The Parent/Educator Collaborative (PEC) hosted a community forum over Zoom Tuesday night to discuss the budget of Newton Public Schools (NPS). Ward 5 Councilor Bill Humphrey joined the PEC on the call to take questions from constituents in Newton.
Amid the Newton Teachers Association’s (NTA) ongoing strike, Humphrey opened the forum by explaining that the Newton City Council does not have direct power regarding the NPS budget. According to Humphrey, the responsibility for the NPS budget is in Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s hands.
“The system that we have under both our charter and state law—the strong mayor form of government—means that the mayor writes the entire budget and the city council cannot really do a whole lot,” Humphrey said.
Community members on the forum discussed ways Newton constituents can pressure elected officials into responding to the NTA’s strike, with Humphrey suggesting community-wide efforts to contact offices.
“[The mayor and her office] need to be hearing from a lot of people … not just a few of us a bunch of times over and over again,” Humphrey explained.
Larissa Gordon, a parent present at the forum, said that she had success requesting a phone call to speak with the mayor.
“The other thing—that we can do as parents—is you can request time with the mayor,” Gordon said. “I just stepped away for a few minutes, and I spoke to her.”
Many constituents on the call voiced concerns about where the teachers’ compensation would be coming from in the budget. Humphrey explained that higher compensation for teachers would not necessarily result in slashes to other parts of the existing budget.
“The NTA is arguing—and I agree with this—that we should not be viewing this by immediately accepting the premise that, in order to raise the spending here, we have to cut services elsewhere,” Humphrey stated.
Humphrey proposed bringing outsourced services under the responsibility of the city. Humphrey said this strategy would save money by avoiding interest rates set by external contractors.
“Some of us [city councilors] had floated bringing certain things in-house, whether they’re NPS things or city-side things, because we believe that they would save money year over year, even if you had to use some one-time funds to make a transitional jump,” Humphrey said.