The decision to strike is never easy. As educators, we dedicate ourselves to our students and our schools. Being a teacher is a huge part of our identity, and something we are proud of. So many teachers invest countless hours and dollars out of our own pockets, above and beyond the call of duty. And we do it happily, because we believe in making a difference in our students’ lives. A strike is an absolute last resort. Unfortunately, we’re down to our last resort.
Normally, the first thought about a labor dispute is that it is about salary and benefits. That really isn’t the case in Reynoldsburg. This is about what is the best learning environment for our students and giving our students, our parents, and our community the schools they deserve.
Here in Reynoldsburg, we have more students in our district now than we’ve ever had. We also have fewer educational programs available to our students due to cuts that the Board made. This has translated into bigger and bigger class sizes. We all know that study after study proves that smaller class sizes are better for student learning. Teachers can spend more time working with and actually teaching students. A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch showed that many districts right here in central Ohio have limits on class sizes. If it works, and it’s commonly accepted, why can’t our Board agree to it? Clearly, the Board is not looking at the facts and not listening to the community that has repeatedly asked for class size caps.
In addition to class sizes, we know that stability and consistency among educators improve student performance. This year, we had 20% of the teachers in our district leave. That is unacceptable. Families move to Reynoldsburg for the quality of our schools. Our students graduate, get jobs, and stay in Reynoldsburg because of our schools. However, the quality of our schools suffers with high turnover like this. Students benefit when they know their teachers year-to-year, and the teachers can see the continued development of the students. Plus, the community benefits from having quality teachers stay in the district and become reliable and active members of the community. With the way the Board has treated teachers, it’s no wonder teachers leave after a short time here. Teachers are better appreciated at nearby districts that get it. Again, the Board is not looking at the facts and they are not listening to us.
But don’t be fooled, what we’re fighting here in Reynoldsburg is not limited to our district. We’ve seen “competition” get introduced into education with the expansion of charter schools and vouchers. There has been a rush to rely more and more on high-stakes standardized testing and a push for greater “efficiency” in our schools with greater class sizes, lower teacher pay and fewer teachers that has played out across Ohio and the country.
We believe that public education is the great equalizer in our society. We take any and all students, and give them the tools they need for their lives. We are not a factory that produces widgets, we’re educators that prepare human beings for the rest of their lives. There is no one, standard approach for that. We take our students as they are, and we love them for who they are – human beings, not products or raw materials. We are thrilled for our students’ success, and we feel the pain of their setbacks. And I have yet to find a standardized test that measures a teacher’s heart!
We’re going on strike because the Reynoldsburg Board of Education has not listened to us, not listened to our community, and not listened to our students.
We believe our students and our community deserve to have the best schools. We believe that we should be providing the best learning environment for our students. We believe that educational decisions should be based on fact, and not driven by blind allegiance to any ideology. And, we deserve to have our voices heard when it comes to our area of expertise – education.
We are fighting for the future of public education and the schools that Reynoldsburg students and our community deserve. But, our fight is only just beginning, there is more work to be done, and we need your help. We are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support we’ve received from the students, parents, and community, but we have to keep fighting. Keep showing up to Board meetings and office hours. Keep asking questions that you deserve the answers to. Keep calling and emailing the Board and Superintendent. We’re striking now for the future of our students.
By Kathy Evans, Reynoldsburg Education Association