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Columbus teachers vote to strike after rejecting school board's offer

For the first time since 1975, Columbus teachers have voted to go on strike.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus teachers’ union voted to strike Sunday night after a contract agreement with the Columbus school board could not be reached following months of meetings.

Columbus teachers will began picketing Monday morning at 7 a.m.

According to the Columbus Education Association, more than 94% of its members voted to reject the board's offer. This is the first time teachers have gone on strike since 1975.

"It is with a full understanding of the sacrifices that students, parents, and teachers will make together to win the schools Columbus Students Deserve that CEA members overwhelmingly rejected the Board’s last, best and final offer tonight and voted to strike," said CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes.

Mayor Andrew Ginther released a statement after the vote, calling on both sides to return to the negotiating table and get students back in the classroom.

"The past few years have underscored the value of our teachers, the resiliency of our kids and the need for Columbus City Schools to position itself for the future. But, more than anything, the pandemic has made clear the importance of having kids in the classroom. The CEA and the school district must return to the table and get our kids back in the classroom. A responsible solution is within reach, but only if negotiations restart now," Ginther said.

Credit: 10TV/WBNS

In a written statement sent out Sunday night, Board of Education President Jennifer Adair called the vote disappointing, saying the board offered a "generous compensation package" for teachers and addressed other concerns from the union.

CEA filed an official notice of its intent to strike following a meeting on Aug. 10, which gave the Columbus Board of Education 10 days to propose an acceptable counteroffer. The two sides failed to come to an agreement between that time, prompting CEA's strike.

Among the sticking points the union and the district are battling over include:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Full-time art, music and physical education teachers at the elementary level
  • Functional heating and air-conditioning inside classrooms
  • A cap on the number of class periods during the school day

An additional ask from the union has been focused on higher wages for all teachers.

The board's most recent offer from Aug. 18, which can be seen here, promises an annual 3% raise every year, a $2,000 retention bonus spread out in four payments, and a commitment to fixing air conditioning issues.

The board said following the meeting on Aug. 10 that they were ready to consider a “comprehensive counter” to their original offer, which included reducing class sizes, but CEA was unwilling to engage in productive conversation.

In CEA’s statement Aug. 10, President John Coneglio responded that the board failed to make any counterproposal and the board made no movement from their initial counterproposal.

The board and union met together with a federal mediator on Aug. 16, hashing out two topics, but one that is still a problem for the union is the language in the contract about HVAC systems.

The board's offer from Friday says it has contracted and/or committed funds to install air conditioning in every school except Mifflin Middle School.

The two sides had another round of mediation talks on Aug. 18 ahead of a CEA membership meeting on Sunday where the members voted to strike ahead of the start of the school year – set for Aug. 24.

When 10TV’s Kevin Landers asked how a strike is benefiting students, a spokesperson for the teachers' union defended its notice to strike.

"I would say not striking hurts the children than we are taking their 'take it or leave it' offer and walking away from our kids. That is not a stance that we want to take," said CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes.

Columbus City Schools is slated to begin Aug. 24, two days after the school board begins its strike. The school has provided plans for the school year ahead of the strike giving details for a remote learning plan with full-time substitutes providing instruction.

Additional details on the school district's remote learning plans for the school-year can be found on their website.

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