike. Newton had additional education funding on the table and voted it down. If parents are for an increase in salaries then let’s call for an “emergency” election to raise taxes to cover the cost. If I hear one more teacher say “we love and miss our students” I’m going to explode. If you care about students then care about the continuity of their education. Care about the fact that they just went through 3 years of isolation and trauma. My father went into the hospital one day before the strike and the last two weeks have been hell, trying to balance his care while scrambling to give my kids the consistency and support they need. Enough is enough, kids aren’t “collateral damage” or negotiating chips, end the strike.

  29. I have three grandchildren in the Newton Public School system and fully support the teachers. I fear that the wealthy in Newton who send their children to private schools might have resisted the plea for adequate taxes to support public schools. They might come to realize that the inflated property values of their homes were supported by a once adequately funded and excellent public school system.

  30. “These are vital services”. That says it all when it comes to teachers. They do this job because they care about educating children and assuming they can so easily be replaced is an illusion. Unfortunately, it has become an extremely difficult job that involves way more than teaching. It’s become a job that you can only understand the complexities of if you are actually in the classroom. Most people wouldn’t last as a teacher, so it takes a special kind of person and that’s what we’re taking for granted. I wonder what monetary value you can actually put on a person who educates, cares for, and attends to the social-emotional needs of other people’s children. They’re just asking for what’s fair and also what is needed for students. When the shortages get worse and there’s no one left to speak up, then all people will wake up and realize how important teachers are.

  31. I have had three children recently go through the Newton public school system. For the most part their teachers were wonderful and they had a positive experience. Except during Covid. Our kids were pretty much left on their own for 18 months and the NTA led the charge to keep the schools closed. Newton voters have not forgotten and recently defeated an override to raise more money for the schools. This is what is being forgotten. The people of Newton have already voted on the issue and have decided not to give the teachers everything they want.

    The NTA is compounding the Covid wound by once again shutting down the schools. Newton teachers and staff are some of the most highly paid in the state. They let the kids down once.

    I would advise them to get back into the classroom and acknowledge that they won’t be able to get everything they want.

  32. Throughout these past two weeks I have been gathering my application for the EdD in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program but reading this shallow, paternalistic, reactionary analysis of how teachers should use the tools at their disposal to enact change on a broken system has convinced me to not follow through with that application. Teachers are an integral part of their communities and the service they provide is the most foundational for the future wellbeing of our society. They are not chaff to be ground under the millstone of petty tyrants, like Mayor Fuller. And it is certainly not their job to “convince voters” about the value of a robustly funded educational system any more than it is to convince voters that the sky is blue or that water is wet. I desperately hope Dr.Goodman and the rest of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies faculty are reading these comments and reconsidering the role they play in disempowering teachers to the benefit of entrenched unjust systems.

  33. This article is quite disheartening on a number of levels. At best, it lacks nuance. At worst, it propagates a dangerous narrative about advocacy and the value of public schools and teachers. If BU Today had any integrity or wanted to model what it looks like to reflect and readjust, they would publish a correction that acknowledges some of the important concerns commenters have raised. In addition to these points, further issues that warrant attention:

    -The article mentions that the union has incurred $425,000 in fines. Why not examine the conditions that have led the teachers to feel that this course of action is the only option? Look into what would drive educators to incur such hefty fines instead of positing their actions as lazy or selfish.

    -One of the issues the educators advocate for are mental healths supports. Anyone who has been on the ground level of public schools in the last five years is acutely aware of the overwhelming mental health needs of students that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Perhaps including voices that have been urgently at work combatting some of these issues would capture why educator are so adamant about including more support. Moreover, a brief history into the marginalization of educators’ voices within the education system might shed some insight into why they feed the need to strike as their only recourse.

    -The lack of authentic teacher voices in this piece is laughable and plays into a) the teacher as technician narrative and b) the academia/practice gap

    I fear that articles such as this one cast the anti-teacher sentiments as the perspective of BU and Wheelock, dissuading prospective teachers from attending BU at a time when we desperately need more teachers. I feel it necessary to note that as an alumna, this perspective is not the experience I had with most Wheelock professors such as Dr. Christina Dobbs, Dr. Rob Martinelle, etc.

  34. Alumni

    I had the opportunity to reach out to a classmate whose child is a student in the Newton School district and asked how things are going. He acknowledged how disruptive the strike has been on his first grader and the families work and activities. I cannot believe however what I am reading in this piece as it demonstrate such a disconnect with established macroeconomic principles with reality. The views are not credible and should be retracted as it is so removed from the application of the facts to views.

  35. They make 92k/yr on average in Newton, never work summers, never work holidays, get several long vacations throughout the year on top of their 3 month summer vacation and they are still complaining. Teachers have it REALLY good especially in Newton. The Boston public school teachers on average pull in 100k which is actually more than what nurses get paid despite teachers working FAR less hours.

