Columbus students are scheduled to return to school in two days, but their teachers have gone on strike. Yesterday the teachers' union for the largest district in Ohio voted to go on strike after 94% of its members rejected the school board's contract.
The teachers began picketing outside the district's 20 schools on Monday morning, reported WBNS-TV. The Columbus Board of Education stated that, because of the strike, students would start online remote learning with full-time substitutes in the meantime.
The teachers' union, the Columbus Education Association, filed an official notice on August 10 to the Columbus Board of Education stating that an agreement had to be reached within 10 days.
After the union filed the intent-to-strike notice, CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes said, "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."
Following months of meetings with federal mediators, the district and union could not come to an agreement. The Columbus Board of Education made its final offer on Sunday.
The board released a statement Sunday evening. Jennifer Adair, the board's president, expressed that she was "disappointed" with the decision made by the CEA. She said, "We offered a generous compensation package for teachers and provisions that would have a positive impact on classrooms. Our offer was also responsive to the concerns that have been raised by CEA during the negotiations process."
The CEA requested that the school board provide higher wages for all teachers, smaller class sizes, heating and air conditioning inside all classrooms, full-time teachers for extracurricular classes, and a limit on the number of class periods.
On August 18, the school board said that it had offered the teachers an annual 3% raise, a $2,000 bonus, and a promise to install air conditioning in classrooms. The board also mentioned that it would consider smaller class sizes.
The CEA stated that it is not content with the language in the contract regarding air conditioning for classrooms.
Fuentes stated, "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."
In response to the picketing, the school board has scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday evening. Currently, there are no scheduled negotiations between the union and the board.