Updated Aug 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ohio teachers union goes on strike days before start of school year

Teacher's strike in Columbus, Ohio

Teachers in Columbus, Ohio, strike on Aug. 22. Photo: Alissa Widman Neese

Teachers at Ohio's largest school district voted Sunday evening to go on strike mere days before the start of the school year after failing to come to an agreement with the Board of Education about the terms of its labor contract.

Why it matters: This will be the first strike in decades for the Columbus Education Association (CEA) and means that students will start the school year online on Wednesday with substitute teachers.

  • "94% of Columbus Education Association (CEA) members voted to reject the Board’s last, best and final offer and go on strike for the first time since 1975," the union tweeted Sunday night.

The big picture: The CEA and the Columbus Board of Education have held 22 negotiations over the past five months in an effort to strike a deal over the labor contract, NBC 4 reported.

  • In its intent to strike notice this month, the CEA said disagreements persisted over learning conditions, including smaller classroom sizes, teacher pay, caps on the number of class periods in the day, school building conditions such as functioning heating and air conditioning as well as full-time art, music and P.E. teachers in elementary schools.
  • The district said the union "failed to bargain in good faith" regarding compensation and won't budge on 8% annual raises for three years, per an unfair labor practice complaint filed with the state.

What they're saying: In a statement Sunday evening, Columbus Board of Education president Jennifer Adair called the CEA's vote “incredibly disappointing.”

  • "We value and respect our teachers, and we will continue on a path toward collaborative solutions that address what is best for our children," Adair added.
  • "CEA is committed to bargaining for the safe and welcoming, properly maintained, and fully-resourced public schools Columbus students deserve," the CEA tweeted Sunday evening.
  • Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther took to Twitter on Sunday to urge both parties to "return to the table and get our kids back in the classroom. A responsible solution is within reach, but only if negotiations restart now."

The latest: The board has scheduled an emergency meeting for 8pm tonight.

Meanwhile, teachers are picketing at 20 district sites. A spokesperson told reporters the district hasn't "responded to us directly" on Monday morning regarding negotiations.

What they're saying: "We want to negotiate. We need to get them to the table so that we can get this done. We want to be in the classroom with our students," spokesperson Regina Fuentes said.

  • Adair said Monday that the sides are working through a federal mediator and "we are fully committed to continuing dialogue ... so that our students can get back to the classroom."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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