COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Board of Education has delivered a final offer to its teachers’ union after four months of contract negotiations.
Columbus City Schools said in an email Thursday that its Board extended a final offer to the Columbus Education Association, a union that represents 4,500 educators — one day after hundreds of CEA members rallied outside the District’s Downtown headquarters to urge the Board to schedule additional bargaining sessions to continue negotiations about working conditions and school funding.
“As a former CCS teacher and Columbus Education Association member, I firmly believe the final offer we have extended to CEA is fair, comprehensive, and respectful,” Board of Education member Carol Beckerle said in a statement. “It aligns with our Goals and Guardrails to ensure our students are prepared for the future.”
The District did not share specific details of the offer but said several key issues were addressed, including salary increases that exceed the state and national average, new leave benefits unique to the District and “creative opportunities” for teachers’ professional development.
CEA President John Coneglio said in a social media post that the union will not accept “take it or leave it” bargaining and informed a federal mediator that the union’s members wish to continue negotiations.
The final contract offer comes a day after CEA and the District had what Coneglio called a productive 12-hour bargaining session where they narrowed their list of outstanding issues by eight proposals.
“In the only joint session of the day, lasting exactly one minute, the Board’s team declared they were done with bargaining, handed us what they termed a final offer and immediately walked out of the building,” Coneglio said. “With nearly a full month before the expiration of our contract, the Board is trying to dictate to us rather than negotiate with us.”
Other items Coneglio said he would like to see in the contract include smaller class sizes, increased access to music, arts and physical education, and ensuring all school buildings have proper heating and cooling systems.
“We’re fighting for not only our working conditions but our students’ learning conditions,” he said. “So the district is completely missing the boat, and so I think that’s frustrating on our end to sit there and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re going to offer you some money and have a good day — we’re not going to talk about things that are important to kids.'”
In its statement Thursday, the district said it is using federal funding to update HVAC systems in the 16 school buildings that do not have building-wide air conditioning. By the time its summer projects are completed, only three non-fully air-conditioned buildings, out of 113 total buildings, will remain.
The District has plans in the future, according to spokesperson Jacqueline Bryant, to incorporate air conditioning to the remaining buildings.
“This final offer reflects the Board’s belief that our teachers are essential to the success of our students,” Beckerle said.
For Coneglio, the Board’s decision to hand down a final offer represents its willingness to “walk away from the schools Columbus students deserve,” he said.
“With the Board refusing to schedule negotiations dates in August,” the CEA said on Tuesday, “it’s quite possible our membership will vote to recommend authorization of the issuance of a 10-day strike notice.”
CEA is expected to vote on whether to issue a strike notice at its next meeting on Thursday, Aug. 4. The current three-year contract between the District and CEA is set to expire on Sunday, Aug. 21, three days before the first day of school.