In Strongsville, Ohio - an upper middle class suburb southwest of Cleveland, where the student test scores have the highest ranking assigned by the state - the teachers have been out on strike since March 4.
On April 2, as the strike entered its fifth week, hundreds of teachers and supporters - joined by teachers from other parts of the state - picketed and demonstrated in front of the board of education building, and then marched down to the town square, where they were addressed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Strongsville Education Association President Tracy Linscott stated that the issues are not monetary, but involve contract language covering areas critical to actually educating children and class size. The board has refused to negotiate honestly, and in one 10-hour-and-50-minute session last week, did not offer movement on any issues. They have hired a security firm and scab labor from out of state, at a cost currently approaching $2 million.
The Republican dominated state legislature, and GOP Gov. John Kasich, have led a campaign to destroy public education by breaking teachers unions, and diverting public funds to private, non-union, charter schools. In 2011, the administration passed a law known as SB5, which severely limited the power of public unions to negotiate. This bill was soundly defeated by referendum in the fall election of 2011, and at least one picket sign observed the board is continuing the agenda of SB5.
Yesterday, the Association made an offer of binding interest arbitration to the board to settle the strike immediately, but it was rejected. A federal mediator has scheduled a meeting for this morning.
Sen. Brown - speaking to a crowd then exceeding 1,000 people - said the students deserve a settlement, and that he will be in contact with the board.
The teachers - not accustomed to striking - have closed ranks and stand united and strong: they stand together for the future of high quality public education.
The board's agenda is unknown but opposing the union appears to have a higher priority than providing that quality education.
Photo: Strongsville students show their support for the striking teachers. Strongsville Education Association Facebook page