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Teachers Head Back To Classrooms Without Contracts

Students all around the state are grabbing their books and heading back to school. But some teachers are returning to class without new contracts. It's become the norm in Ohio as budgets and education policies continue to change. It's becoming the trend for schools around Ohio for a number of reasons. The Ohio Education Association, which represents teacher groups, says there are fewer contract agreements reaching the three-year limit. This causes all parties to come back to the table more often. “When the economy started to sour you know when budgets got tighter it became more common to for folks to bargain more shorter term collective agreements. In a period of uncertainty—the greatest certainty is in the shortest period of time," says OEA researcher Andy Jewell. He says it's a good guess that more teachers are going into this school year without a contract than in previous years. For one thing, it was a budget year in Ohio and local negotiations tend to hold off until after the state passes its plan. Also, schools are implementing a lot of new policies, including procedures based on the national standards known as Common Core and the state’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

You’ve got the perfect storm of the budget and all these other policy changes—many of which were made into law prior to this budget but it’s just now coming in time for implementation.

Both the OEA and the Ohio School Board Association agree that a lack of contract agreements before the school year does not mean a lack of cooperation between the parties. Van Keating, director of management services with the school board association, adds that this should not impact the learning environment. If a contract expires and another one is not in place, then the teachers will operate under the same terms of their previous agreement. “Both parties understand that—school boards understand that—the unions certainly understand that, so that’s another reason why there should be no alarm about teachers returning to work without a new contract," Keating says. Both Jewell and Keating say that salaries and teacher evaluations seem to be the main sticking points in the contract negotiations happening around the state.