School strikes rare; Dayton only Ohio district on verge

The last teacher strike in the Dayton area was in Huber Heights in August 2006, as teachers and other school staff walked picket lines, and schools were closed. FILE

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The last teacher strike in the Dayton area was in Huber Heights in August 2006, as teachers and other school staff walked picket lines, and schools were closed. FILE

Dayton’s teachers union is the only school union in Ohio on the verge of a strike, according to the State Employee Relations Board.

That reflects the overall trend that strikes by school staff, once fairly common in Ohio, have become very rare in recent years.

Leaders of Dayton Public Schools and the Dayton Education Association had their first mediation session in two months Thursday, going from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They’re scheduled to repeat that process Monday and Wednesday, with a strike date looming Aug. 11, just ahead of the Aug. 15 first day of school.

RELATED: Union document spells out key Dayton strike issues

Only three school unions statewide have actually gone on strike in the past eight years, according to SERB officials — Louisville (outside Canton) last November, the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg in 2014 and Strongsville, just south of Cleveland, in 2013.

By comparison, there were three Ohio strikes in the 2006-07 school year alone, including one in Huber Heights. That strike — which started on the third day of the school year — shut down Huber schools for a week, as teachers and the district argued over pay, health insurance, class size, subcontracting of jobs, and teacher planning time.

2006 STORY: Huber Heights teacher strike ends

Christine Dietsch, executive director of SERB, confirmed that the Dayton Education Association is the only school union statewide that currently has a 10-day strike notice on file with the state.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only union without a contract. Both Columbus City Schools and Greenon schools just north of Fairborn are still negotiating with their teachers after contracts expired this summer. Dayton Public Schools’ bus drivers are in the same position, and some of those unions likely will begin the new school year under the terms of the old agreements until a new deal can be reached.

That’s what happened with Dayton’s teachers in the fall of 2013, as they worked under the old deal until reaching a new contract agreement in December 2013. But Dayton teachers have used “no contract, no work” as a rallying cry this time.

RELATED: Schools uses raises, perks to compete for teachers

Dayton Superintendent Rhonda Corr maintained an optimistic stance on her way into Thursday’s mediation session.

“We’re gonna go in and negotiate today with good faith,” Corr said. “And, you know, we just need both sides to give and take a little bit and move forward because that’s what’s best for our kids.”

Reached after Thursday’s session, teachers union President David Romick had no comment other than to say they’d be back at it Monday morning. Corr said there was “some progress made,” and she was looking forward to meeting again.

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From the mid-1980s through 2009, there were only two years without at least one school strike in Ohio, and several years saw more than a half-dozen walkouts, according to SERB. Vandalia-Butler teachers were on strike for 22 days in spring of 1986, and Kettering teachers walked out for four days in 1991.

The last time Dayton teachers went on strike was March of 1993, a strike that lasted 16 days.

Area school strikes

Aug. 2006 – Huber Heights for 7 days

March 1993 – Dayton for 16 days

Jan. 1991 – Kettering for 4 days

March 1986 – Vandalia-Butler for 22 days

Source: State Employee Relations Board

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