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Columbus Teachers Plan Downtown March Amid Contract Talks

John Coneglio is the new president of the Columbus Education Association, which is negotiating for a new contract this year.
Columbus Education Association
John Coneglio is the new president of the Columbus Education Association, which is negotiating for a new contract this year.

Members of the Columbus teachers’ union say they’ll march through downtown next week to protest the city’s property tax abatement policy.

A Facebook post by the Columbus Education Association says the march will start Wednesday, April 24 at 11 a.m. at 379 West Broad Street.

Property tax abatements are often given to corporations and developers to entice them to build inside the city. Union leaders say between 2000 and 2016, the tax breaks cost Columbus City Schools more than $148 million.

“I think that drains the schools of the resources they need. And it also then asks for the burden of the schools to go onto the individual taxpayers,” new union president John Coneglio recently told WOSU.

The march comes as union and district officials negotiate a new contract to replace the current deal that expires in August. Besides changes to abatements, other union demands include higher pay for teachers and smaller class sizes.

The union’s tougher stance on teacher contract talks follows a string of teacher walkouts throughout the country. In February 2018, West Virginia teachers took to the picket lines and received an immediate 5 percent pay hike.

Tax abatements have long been a point of contention between activists and city leaders. A city-funded study released in 2017 showed the program raised property values, but was too generous in already-flush neighborhoods like the Short North, for which residents have long criticized the city.

City leaders defend the use of abatements as a valuable tool to keep Columbus competitive for developments. Last year, the city approved changes to the abatement model to start targeting property tax breaks to less-developed areas, and to encourage builders to include affordable housing units in developments.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.