Hey, there! Log in / Register

Newton parents who are now suing teachers are repped by two lawyers, one from Wisconsin, who really hate public education

The Newton Beacon reports that a group of Newton parents who tried to get in on the city's suit against the teachers union had their request denied by the judge in the case yesterday because the strike's been settled, so their case is moot, but, of course, Newton parents know what "moot" really means, so yesterday they filed their own independent class-action suit against the union, claiming at least $25 million in damages.

Maurice Cunningham took a look at the background of one of their lawyers, Daniel Suhr, who is based in Wisconsin:

Suhr is part of the right-wing coterie of legal fronts that bombard the Supreme Court with amicus briefs in anti-labor lawsuits. He wrote an amicus brief in Espinoza v. Montana for the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos's privatization machine.

He started legal life with the Federalist Society. Natch. He is "Advocating America's first principles at the intersection of law, politics, faith, and public policy." Natch. He writes for WORLD which "produces sound journalism grounded in facts and biblical truth." Natch. He has been president of the Federalist Society's Center for American Rights. As president of the Center he has been featured on the home page of funder the Herzog Foundation which according to Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch "describes its mission as to 'catalyze and accelerate the development of quality Christ-centered K-12 education so that families and culture flourish.' " Natch.

Suhr is listed as co-counsel on the suit the parents filed yesterday, along with Ilya Feoktistov of Boston, whose Web site asks:

Under attack by cancel culture in Massachusetts? Harmed by the COVID-19 lockdowns? Fed up with woke racial politics at school or work? We may be able to help you get justice and compensation.

In addition to familiarity with Massachusetts court rules, Feoktistov brings a long-standing hatred for teacher unions in general, and the one in Newton in particular.

In 2018, he wrote on the right-wing conspiracy site the Federalist about what he claimed were "Jew-hating" history teachers and other socialist, anti-Trump monsters in Newton schools, in particular at Newton North. The union and its members, he wrote, are as bad as the teachers he had growing up in the then Soviet city of Tomsk:

Undaunted by the failures of their comrades in the Soviet Union and other socialist hell-holes, left-wing activists are dug in at all stages of the American educational process from preschool to graduate school, where they seek to replicate the Soviet Union’s abuse of its children’s minds with lurid lies. ...

The Left is abusing American high school education in its struggle - not to do good, but to gain and retain political power. The ongoing trend of growing political intolerance and ideological bigotry among the newest American adults will continue, and nothing good will come of it. In the Soviet Union, I’ve seen what young people could be turned into, what I myself could be turned into. Trust me, America hasn’t seen anything yet.

Feoktistov was a co-founder of a group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance. Another founder was Charles Jacobs, who has argued for more than a decade that Newton schools are awash in Islamic proselytizing and anti-Semitism.

Complete complaint (2.6M PDF).

Neighborhoods: 
Free tagging: 


Ad:


Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Maurice is our fav dark money investigator. As an economics prof at UMBoston, he continues to do this after retirement. thanks so much for including his take on this. I think his twitter page says "dark money never sleeps"

up
Voting closed 73

Gave him a follow: @MassPolProfMo

up
Voting closed 27

contributes to: https://www.masspoliticsprofs.org/ . And that court filing? Those poor kids -- one couldn't play hockey and others were having too much screen time thanks to those evil Newton teachers!! Give me a break.

up
Voting closed 50

Or otherwise take advantage of the days off to do stuff with them, no, oh ick, how plebian!

up
Voting closed 45

Who even has the energy these days?

up
Voting closed 13

Look, I hear you, but I want to be real for a second. Not having children in School when they are too young to leave at home alone is an economic and emotional burden on anyone. And while the average income in Newton is high, I have neighbors who are refugees and others on food stamps who had kids at home. I did use what I could of my flexibility in my job to spend extra time with my kids, but that is a privilege I am lucky to have.

I say this in the context of broadly supporting the strike, though I was sick of the Air Horns and Twisted Sister. As a potential member of this class I would feel conflicted as I wouldn't want to put money in the pockets of the lawyers, but would donate the proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club of Newton who stepped up and helped my self and MANY other parents during what was a VERY trying time.

