COLUMBUS, Ohio (NewsNation) — Ohio’s largest school district is up for an unconventional first day Wednesday: Teachers with picket signs and students learning from substitutes and administrators online.
The Columbus Education Association, which represents about 4,500 teachers and other education professionals, is striking after 94% of its members voted Sunday to reject the Columbus City School District’s latest offer, the union tweeted.
Teachers began picketing Monday morning at 20 different sites around the district.
This strike comes as schools across the nation continue to face teacher shortages
Throughout this dispute, the union has continuously cited “disagreements over learning conditions” in classrooms, including elements like requiring working air conditioners and heating in all school buildings, the union said in its notice of intent to strike.
Other sticking points arose over issues like sufficient planning time for teachers, a cap on the number of class periods during the day and outsourcing positions to for-profit companies. the union said.
“What the Columbus Board of Education is not saying is that they don’t want to be held accountable for fixing the schools that Columbus students deserve,” said Regina Fuentes, a union spokesperson. “If they are going to hold us accountable, they need to be held accountable as well.”
Columbus City Schools is scheduled to start the 2022-2023 school year on Wednesday; 47,000 students could be forced to start school online this week if an agreement isn’t reached, according to the school district’s website.
The board, with the threat of a strike on the horizon, released its alternative outcomes plan – including remote learning via district-provided Chromebook computers, grab-and-go meals at sites across Columbus and tech support personnel available for help.
Because teachers make up nearly 60% of the district’s coaching staff and extracurricular advisors, the board said sports and activities will either be rescheduled or canceled.
The school board president said the latest offer is competitive and addresses the teachers’ concerns about class size and 3% raises.
“The decision to strike by the Columbus Education Association is incredibly disappointing. We are very saddened by this unfortunate situation for our families and community and most importantly our children now face,” said Jennifer Adair, president of the Columbus Board of Education.
“We are not willing to settle for the status quo. If we were to just take this offer and go in, that allows the district to continue business as usual. We are not going to accept that,” Fuentes said.
The union’s decision to strike is historic, as Columbus has not seen its teachers on the picket line since 1975.
NewsNation affiliate WCMH contributed to this report.