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Why teachers from one of Ohio's largest school districts are on strike

Members of the Columbus Education Association rally earlier this summer ahead of their vote this past Sunday night to officially strike this week.
Columbus Education Association/Facebook
Members of the Columbus Education Association rally earlier this summer ahead of their vote this past Sunday night to officially strike this week.

When children in the Columbus, Ohio, education system start their school year this Wednesday, they will likely be doing so online, as the school district's nearly 4,500 teachers hit the picket lines.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, the district's unionized teachers are striking, the Columbus Education Association (CEA) announced.

On Sunday, the union voted to go on strikeafter weeks of negotiations over new contract language with Columbus City Schools went nowhere. The union says it was pushing for guaranteed air conditioning, "appropriate class sizes" and full-time art, music and physical education teachers in the city's elementary schools.

Jennifer Adair, the Board of Education president, said in a statementthat the decision by the union to strike is an "unfortunate situation" for families, the community and children.

"Our offer to CEA put children first and prioritized their education and their growth. We offered a generous compensation package for teachers and provisions that would have a positive impact on classrooms," Adair said in the statement. "Our offer was also responsive to the concerns that have been raised by CEA during the negotiations process. Our community's children are the Board's priority, and our offer reflected that fact."

The fact that students will be starting the new year with online schooling "is not ideal," Adair said. "But," she added, "we have an obligation to continue educating and supporting students despite the current circumstances."

This strike comes as schools across the U.S. are scrambling to fill vacancies brought on by a teacher shortage. The country is facing a shortage of 300,000 teachers, according to the National Education Association.

After dealing with two years of illness and disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about school safety and a feeling of lack of respect, teachers have reportedbeing burned out, demoralized and fed up.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.

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