Columbus City Schools' teachers vote to strike
The Columbus Education Association Sunday night capped six months of negotiations with the Columbus City Schools with a simple announcement:
"For the first time since 1975, Columbus teachers are on strike, effective 12:01 am"
Following an hours-long meeting Sunday night, Columbus Education Association spokesperson Regina Fuentes emerged to announce that 94% union members had rejected what the district had termed their "last, best and final" contract offer. Picket lines go up at selected buildings at 7:00 am.
According to school board president Jennifer Adair, that rejected proposal included 3% raises for each of the next three years, rather than the 8% the union requested, and also included a $2,000 retention bonus to be paid out over the next 20 months. Other provisions included additional planning time for teachers, paid leave fore new parents, and hiring 25 additional full-time nurses, behavioral specialists and school psychologists for the 47,000 student body.
Fuentes insists the union wants the district to improve conditions in the classrooms.
.....a commitment to modern schools and heating and air conditioning. Smaller class sizes, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music and PE."
Students are scheduled to return to schools on Wednesday. If teachers are still on strike, students will report online, to be instructed by 600 substitute teachers in real-time and independent classes. That has drawn criticism from many parents, who say their kids struggled with online learning during the COVID pandemic, even when conducted with the full cooperation of their students' regular teachers. The district is offering bonuses to subs through the end of September.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther issued a statement Sunday night urging the two sides to restart negotiations, saying "the pandemic has made clear the importance of having kids in the classroom".
The school board has scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday evening. As yet, there are no scheduled meetings between the two sides.