A small school district in northeastern Ohio holds the record for the longest unbroken walkout ever by U.S. teachers.
Teachers in the inner-ring Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights struck on the first day of the 2002-03 school year and stayed out for 62 days. The 3,600-student district kept schools open by hiring substitute teachers.
In the dispute, the Maple Heights Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, asked for a substantial pay hike and better working conditions. By most measures, teachers were the lowest paid in the area. District leaders said the school system, which had failed to win voter approval for any tax increases over nine years, didn’t have the money.
The strike ended after the intervention of a U.S. congresswoman and a state senator, who helped reach a settlement.
In the next 12 months, voters approved a school levy and elected three newcomers backed by the teachers’ union to the five-member school board.
The following year, the district’s longtime superintendent retired. The board hired a 37-year-old Ohio principal of the year in his place.
Meanwhile, Maple Heights fell to the lowest rung of Ohio’s school rankings.
The teachers’ contract is up at the end of this school year, but under the terms of the current pact, the parties must submit to binding arbitration if they cannot agree during negotiations.