by J.D. Davidson
A little more than two weeks from the first day of school for students, teachers in Ohio’s largest school district voted late Thursday night to authorize a 10-day strike notice.
With contract negotiations stalled, the Columbus Education Association voted to give its strike notice. This allows it to file that notice with the State Employment Relations Board at any time. Students are scheduled to start school Aug. 24.
“The vote tonight is a vote of confidence in our bargaining team and our fight for the safe, properly maintained, fully resourced schools Columbus students deserve,” said Regina Fuentes, a spokeswoman for CEA. “CEA has consistently maintained that we are fighting not just for CEA members, but for our students and community. That is why CEA will continue that fight until a fair agreement is reached for the schools Columbus students deserve.”
State law requires a public employee union to provide 10 days advanced notice of an intention to picket, strike or any other refusal to work. A strike could come as soon as 10 days after filing with the SERB.
The union is asking for smaller class sizes, full-time art, music and physical education teachers at the elementary-school level, functioning heating and air-conditioning in classrooms, planning time at the elementary level and a cap on the number of class periods in a day.
“Of course, we don’t want to strike, but our students, teachers and community deserve a contract that supports and bolsters better learning conditions. Our vote tonight should send a strong message to the board to return to the bargaining table immediately,” Fuentes said.
The Columbus City Board of Education, in a statement, called a strike disruptive and harmful to students, more so after issues students were faced with over the past two years during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The board’s offer is fair, comprehensive, and respectful, and we had hoped our teachers would carefully consider it,” the board’s statement read. “A strike is disruptive and hurts our students most, especially after everything they have experienced over the last few years. And that is why our team is well prepared for an alternate opening should a strike actually take place. Our students’ academic progress and social emotional well-being will remain our top priorities.”
Columbus City Schools has 47,000 students in 112 schools. It employs more than 9,000 teachers and staff.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Columbus City Schools” by Columbus City Schools.