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Youngstown teachers vote to strike on the first day of school

Dom Ernest L. Gomez
Students in Youngstown schools may not see teachers on their scheduled first day of the year. The teachers union voted to strike after talks with the district broke down.

The Youngstown City School District's teachers union has voted to strike starting on Wednesday, the first day of classes for a new school year.

The union's membership voted "overwhelmingly" late Monday afternoon after an hour and a half of negotiations with the school district's bargaining team, said Jim Courim, spokesperson for the Youngstown Education Association.

"The school board has had the ability and the power to end this labor dispute months ago, and they have one more opportunity to tomorrow at their board meeting at 4:30 (p.m.)," he said.

The teachers and administration are not seeing eye-to-eye on contract language, Courim said in an interview Monday evening after the vote. He declined to specify exactly what the disputed language is.

Courim said wages are "always" part of negotiations, but said the central conflict is "not about the amount this time, it's about contract language so that we have a fair contract where everybody is playing by the same rules."

Teachers are not feeling heard by the administration, Courim said.

"We would like to have a voice in the interventions that our students receive because we're with our students every day, and we know best how they learn," he said. "Unfortunately, our voices are not taken into consideration when discussing the extra math or English help that they receive, (or) the extra literacy help that they receive. "

As of Monday evening, the school district had not yet responded to a request for comment.

Superintendent Jeremy Batchelor said earlier this month that the school district and union did see eye-to-eye on a number of things, including health insurance and some administrative policy changes. He also said that the district offered an across-the-board 2% raise, but is willing to negotiate to get common ground, alleging the union is seeking a 5.5% raise.

Courim called that 5.5% number a "lie" and said that the union has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the school district for saying as much to the media.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.