Through strikes and lawsuits, several education unions are starting to take action against their districts ahead of the new school year.
On Sunday night, 94% of Columbus Education Association members in Ohio voted to go on strike effective Monday for the first time since 1975. The union represents nearly 4,500 teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists and other education professionals in Columbus City Schools. School is to begin there Wednesday, which the district now plans as a fully remote learning day because of the strike.
The union is striking for smaller class sizes, full-time art, music and physical education teachers at the elementary level, and functional heating and air-conditioning in classrooms, according to a CEA news release. Additionally, CEA cited disagreement with the district’s board over adequate planning time, limits on the number of class periods, outsourcing of positions to private for-profit companies, and how to retain and recruit educators.
The decision to strike follows after months of negotiations between CEA and the board of education, said Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon in a message to families on Monday. Like the board and district leaders, "teachers want what is best for our students," Dixon said.
“However, with our teachers on strike, we will be starting the school year on Wednesday with online learning — an unfortunate and less than ideal situation,” Dixon said. “It is my hope that we are able to come to a resolution quickly and get all of our students back in their classrooms with their teachers as soon as possible."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Educators (and our students) deserve more. We deserve better.— Becky Pringle (@BeckyPringle) August 22, 2022
I stand proud with @ColumbusEA as they strike for the resources they need so that they can give their students their very best. #ColumbusStudentsDeserve pic.twitter.com/xEnHqisjbU
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Philadelphia School District maintenance, custodial and transportation employees voted to authorize a strike just about a week before school is scheduled to start on Aug. 29. Members of 32BJ Service Employees International Union District 1201 said their demands for fair pay and standardized training programs have not been met as their contract is set to expire Aug. 31, according to ABC 6.
In a letter to district families on Monday, Philadelphia School Superintendent Tony Watlington said this vote does not mean the union will definitely go on strike, and the earliest they could do so would be Sept. 1.
“We deeply value the work of our staff who are represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201. We continue to actively participate in conversations and negotiations to secure a new contract as soon as possible,” Watlington wrote. “We hope to do so without disruption to in-person learning as we begin the new school year.”
And on Thursday, the Becker Education Association in Minnesota filed a lawsuit against the Becker Public School District over a school board policy that “bars educators, as a condition of employment, from offering anything other than ‘positive’ communications to people who are not employed by the district,” according to a statement by Education Minnesota, with which the local union is affiliated.
The lawsuit alleges the policy, adopted in May, violates the free speech provision in the state constitution and state laws. The suit was filed in Sherburne County District Court, according to the statewide union.
“We disagree with the claims and assertions being made in those filings, and believe the lawsuit misconstrues the purpose and effect of language in the School District’s plan,” said Becker Public School Superintendent Jeremy Schmidt in a statement to KARE-11.