Ohio teachers strike over class sizes, building conditions
Teachers in the largest school district in Ohio went on strike on Monday, two days before classes were set to resume after the summer break, saying the Columbus Board of Education had not met their demand for appropriate class sizes and for guaranteed air-conditioning in classrooms.
The Columbus Education Association (CEA), a labor union representing nearly 4,500 teachers, counselors, librarians and other workers, said 94% of its members voted on Sunday to reject the school board's "last, best and final offer" and commence its first strike since 1975.
"CEA is committed to bargaining for the safe and welcoming, properly maintained, and fully-resourced public schools Columbus students deserve," the union said in a statement. They have been negotiating to renew their contract since March.
With teachers picketing school buildings, the school board's President Jennifer Adair said students would begin the new academic year on Wednesday with remote learning online using substitute teachers. The union has asked parents and students to not join the virtual classes, saying it would prolong the strike.
CEA President John Coneglio said his members wanted the school board to "finally make an enforceable commitment to the learning condition of our students."
The union had also demanded full-time art, music and physical education teachers in elementary schools.
In the board's final offer, it included a letter saying it was committed to installing air conditioning in every school except in one that was due to be replaced later; it committed to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through 5th grade to no more than 28 students.
Adair called the union's vote "incredibly disappointing."
"Our offer to CEA put children first and prioritized their education and their growth," she said in a statement. "We offered a generous compensation package for teachers and provisions that would have a positive impact on classrooms." The school district serves about 45,000 students.