As a teacher strike keeps Columbus students out of the classroom in the first week of the school year, advocates for Christian education are advertising private school choice on five billboards around the city.
The signs, in all caps, read, “Columbus City Schools Locks Kids Out … Again,” referencing long periods during which schools were closed in response to COVID-19. The ads, placed by the Columbus-based Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), let passersby know that various Ohio school-choice programs are available to families, particularly low-income ones. CCV is encouraging interested parents to visit backpackbill.com/columbus to learn about these opportunities.
The center particularly emphasizes the availability of EdChoice scholarships. Most Columbus families fall under 250 percent of the federal poverty level, qualifying them for EdChoice. According to the Backpack Bill webpage, 10 Christian schools in Columbus of various grade levels accept these scholarships.
CCV indicated it may purchase more billboard ads if the teachers continue striking. Aaron Baer, the group’s president, castigated the school district and the Columbus Education Association CEA which represents the public school teachers for failing to bring students back into the classroom for the start of the school year.
“Columbus City Schools [CCS] have reached a new low,” Baer said in a statement. “After everything children have endured for the last three years, from being locked out of school under the guise of ‘safety protocols’ to being subjected to failing educational standards, now the schools have kicked kids out yet again, mere days before they were to report to class.”
The CEA has pushed for a number of contractual stipulations to be affirmed before teachers go back into the classroom. Those include reduced class sizes; improved classroom air conditioning and heating; full-time gym, music and art teachers at elementary schools; and firmer limits on the number of class periods per school day.
Beginning on Wednesday, CCS students will undergo remote schooling according to the district’s alternative opening plan.
“Despite the current situation with our teachers on strike, I am excited to welcome our students back, even if virtually for the time being,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said in a statement regarding the impasse.
CCV is not optimistic about how remote learning this year will go for students subject to it. The organization notes that CCS utilized that approach heavily during the pandemic and resultantly saw a nearly 75-percent absenteeism rate.
“If there’s one lesson we learned during the pandemic, it is that there is no such thing in CCS as ‘remote learning.’ There may be ‘remote teaching’ but no actual learning is happening,” Baer said.
Baer added he found it galling that CCS is failing to open its schools while complaining of supposed underfunding and meanwhile joining the leftist nonprofits Vouchers Hurt Ohio and Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding in suing to end private school choice in the Buckeye State.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “CCS needs to drop their lawsuit and the Ohio General Assembly needs to fix our broken education scheme by funding students, not systems, and passing the Backpack Bill.”
The district has advised that a federal mediator will oversee the resumption of bargaining on Wednesday.
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