Earlier last week we travelled to Louisville, a small community of about 10,000 near Canton. As of today the Louisville teachers have been on strike for 12 days. The primary diver for the strike is a board, buckling to outside corporate influence, insisting that test scores be tied to careers.
Sadly, the board refuses to meet, and has gone into hiding.
On Thursday, November 10, 2016 Senator Sherrod Brown reached out to both the Louisville Education Association (LEA) and the Louisville Board of Education, imploring that both groups return to the bargaining table for the sake of the community and the sake of the parties. The LEA responded verbally to the Senator’s office that they were both ready and willing to return to negotiate. Later that same day, the Louisville Education Association extended another invitation to the Board of Education asking them to return to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith, in the hopes that if the parties meet, they can get this crisis resolved and the teachers of the LEA would be able to return to the classroom, where they most want to be caring for and educating the children of Louisville. To date, the LEA has received no response.
In addition to a complete lack of response to the LEA, leaders in the Louisville parent, religious and governmental groups have reached out to both parties to present a forum in which both parties can meet – the LEA accepted every invitation, while the Board of Education refused. Moreover, the Louisville Board of Education has cancelled their November meeting, and is not planning on meeting publicly until December. In addition, the Stark County ESC had a Board meeting scheduled for Sunday, November 13, 2016. They re-located the meeting to Columbus last week, then ended up cancelling that meeting late Saturday with no explanation.
LEA Spokesperson Angela Emmons states “the Louisville Board of Education, Superintendent Shaffer, and their attorney, Mary Jo Slick continue to ignore all attempts from the LEA to have meaningful negotiations. We have made numerous attempts to contact them, and all attempts remain unanswered. It is our belief that the Board of Education has an obligation to meet with the LEA and work to facilitate an end to the strike. The Board members who were elected by this community are refusing to fulfill their duties to Louisville, and instead have seemingly engendered themselves to the will of the Stark County Educational Service Center. We remain willing to meet, it is our belief that the parties can resolve this strike in a manner that would be acceptable to all involved, and most importantly would enable the LEA to return to the classroom, and to resume the education of our students.”
While the board hides, many students in this small community are staying home according to information provided to reporters at the Canton Rep.
According to a district spokeswoman, Monday student attendance rates were:
• 64 percent at Louisville High School, which is slightly higher than Friday.
• 67 percent at Louisville Middle School, which is higher than Friday.
• 68 percent at North Nimishillen Elementary, which is the significantly higher than Friday.
• 80 percent at Louisville Elementary students, which is significantly higher than Friday.
While we walked the picket lines and talked with educators, it was abundantly clear that the community support was behind the teachers. Parents and students joined the lines, and passing traffic continually showed support throughout the day.
The Louisville Board of Education owes it to their community to resist the failed corporate agenda being pushed by outsiders and instead join their teachers at the bargaining table so that students can get back to learning, and a small community in Northern Ohio can limit the damage prolonged strikes cause.
You can follow daily developments and show your support to the Louisville teachers via their Facebook page.