COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Negotiations between Ohio’s largest school district and its teachers’ union have stalled once again, with both Columbus City Schools and the Columbus Education Association (CEA) expressing frustration with Wednesday’s lack of progress.
The two sides, along with a federal mediator, met for a good part of the morning and early afternoon Wednesday in hopes of coming to an agreement before the start of the school year in less than two weeks.
Following Wednesday’s meeting, the board claimed the union did not present a comprehensive counteroffer while union leaders said it presented a comprehensive non-economic package.
In addition to not reaching an agreement, both sides did not schedule any further bargaining sessions.
“We are extraordinarily disappointed about today’s bargaining session,” said CCS school board president Jennifer Adair. “While we came to the table ready to negotiate and ready to consider a comprehensive counter to the Board’s offer, CEA has not responded in good faith.”
“It is disappointing in the fact that you know we offered them a comprehensive non-economic package and they did not respond to it at all,” said CEA President John Coneglio. “So we did offer them something. The only thing that they said to us was back to their final offer.”
CEA voted unanimously on Aug. 4 to authorize a 10-day strike notice. A few days later, the board said it preparing “alternative outcomes” should a strike happen.
According to the union, some of the sticking points in the contract include HVAC issues in district schools, recruiting and retaining teachers, and smaller class sizes.
“It is impossible to bargain when the other side is not contributing to the conversion,” Adair said. “These are the same behaviors outlined in the unfair labor practice charge we filed. Today was our 20th bargaining season since March. We are ready and willing to meet as many times as it takes to reach an agreement, providing that CEA is ready to have productive conversations.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the first time the two sides met for negotiations since the district offered what it called its final offer on July 29.
“What we need to focus on is getting a fair contract right, but it is my job, it’s incumbent upon me to make sure that our union is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary and so right now, I want to concentrate on bargaining,” Coneglio said.
CEA leadership said on Thursday that it will be filing a notice to strike with the State Employment Relations Board, the next step the union needs to take to prepare for a strike.
Coneglio said CEA plans another mass meeting on Aug. 21, the day the current teachers’ contract expires, to discuss the next steps regarding a potential strike. The first day for students is Aug. 24.