Columbus teachers ended their week long strike accepting a new contract with the district, here's what it entails.
Since the district and teachers’ union failed to come to an agreement earlier this month, families in the metropolitan region of Columbus, Ohio expected to start the school year virtual. With teachers ready to picket, students were told to stay home, and do their schooling virtually. After a week-long strike, Columbus teachers and district heads came to an agreement striking a deal and sending children back into the classrooms for the first time this school year.
Students returned to their schools on Monday, August 29th after Columbus teachers ended their strike. For quite some time now, the teachers’ union had failed in bargaining negotiations with the district to better certain working conditions, decrease class sizes, and offer a well-rounded education in the arts. Finally agreeing to a district offer, the union tentatively accepted terms around 3 am on the morning of August 25th, here’s what they entailed.
According to reports from NBC4, the final session of negotiations lasted a strenuous 14 hours. The newly approved contract includes wage increases for Columbus teachers that are members of the local union, the Columbus Education Association, and paid parental leave. Also, it guaranteed working HVAC systems and placed a cap on class sizes for all grade levels.
Last spring, Columbus teachers had asked the district to offer union members an 8% salary increase each school year for the next three years. During the board’s August 18th meeting in which the district proposed its final offer that led to the strike, only a 1% increase was proposed, which eventually was boosted to 3%. Today, the two groups met in the middle and accepted a 4% annual raise.
Campus climate was also on the table. Last year, many Columbus schools were forced to close because of extreme heat and no air conditioning in some school buildings. The Columbus teachers’ union demanded the district update HVAC systems for all schools. Originally, the board agreed to make “reasonable efforts” to address infrastructure concerns. Now, they have guaranteed that all school buildings will be climate controlled by the start of the 2025-2026 school year.
Columbus teachers also complained that class sizes were far too large, as they asked the district to place a cap on student capacity. The district initially offered a limit on elementary classrooms, saying they would now cap out at 27 students. Union members did not accept, as this failed to address the large classrooms at the middle and high school levels. In the new agreement, all grade levels received a max capacity.
Art, music, and physical education were addressed in the new contract as well. The union urged the district to hire more educators to fill these positions. In response, the district proposed a plan to make sure that these Columbus teachers would not be assigned to more than two buildings by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. This promise mainly stayed the same, except it goes into effect this school year.
Now that an agreement has been met, students and Columbus teachers are back in the classroom. “We are excited to get back to where we belong — our classrooms — doing what we do best: educating our students and shaping the future of our great city,” union spokeswoman Regina Fuentes said via CNN. Now that bargaining is dealt with, the district, union members, and families are hopeful for a smooth opening to a new school year.