    To act like teachers aren’t compensated fairly is ludicrous.

    1. Alumni

      Teachers have extremely long hours as class time is not the only obligation. The history of the model of teachers suggests that the formative model only worked for the past centuries as education was subsidized by a large proportion of well educated female teachers that were underpaid and undervalued for centuries. That model was only possible due to American family earning assumptions for men and women. It is time to get our heads in the modern economics of the delivery of education.

    2. If you legitimately think that teachers are not working during the summer, you are misinformed. Do you think that teachers come up with coursework and educational material on the fly? The teachers that I know are working most, if not the entire summer, to come up with their program for the school year. They also have to buy their own supplies and set up their own rooms, which is all done over the summer and by hand. They are not paid over the summer, and they are not paid for the grading or planning that they do after school hours.

      Also, your comment about nurses is not correct. The average salary for a nurse in MA is 104k, and Boston nursing jobs pay even more. This is easily accessible information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics but it doesn’t seem like you’re much interested in things like nuance or truth.

  36. The parent with the leather jacket and receding hairline that filed the lawsuit is correct. The children are our future. Treat them well and let them lead the way.

  37. A strike does not happen overnight. It came down to this. No one really wants a strike. Not the union reps, not the teachers, and not the general public. However when there is no good faith something must be done. I’m in a union and just voted yes on a new contract. It was about 2/3 in favor of yes. We could prob of voted it down for more but it was a fair contract. The general population is not greedy. These teachers are just doing what they need for a fair contract. It’s not greed.

  38. What do you do for work? Do workers at restaurants prep the food at home then bring it work to cook? Do doctors bring private health information home before a surgery? Do police officers train for free ? Does a mason build a wall at his residence at 9pm at night, only to bring to a job site to out into place ?

    Can a teacher prep lesson plans and teach at the same time? Correct tests at the same time?

    I think you’re underestimating the time and effort teachers put into work outside of work. Most teachers I know make under 50k a year and they have to get there masters degree within 5 years of becoming a teacher. That’s a state law. So they need to go back to school just to keep there job.

  39. I am a Newton parent to 3 children. I was initially sympathetic to the NTA at the outset of the strike. No longer. There are external forces at play stoking their unrealistic demands (MTA), and the NTA (and in particular Mike Zelles) comes across as obstinate and unrealistic and completely out of touch with fiscal reality. The fact that in their most recent press conference today on 2/1, he acknowledged that the NTA and NPS were only a few $million apart and someone asked, why can’t the teachers return to school tomorrow when, while the negotatiations finish, and he just blubbered “it’s not time”
    PLEASE. The NTA has used our kids as pawns for LONG ENOUGH.

  40. To add another layer to the excellent critiques in the comments (still waiting for BU Today to give official space to dissenting views), consider the impact of sexism and misogyny on responses to strikes and strikers in a profession that is nearly 80% women. As this study (https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1380467), “Cheerleaders” and “Mama Bears”: Combatting Sexist Teacher Strike Discourse” by Sara Hardman and Tomas de Rezende Rocha concludes:

    “We find that teachers are at risk of being deemed ‘immoral’ unless they justify their decision to strike by appealing to their being in the service of others. Pressure to adopt this framing not only negatively impacts teachers’ dignity as human beings deserving of adequate compensation and working conditions, but it also inadvertently upholds unjust patriarchal norms regarding teaching as care work.”

  41. As a Newton parent with kids in NNHS, I was sympathetic to the teachers and support to pay them fairly and more. However, over the last few days, I changed my opinion and so did many other parents. If you observe and analyze the package from the SC yesterday, I found it ridiculous for NTA to walk away. The chair of the SC laid out the information on COLA package and how Newton teachers’ salary will compare to other similar districts. He acknowledged the failure from both sides to reach an agreement, yet the only thing I heard from NTA was some vague excuses to say the numbers put forward were not right. Then why don’t they offer the numbers themselves. Saying they truly ‘miss and care for their students’ at this point feels just ingenuine. Don’t you realize what kind of havoc the long strike is causing the community? We are supposed to protect and develop the kids, but the teachers are depriving them their rights to education. It’s enough.

    1. As another Newton parent, I couldn’t agree more with this post. I started out sympathetic to the teachers but after observing how the NTA behaved throughout the strike I changed my mind. What disappoints me most at this point is that now that the strike is over I have not seen one communication from a Newton Teacher in which they took ownership that their decision not to come to work for 11 days caused harm to children and parents. Two things can be true at once – the teachers may feel that the strike was justified and that the children will benefit in the long run – but they also need to acknowledge and own the harms that their choice to strike, rather than to pursue other options for resolving the conflict, caused to children with special needs (who couldn’t get necessary services) and parents who work outside the home (who had to scramble for child care over the past two weeks). Any Newton teacher who is willing to do that has my respect.

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