New teachers' contract averts strike

The CH-UH City School District Board of Education (BOE) has approved a new contract for the teachers’ union, averting a strike by teachers. [To view the contract, go to this link:]

Following an all-night negotiation session that began Dec. 1, a tentative agreement was reached between the BOE and the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union, early in the morning of Dec. 2—the date the union had intended to begin its strike. The union voted on Dec. 3 to ratify the agreement, with 94-percent approval. 

As the final step [in the agreement], BOE members unanimously approved the contract during its regular meeting on Dec. 8. (BOE Member Malia Lewis was not present, due to an excused absence.)

“I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement that’s more sustainable for the long term. Both sides worked hard and were able to ultimately agree on important compromises and meet in the middle,” said BOE President Jodi Sourini. “We are thrilled to be able to move forward united for our students.”

The ratified agreement covers the 2020–21 and 2021–22 school years. Teachers will receive their steps (salary increases for years of service to the district, and for additional education) this year and next, with a 1-percent increase in base salary next year.

Effective March 1, 2021, employee health care premium contributions will be tiered at 9-, 10-, or 11-percent of the monthly premium cost, with those employees at the lower pay range contributing slightly less (9 percent) than those at the higher pay ranges (who will contribute 10 or 11 percent).

Other key points of the agreement include:

  • Moving from $0 deductible and $0 out-of-pocket in the medical insurance plan design, to $100 single/$200 family deductibles, and $500 single/$1,000 family out-of-pocket, in addition to co-pays and prescription-pay adjustments.
  • Additional flexibility for several workdays in the academic calendar.
  • Elimination of the 1-percent State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) pickup by the BOE, with that now being the responsibility of teachers’ union members. For 2020–21, teachers will receive a $500 stipend to help ease the impact of the STRS change.

During the meeting, board members discussed what district leaders and public-school advocates agree is the root cause of the district’s financial losses and strained negotiations: EdChoice laws and inequitable school funding in Ohio.

“It is unfortunate that [this contract] is a response to the misaligned priorities of our state leadership in Columbus,” said BOE Member Dan Heintz.

The CH-UH district lost $7 million last year, and expects to lose more than $9 million this year due to the way EdChoice vouchers are funded in Ohio. 

“We will continue to testify in front of state lawmakers, provide Heights residents with information and ways to support fair school-funding legislation, and work closely with our advocacy partners, such as the Heights Coalition for Public Education,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby.

In a Dec. 4 public statement, the Cleveland Heights Teachers’ Union said, “We are committed to unite with our board and administration to fight against the harmful EdChoice voucher deductions that have been breaking our district’s budget and making it harder for us to give our students the education they deserve.”

Cathan Cavanaugh

Cathan Cavanaugh is supervisor of communications for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.

Read More on Schools
Volume 14, Issue 1, Posted 12:03 PM, 12.13.2020