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Cleveland Heights-University Heights Teachers Ratify New Contract

Updated: 4:17 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

The union representing Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District teachers voted to ratify a new contract this week.

Union members approved the new contract by an overwhelming 93 percent, union president Katherine Rego said via email Thursday night.

The school district and union came to a tentative contract agreement after a marathon overnight bargaining session Wednesday, though some members of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union had already started picketing outside schools Wednesday morning.

“The parties negotiated all of last night and into the morning, ultimately agreeing on important compromises for the good of our students and community,” a Wednesday afternoon statement said. “We are happy that a strike was averted and students’ education will not be interrupted.”

The district had intended to suspend healthcare benefits for teachers who went on strike, a decision that was criticized by union representatives.

A proposed increase in healthcare costs was major sticking point in the negotiations.A previous contract offer from the district also proposed cutting contributions to teacher retirement funds by 1 percent and significantly increased healthcare costs. No details of the agreement were released as of Wednesday.

The contract now awaits approval from the school board which is expected to take up the issue at its regular meeting Tuesday.

“We will continue to keep the community and families informed as we move forward with this process,” a joint Wednesday statement said. “We will move forward as a united front against unfair EdChoice voucher laws and as proponents of fair school funding.”

Roughly 1,400 Cleveland Heights-University Heights district students used EdChoice vouchers last school year for tuition at private schools. District officials have pointed to the voucher program as a financial strain.

Proposed levies to increase funding failed in 2019 and in the 2020 primary. Voters narrowly approved a levy increase for the district in this year’s general election, according to the results of a recount completed this week.

But the current funding model for Ohio schools, which relies on property taxes within districts, could undergo changes soon. The state legislature is expected to overhaul its school funding formula by the end of this month’s lame-duck session. The Ohio Supreme Court previously ruled multiple times that the state’s school funding model is unconstitutional and puts poorer districts with higher Black populations at a disadvantage.

ideastream’s Jenny Hamel contributed to this report.

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