More than 100 teachers, students and parents rallied Thursday outside city hall in Newton, Massachusetts, chanting “Fund our schools!” and “Stop the cuts!” after a budget gap prompted plans for the city to lay off more than 50 educators.
The Newton Teachers Association, which claims the total number of cuts could end up being even higher than first predicted, said the layoffs are avoidable.
“It’s going to impact our most vulnerable students the most. It’s going to hurt them,” said Mike Zilles, the union’s president. “A lot of the services that are being cut are services that are designed to support students who are struggling.”
Zilles and others point to the $63 million in federal funds that the city received from the American Rescue Plan.
About a quarter of that money, which is designed to stimulate the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, has been allocated to the city’s public school system.
The city now has $38 million on hand to allocate by the end of 2024, and teachers said that could be used to prevent layoffs and other hour reductions.
“I feel like Newton probably has the money to keep a lot of our educators that they’re threatening to cut,” said teacher Sheree Russo, who is keeping her job. “And if they do cut the amount of educators that they choose to, then students are going to have larger class sizes.”
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has said that she actually increased funding to the schools by 3.5%. She cited increasing needs and rising costs as culprits for what she described as “wrestling with a budget challenge.”
When reached for comment on Thursday, the mayor’s spokesperson referred NBC10 Boston to the her previous statements on the budget issues.