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Teachers in Ohio’s largest school district go on strike days before school year starts

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Teachers in Columbus, Ohio, home to the state’s largest school district, went on strike Monday over smaller class sizes and building safety demands after bargaining negotiations with the school board stalled.

The Columbus Education Association, the teachers union, said in a statement on its website that its educators and school communities “are on strike for our students” two days before the new school year is scheduled to begin. The union voted to go on strike Sunday and said it would be on the picket line beginning at 7 a.m. Monday.

The union said the school board walked away from the bargaining table on July 28 and has refused to agree to language in a contract that “will guarantee Columbus students basics like air conditioning, appropriate class sizes, and full-time art, music, and P.E. teachers in elementary schools.”

“The Columbus Education Association’s bargaining team has negotiated for months in an attempt to reach an agreement, but Columbus City Schools continues to ignore the voices within our community and invest in our schools in a way that will improve learning conditions for our students,” the statement said.

The union said on Twitter Sunday night that 94% of its members voted to reject the school board’s latest offer and go on strike for the first time since 1975. The union represents more than 4,000 teachers and education professionals.

The president of the board of education at Columbus City Schools, which according to the district serves some 47,000 students, said Sunday that the union’s vote to strike was “incredibly disappointing.” 

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“We are saddened by the unfortunate situation our families, our community and, most importantly, our children now face,” Jennifer Adair said in a statement.

Adair said the board “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,” she said. “Our community’s children are the Board’s priority, and our offer reflected that fact.”

Adair said that school is scheduled to start on Wednesday, meaning that children will be learning online “to continue educating and supporting students despite the current circumstances.” The board did not elaborate on how it would staff online learning for its students.

“We value and respect our teachers, and we will continue on a path toward collaborative solutions that address what is best for our children,” she said.

The school board said on its website that it would hold an emergency meeting on Monday evening. The union said on Twitter that it hoped its supporters would join a rally outside the board meeting.

Daniella Silva is a reporter for NBC News, focusing on education and how laws, policies and practices affect students and teachers. She also writes about immigration.

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