COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Schools Board of Education President Jennifer Adair said the board has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district’s teachers’ union as the teachers’ current contract is set to expire and negotiations appear to be at a standstill.
Adair, Board Member Carole Beckerle, and Board Member Christina Vera shared the filing during a press conference Wednesday evening at Clinton Elementary School.
During the press conference, Adair said the charge was filed because of misinformation put out publicly by the teachers’ union, the Columbus Education Association (CEA), about contract negotiations between the district and the union. The district recently put out a final offer on a contract.
In the complaint filed with the State Employment Relations Board, the district charges CEA with disseminating the following misinformation:
- Smaller class sizes — the union claims the district’s offer doesn’t address smaller class sizes. The board claims the proposed contract does address class sizes. Adair said the proposal does contain a phase-in of reduced class size up to the fifth grade, with high school teachers teaching no more than 150 students a day.
- Functional heating and air conditioning in classrooms — The board said that well before negotiations began with the union, it had approved funding from federal COVID-19 money to upgrade the HVAC systems in 16 schools not yet upgraded, and that those upgrades are ongoing. The union disputes that the work is being carried out.
- Recruitment and retention — The union claims the board’s offer does not include working conditions that bring in and retain the best teachers. The board said the offer includes salary increases, stipends, paid family leave, new and renovated elementary school buildings, more flexibility and time for special education teachers to write individualized educational plans (IEP), and a continuing education program.
Adair said she can speak publicly about parts of the contract covered in the charge because the unfair labor practice filing is public record. She said it’s important for the public to know that those issues, and more, are addressed in the contract.
“These are just a few of the examples of misinformation contained in our unfair labor practice charge,” Adair said. “It is disappointing the CEA is not fully transparent with its own members and the public, and the board strongly felt we needed to address this misinformation.”
CEA said in the last several days it wanted to go back to the negotiating table to discuss issues, including class size and HVAC systems.
“Instead of the district filing frivolous legal action, they should be sitting down to negotiate,” CEA President John Coneglio said Wednesday. “The board president said on live TV it was not their final final offer, so we will be waiting on dates to negotiate.”
Both sides have been in negotiations for the last several months to create a new contract in time for the 2022-2023 school year. The current contract expires Aug. 21, which is one day before teachers are due back in classrooms and three days before students return.
The filing comes on the heels of a similar unfair labor charge filed by the union against the district in early July.
CEA is scheduled to meet with its members Thursday night, where there are a few possible outcomes: vote on the district’s offer, vote to authorize a strike, or give members more time to think things over.
“It could happen tomorrow, yes, and by no means does that mean we are striking,” CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes said when asked about the possibility of a strike. “The ten-day notice is just a notice for the district to be notified that a strike is imminent and could possibly happen.”
The Columbus City Schools Board of Education met Tuesday night for the first board meeting of the 2022-2023 school year.
CEA said there is still time to negotiate before the current contract expires and students return to the classrooms.