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Teacher strike talks to resume

Negotiators to meet today, Thursday, Friday

YOUNGSTOWN — Talks are scheduled to resume between the Youngstown City School District and Youngstown Education Association.

YEA spokesman Jim Courim said the district has set aside 14 hours over the next three days for negotiations.

The union will meet with district representatives today from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, and on Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. All meetings will be held at East High School.

The district, through its spokeswoman, on Tuesday declined to comment on the new negotiations.

The union voted to strike Aug. 21 and teachers have been on the picket line since Aug. 23, the day school was supposed to begin. Instead, the district has opened the school year with online classes, which began Friday.

Also on Friday, the State Employment Relations Board ruled that the teachers’ strike is legal, something the school district disputed in its filing with the board earlier in the week. On Friday evening, following that ruling, the board of education held a special meeting, mostly in executive session, after which they stated that they intended to resume talks with the union.

The YEA says the sticking point is contract language from 2012 that required an academic distress commission to sign off on any contractual terms between the district and union. The commission gained more control when the state took over the district under House Bill 70.

Courim said the board has interpreted the language to mean that the YEA has not leverage through its contract and that Superintendent Jeremy Batchelor can unilaterally determine student learning and teacher working conditions without any “check and balance.”

On July 1, 2022, new laws went into effect that nullified HB 70; however, the commission still exists and will not be dissolved unless the district meets at least a majority of the academic benchmarks in its academic improvement plan by the end of the implementation period. Still, the union maintains that the new laws returned all governing and negotiating power to the Board of Education, which gives the board the authority to strike the disputed language from the contract through collective bargaining.

Courim said the strike will end as soon as the language is removed from the contract, but only then.

“We want to get a deal done so we can teach our kids,” Courim said. “But if (the board) refuses to negotiate, it will be difficult.”

dpompili@vindy.com

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