They are also missing out on their vacation week camp. Which to a degree puts a handy cost at around $300 per child per week to the economic burden of the strike.

PS: The John M. Barry Boys and Girls Club of Newton could use donations :)

https://www.newtonbgc.com/

up
Voting closed 20

How loudly does Dee Snider have to shout that he doesn't agree with his music being used for nonsense before it stops happening?

up
Voting closed 17

Why do you assume that Snider would not support striking teachers?

up
Voting closed 16

Support striking teachers and not grant permission for use of his song, with or without compensation.

up
Voting closed 16

FWIW the song was being played over the giant set of speakers on the Teamsters Truck while it was driving down the road.

An interesting question of how large your speakers need to be to be a public performance.

up
Voting closed 7

So I assume the parents involved can be named, their addresses published and their employers listed as filing a lawsuit makes you a valid target.

up
Voting closed 19

I didn't publish them in my article (on the assumption that most readers here are from someplace other than Newton), but, yes, they're listed right there in the complaint.

I know it's hard to imagine, but most court filings are public; you have to give a judge a pretty good reason to file anonymously.

There's a whole constitutional thing going on, even, it involves the First Amendment. And there's common law, dating back hundreds of years.

Since they filed in Massachusetts state court, here's some explanation. You can skip the top part and scroll towards the bottom, where you'll find a discussion (with citations, even) about the issue.

up
Voting closed 50

So as long as you report on a lawsuit you have no problem with folks publishing the filer's doxx, that's sounds fair. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that any doxx on, say, an employee filing suit against their boss is going to the land of unapproved comments.

up
Voting closed 16

We don't have star chambers in this country (or aren't supposed to), which is what anonymity for court complaints would bring us to.

up
Voting closed 37

You're going to do yourself a significant injury reaching like that.

up
Voting closed 22

I guess I'll be proven wrong when, for example, a group of less-than-fully documented workers get wrapped up in a lawsuit and Adam allows someone to doxx them and have their names, addresses and list of family members, all publicly available information, posted in a convenient format to send to ICE or any organization that enjoys harassing immigrants.

Those types of articles show up with some regularity, they often are part of cases where business owners are taking advantage of employees with questionable statuses, so it should only be a matter of time.

up
Voting closed 14

You're a regular here. Have you already forgotten I actually wrote extensively (and am still following) a case just like the one you claim to be all upset about?

Remember Stash's, with the owner accused of doing all sort of horrible things to the undocumented immigrants he preferred to hire, allegedly because he knew he could get away with it?

I've posted court filings in that case just like in this one. But you'll notice that those documents do not name the victims. Because they're victims in a criminal case, and the judicial system (and most reporters) treat crime victims differently than people like a bunch of well off Newton parents hiring out-of-state lawyers to file a civil suit.

up
Voting closed 29

The names are already out there in lawsuit files.

up
Voting closed 15

I want to go back to the days when Newton wasn’t constantly in the news.

But there is a super right-wing slice of parents trying to change Newton’s focus on equity. The rest of us have to stay vigilant to fight them off.

I recognize that the schools being closed was really hard for a lot of people. But the mayor and school committee were not bargaining in good faith for the first *8 days* of the strike. They hold at least as much responsibility for the harms of the schools being closed for as long as they were closed.

up
Voting closed 74

But the mayor and school committee were not bargaining in good faith for the first *8 days* of the strike.

What's the difference between good faith and bad faith negotiation in this case?

up
Voting closed 27

Your way. Thats all it boils down too.

up
Voting closed 24

It means that they had no intention of actually agreeing to anything. But do keep on anoning!

up
Voting closed 60

They were intent on running out the clock, hoping the teachers would cave or a judge would somehow force the teachers to agree to unfavorable terms

up
Voting closed 54

Run up the clock, hope the town would give in. (It worked.)

up
Voting closed 25

The town was forced to finally negotiate in good faith. They didn't "give in". If you look at the final deal, the teachers did have to move on a number of points.

up
Voting closed 45

It was a negotiation. Both sides had points they didn't want to compromise. (Or not compromise further.) Both took a hard line. If the town was in bad faith, so was the NTA.

