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Columbus teachers approve new three-year contract to end strike

 Parents and teachers mingle outside Weiland Park Elementary School on Monday, August 29. Teachers voted Sunday evening to end their strike, and board members approved the contract Monday morning.
Matthew Rand
Columbus Education Association members held signs outside of the Columbus Board of Education on July 27, 2022.

Updated, August 29, 2022, 8:27 AM ET

Columbus teachers have approved a new three-year labor deal to end the strike that started last week. The Columbus school board approved the new contract on Monday morning to allow teachers and students to return to the classroom on the same day.

The contract guarantees that all student learning areas will be climate controlled by the start of the 2025-2026 school year. The condition of many buildings’ HVAC systems was among the biggest sticking point in negotiations between the Columbus Education Association and the Columbus Board of Education.

The contract also includes the first-ever limitations on the number of buildings assigned to each elementary art, music and P.E. teacher, with scheduling intended for one specialist per subject area per building. The contract says no teachers shall ever be assigned to more than two buildings.

"This is not just Columbus, Ohio, they need to put more of an investment in our students, because they are the most important investment in this entire nation. It starts here, but we want to keep it going," CEA spokeswoman Regina Fuentes said to reporters after the vote.

The new contract also gives teachers 4 % pay raises for each of the next three years, but does not make any substantial changes to teacher health care plans.

"We understand teacher salary is an important issue and that teachers are underpaid across this country. However, we started with a mission to serve our students. We are ending today with a mission to serve our students," Fuentes said.

Seventy-nine percent of teachers approve the pact while 21% percent of union members voted against the new contract.

Speaking at a press conference after the vote, school board president Jennifer Adair thanked teachers.

"The teachers are not wrong in what they are speaking about the Board of Education is working on those things,” Adair said. “We've been, you know, implementing plans since 2019. And now it's time for the community to step up.”

The teachers’ union voted last Sunday evening to go on strike, launching the first Columbus teachers’ strike since 1975. The new school year started last Wednesday, with students forced to learn remotely. The first day of classes was marred by technical problems that prevented many students from logging in to classes.

Negotiators for the union and school board met more than 20 times between March and August before teachers went out on strike. The negotiations included complaints of negotiating in bad faith and unfair labor tactics.

Matthew Rand is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.
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.