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Columbus teachers threaten to strike as contract negotiations stall

Columbus Education Association members rally outside of school board headquarters July 27, 2022.
Matthew Rand
Columbus Education Association members rally outside of school board headquarters July 27, 2022.

Columbus teachers rallied outside of Columbus City Schools district headquarters Wednesday as part of their ongoing labor fight.

The Columbus Education Association has threatened to strike when their deal expires on August 24, the first day of the upcoming school year.

The district and teachers union remain at odds over a host of issues including class sizes, caseloads for school psychologists and nurses and making sure buildings have working HVAC systems.

"Our working conditions are our kids' learning conditions, right? So if our kids have their heads down in sweltering hot classrooms, you know, it's kind of difficult for teachers to teach, right? When we have we have buildings that are absolutely freezing, it's hard for our kids to learn," said Columbus Education Association union president John Caneglio.

Regina Fuentes, an English teacher at Eastmoor Academy High School, said many of the resources in her building are woefully outdated.

"There are printers in our buildings that have been there since I've been teaching, and I've been teaching for 23 years. So we want the full resources and the things that our students abs
olutely need in order to be the best that they can be," Fuentes said.

The teachers union wants the district to come back to the negotiating table before classes resume next month.

"We don't want to strike. However, we will do that if it's necessary," Fuentes said.

The school district issued the statement in response to the demonstration that said they are continuing negotiations with the teachers' union and they look forward to having them in the classroom on the first day of school.

“Conversations with our teachers are ongoing, and finding a compromise is our goal. We greatly respect our teachers and know they are critical to the success of our students. We have upcoming full-day meetings, which were previously scheduled nearly two months ago, and we have and will continue to negotiate in good faith. Our commitment is firm to continue to find resolution, and we will dedicate the time necessary to have those conversations.

The district said they have been upgrading the HVAC systems to have air conditioning in all buildings.

"The Board agrees with our teachers that we should have air conditioning in all our buildings. Independent of and before the negotiations process even began, the Board took action to reach this goal, authorizing the use of federal ESSER funds to update HVAC systems in 16 school buildings,” the district also said in a statement.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.