Good faith on both sides would have been going to an arbitrator early on and pledging to agree to whatever was decided.

up
Voting closed 21

What do they consider "bad faith"?

Not negotiating because they think they hold all the cards is bad faith in my union's book.

up
Voting closed 33

n/t

up
Voting closed 27

There were no concessions from the city until after the judge reduced the fines on the union. The mayor was absolutely trying to run out the clock. The moves the city made to hire a union-busting lawyer and put union-busting people on the SC negotiating team says to me that they just wanted to break the teachers. It was gross and disrespectful and I look forward to voting out Fuller in 2026.

up
Voting closed 44

The NTA started out with salary growth numbers (COLAs) far higher than the city's revenue growth numbers, and the NTA leadership continued to put out a misleading or flat-out inaccurate of city finances. They continued that stance for a week into the strike. And for some unknown reason they continue to push those numbers today, like in the Globe editorial.

If the goal is a fair or even generous contract, I don't even see why the exact details of city finances are a topic. There is no obligation for the city to give its extra budget money to one contract.

up
Voting closed 17

The NTA started out with salary growth numbers (COLAs) far higher than the city's revenue growth numbers

If the goal is a fair or even generous contract, I don't even see why the exact details of city finances are a topic.

If the city finances shouldn't be part of the discussion, then why does it matter what the city's revenue growth numbers are?

up
Voting closed 25

The NTA started out with salary growth numbers (COLAs) far higher than the city's revenue growth numbers

A COLA is intended to help compensate for inflation. Any "fair or even generous" contract would at least match inflation. If you want to argue the NTA was asking for an unfair COLA I think you have to cite recent and expected inflation numbers, not the city's revenue problems.

If the city's revenue stream isn't designed to keep up with inflation, that is not the NTA's fault.

up
Voting closed 25

The state's Prop 2.5 means that the city's tax levy can't grow faster than 2.5% plus growth. Newton doesn't have enough growth or a commercial basis to sustain the 5% per year for 4 years ask from the NTA. And I know no one who gets that guaranteed wage increase year after year.

Sure, lots of people got hit when inflation spiked. But so did municipalities. Newton and other cities came into extra free cash with an Eversource real estate court settlement. But one time free cash can't pay for ongoing expenses without running out. That was the other NTA budget fallacy.

up
Voting closed 12

You ask for more than you expect to get, with the idea of negotiating down to a middle point that works for everyone. Nobody expects their initial ask to get approved (and if it does, you aimed too low).

up
Voting closed 13

Poor Newton doesn't have enough tax base to keep up with inflation or pay a living wage to their public school employees. If only there was a way to increase that tax base via a smart plan to build more housing near public transit? Oh wait, Newton NIMBYs just voted down such a plan.

Chickens, roost, etc...

up
Voting closed 20

They voted down a more expansive development plan, but they didn't go all Milton. They voted for about 3000 more residential units zoned as of right and complied with the MBTA Communities Act.

But that's irrelevant. Those units aren't planned, let alone built, let alone revenue producing.

So "Oh no!" Newton can't (or doesn't want to) afford the school system it claims to want. But it still can't afford to pay teachers or anyone else a 5% increase in salary per year.

You can't spend money you don't have.

up
Voting closed 10

For what? Once again, as my dad would say, "Here, let me bend over and (expletive) the money out for you."

up
Voting closed 28

First, the complaint actually seeks $25,004,000 in damages, according to the cover sheet filed with the complaint:

$4,000 in "documented property damages to date."
$10 million in "reasonably anticipated lost wages."
$15 million in "other documented items of damages," in particular: "class-wide learning loss for students (and corresponding lower lifetime earning capacity); class-wide emotional distress for students & parents; additional damages for sub-class of students with special needs."

I left out the phrase "class action" in my story (since added), so they're claiming to be suing on behalf of all Newton parents and students.

