After a days-long strike over classroom conditions and teacher pay, the Columbus, Ohio teachers’ union voted on Sunday to ratify an agreement with Columbus City Schools that would allow students to return to in-person learning on Monday.
A majority of teachers’ union members, Columbus Education Association, voted to accept the agreement, union spokesman Regina Fuentes said at a news conference after a vote on the agreement, which ended a six-month negotiation process that saw the first strike by the teachers. union was involved. in decades just days before classes were to begin.
The strike meant the first day of the new school year at Columbus City Schools – Ohio’s largest school district – took place online, with substitutes leading the virtual classes Wednesday, while 4,500 teachers, librarians, counselors and other school staff went on strike.
The strike came as schools across the country face severe teacher shortages and low morale among educators, who claim they are underpaid and undervalued, teaching in busier classrooms and in challenging conditions exacerbated by the pandemic.
Teachers in Columbus demanded an 8% annual pay increase, as well as pledges to improve heating and air conditioning in dilapidated buildings, smaller classrooms and full-time teachers of arts, music and physical education in elementary schools.
The new agreement includes provisions guaranteeing that all student areas of learning will be climate-controlled by the start of the 2025-2026 academic year, a reduction in class size in all classes, and paid parental leave programs for teachers, as well as salary increases for the next three years, Fuentes said. .
The district had previously offered a 3% pay raise but refused guaranteed air conditioning – an issue the union said was at the heart of the strike.
Thousands went to the picket lines last week, many carrying signs raising problems with temperatures in schools. “98 DEGREES A BOY’S BAND IS NOT A CLASSROOM TEMPERATURE,” read the sign a teacher held out of East High School.
After the deal was reached early Thursday after a nearly 14-hour negotiating session, teachers used Thursday and Friday to prepare for a return to Monday.
“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,” said Fuentes.
Fuentes added that workers across the country are “tired of settling for the status quo,” and said she hopes the union’s work is a catalyst that will inspire people across the country to address problems in the labor market. solving public education.
“They need to invest more in our students because they are the most important investment in this entire country,” Fuentes said. “It starts here, but we want to keep it that way. Hopefully the community will see the power they have and get even more involved.”
Officials from Columbus City Schools, which serve 47,000 students, said the new agreement puts children first.
“This is a contract that keeps students at the heart of everything we do and supports our Board’s educational mission for Columbus City Schools,” Board of Education president Jennifer Adair said in a statement Sunday. “To all CEA members, we would like to thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this agreement and for your continued commitment to support our children and families. We look forward to getting our children back to school with you tomorrow.”