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With Columbus teachers strike, backers of vouchers urge parents to enroll kids in charter schools

A billboard in downtown Columbus erected by Citizens for Christian Virtue to try to persuade Columbus City School parents to enroll their children in voucher schools while Columbus City School teachers are on strike against the district.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A billboard in downtown Columbus erected by Citizens for Christian Virtue to try to persuade Columbus City School parents to enroll their children in voucher schools while Columbus City School teachers are on strike against the district.

As teachers in Columbus City Schools walk the picket line with megaphones and strike signs, an influential group, that backs the idea of using taxpayer vouchers to attend private schools, is posting billboards to try to persuade parents in the district to move their kids out of the public school system.

The Center for Christian Virtue sees the strike as a chance to expand the use of vouchers and push the "backpack" bill, legislation that would, if passed, allow any Ohio student to use taxpayer-paid vouchers for private/charter schools.
Five billboards have been put up within the district's attendance areas to give parents more information about EdChoice voucher schools, Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, said.

Baer said children in the district are being harmed by the strike, which is now on its second day. He said both the schools and its teachers who are represented by Columbus Education Association, have fundamentally failed students.

“These schools are hitting kids while they are down. After all kids have been through, being blocked out of their schools for years, and having just failed attempts at remote teaching, the fact that they would strike now is the ultimate blow to kids," Baer said.

He said students in Columbus City Schools were already suffering from a lack of learning during the pandemic when buildings closed and students were left to attend classes virtually.

“After everything children have endured for the last three years, from being locked out of school under the guise of ‘safety protocols’ to being subjected to failing educational standards, now the schools have kicked kids out yet again, mere days before they were to report to class," Baer said.

Baer said his group will be purchasing more billboards in the future if the strike persists.

Calls placed to CEA and Columbus City Schools for comment have not yet been returned. But Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, called the Center for Christian Virtue's action "despicable."

"I think it is taking advantage of a situation to try to line their own pockets. What we all need to be doing is supporting the teachers in working with the district to try to get a fair contract and to make sure we get good teaching and learning conditions for every school in the Columbus school district and not try to siphon off students into a different type of school system. So I'm really disgusted by this and I hope that people won't fall for this ploy," Cropper said.

Cropper said it's important to remember why teachers are on strike.

"Teachers care deeply. That's why they are fighting for issues such as good heating, cooling, ventilation systems in the schools, smaller class sizes so students can get more attention, music, P.E. (physical education) and art teachers in every elementary school. These are all things that directly effect students and have a long term impact that students will have the opportunities that children will be able to have," Cropper said.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.