Lawmaker aims to end teacher strikes, citing ‘tremendous impact’

COLUMBUS – A high-ranking state lawmaker announced plans yesterday to pursue a ban on teacher strikes, arguing public educators should fall under the same prohibition applied to firefighters and police officers.

“While the circumstances may be different, the job of Ohio’s teachers is just as critical as our public safety forces when we consider the tremendous impact they have on the lives of their students, the strength of families and, ultimately, the growth and prosperity of our economy and communities,” said state Sen. John Carey, a Republican from Wellston in southern Ohio.

Carey’s bill, slated for introduction in the next several days, would add teachers to the public safety professions banned from striking under Ohio’s collective bargaining law. They would be required, like police, fire and emergency workers, to enter into binding arbitration when they have a contract dispute.

Ohio is one of 13 states where teacher strikes still legal. The state has had 23 teacher strikes since 2000, ranking it second highest in the nation behind Pennsylvania’s 82, according to a report by the Allegheny Institute.

StopTeacherStrikes Inc., a nonprofit formed in 2006, is championing a similar push to ban teacher strikes in Pennsylvania, which has been named the Strike-Free Education Act. A web site promoting the bill features a cartoon video narrated in a child’s voice accusing lawmakers of pandering to teachers’ unions that give them large campaign contributions.

Michelle Prater, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association, said the union representing 120,000 Ohio teachers opposes Carey’s proposal.

“We recognize the value of binding arbitration in resolving differences and we highly value the mediation process that’s in place,” she said. “But under some conditions, we believe it’s critical for employees to retain the right to withhold their services.”

She said only six strikes have taken place over the past three fiscal years, despite the economic woes that have plagued the state.

“When you consider the lack of action on school funding combined with Ohio’s rising health care costs, you can imagine the financial strain that’s put on the negotiation process,” she said.

Four states have seen strikes despite state bans, and the remainder have anti-strike laws that have been followed, according to the Allegheny Institute study.