They don't actually document the "documented property damages to date."

up
Voting closed 26

They actually had to put aside their moneychanging activities and *gasp* pay attention to their kids!!!

Speaking of classwide learning loss, I think Medford owes me massively for when my kids had to go to school in a concrete oven of a high school. Learning loss from extreme heat conditions is extensively documented.

up
Voting closed 44

Got any more in your repertoire?

up
Voting closed 31

Massachusetts schools are required to teach 180 each school year. That doesn't change with the strike--as the teachers union has consistently acknowledged. The district is going to have to add teaching days later in the school year to make up for the strike days to get to 180. Before the strike ended, the School Committee had already decided to teach during what would have been February vacation to make up some of the days. So what "learning loss" (and "lower lifetime earning capacity") are students going to have at the end of this school year?

https://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=5984#:~:text=Under%20the%20Ma....

https://www.wbur.org/news/2024/02/01/newton-teacher-strike-makeup-instru...

up
Voting closed 30

10 million in lost wages over 11 days? HAHA

I moved to Newton in 1988. It has always been a wealthy place. I went to public school here. But my family was not wealthy. I grew up around those kids.

Over the years, the Newton community has become more snobbish and unreasonable. That is correlated with the more luxorious developments.

So, this is FAR from surprising. Many Newtonians are lawyers, doctors, finance "Masters of the universe." and psychiatrists.

This is WHAT THEY DO, it's a personality trait, not a fluke. The oppose everything, find a lawyer to oppose every development and apply its agenda to whatever. They LIVE for this.

Meanwhile, they are some wonderful people here that support their community via volunteering, promoting arts, promoting business and keep Newton safe. You just never hear about them because the crazies have the loudest microphone. The arrogance was not always this bad.

On top of that, Newton takes its first responders for granted. Newton needs a new police station, more dispatchers, better officers (I went to school with a few. They ain't the bastions of intelligence." The mayor hates the firefighters.

Silly times in Newton.

up
Voting closed 8

$25 million for 12 thousand kids missing school for 11 days. Works out to $190/kid/day.

up
Voting closed 10

It would've been funny if it wasn't true.

up
Voting closed 12

This is very “Newton”.

up
Voting closed 26

in NEWTON of all places.

Speaking as a jew, this trend of right-wingers like this moron throwing the word "anti-semitism" at everything they don't like devalues the word and puts all of us at greater risk when the real thing is very much out there these days.

up
Voting closed 59

The right wing is pretty damn anti-semitic when it comes to things, like, oh that nice little demo in Virginia where they surrounded a Synagogue and shouted "Jews will not replace us" while threatening to burn the place.

Maybe they should clean their own house?

up
Voting closed 28

A lawyer who would demand that Jews convert to Christianity working with a lawyer who claims that there are "Jew haters" makes for bizarre political bed partners.

The only reason that Christian nationalists support the existence of Israel is because a Jewish nation is necessary for the fulfillment of that magic mushroom fantasy of Christian biblical sturm and drang, Revelation.

There is a desperate fever of religious based master race insanity in the US. A psychic infection of spiritual violence.

Is it because there are too many people competing against a perception of limited resources of wealth and well being? It is not new in the US. Randolph Hearst showed the way of making a fortune from fear and terror. The Know Nothing Party showed that hatred of immigrants is a good way to grasp power. The Amy Semple McPhersons and Billy Sundays showed the way to fortune and fame through religion as a drug. Maybe the character of the US is just to always lean toward to political, religious and social fever and mania.

up
Voting closed 40

Nothing says you are seriously opposed to antisemitism like partnering with a Christian nationalist peddling great replacement theory.

up
Voting closed 6

The Left is abusing American high school education in its struggle - not to do good, but to gain and retain political power.

There is no left in America; there is only a center and a right. If he grew up in the Soviet Union, then he should know what is Marxist and what isn't. And one of the things that isn't is Islamic proselytizing. Mixing the two is an indication of someone who doesn't know what he is talking about.

Send him back to Tomsk, if, indeed, he was ever there.

up
Voting closed 15