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Teachers strike in Boston suburb enters its eighth day, with tensions fraying

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) — A teachers strike in a Boston suburb entered its eighth day Tuesday — one of the longest in recent state history — with both sides still unable to agree on salaries and other issues.

The Newton School Committee on Tuesday said it made another revised offer to the Newton Teachers Association, which it described as “a fair and competitive offer that addresses the concerns that the NTA has expressed to the negotiating team and publicly.”

“Throughout the duration of the strike, we have presented increasingly competitive (cost of living adjustment) proposals, even when compared to the highest-paying peer districts,” the committee said in a statement.

The union has said it is seeking living wages for all employees, increased paid family leave time and a guarantee that social workers will be placed in every elementary and middle school.

The school committee proposal addresses union priorities, according to the school committee, including 12 weeks paid parental leave, smaller class sizes and increased social worker support for students.

David Bedar, a member of the union and a history teacher at Newton North High School said the union has received the latest counterproposal. He said there was some movement by the school committee, but that movement was based on pulling back on other union priorities.

“So negotiations are still ongoing,” he said.

It is illegal for public workers, including teachers, to strike in Massachusetts. Newton has a population of more than 87,000.

A judge last week began doubling fines for the teachers union until it reached a total of $375,000 by the end of week at which point the judge opted to add $50,000 a day — for Monday and Tuesday — bringing the total to $475,000.

Newton City Council President Marc Laredo called for both sides to reach a deal quickly.

“This strike has to end. We need to get our kids back in the classroom and we need to do it now,” Laredo said. “All the responsible parties — the teachers, the school committee, those providing funding — need to be at the table.”

Tensions were beginning to fray.

A lawsuit was filed Monday in Middlesex District Court by Lital Asher-Dotan. The Newton mother of three — two high schoolers and a student in 8th grade — was asking the court to compel the teachers union to end the strike.

In the lawsuit, Asher-Dotan said one of her children is facing setbacks during a critical high school year that could jeopardize her chance of college acceptance. She said her children have also missed part of the hockey season and opportunities with the ski team club.

“The prolonged strike exacerbates these issues, especially for students with special needs,” the lawsuit said.

Other parents have started an online petition urging the union and city “to continue your negotiations while enabling students and teachers to get back to the classroom.”

“Our children are being deprived of their right to an education. We believe the NTA and City are so mired in their drive to advocate for their perspectives such that the children’s interests have been subordinated in the need to win,” the petition said.

The district educates nearly 12,000 students across more than 20 schools.