Hundreds of teachers and their supporters streamed through downtown Columbus on Wednesday demanding lower class sizes, higher pay and an end to tax incentives for local developers.
The teachers’ union for Columbus City Schools, which represents some 4,300 employees, is working on a new contract with the district. Columbus Education Association president John Coneglio argues offering property tax breaks to major companies saps money that could go to the classroom.
“Time and time again, when educators bring these issues up – whether it is at the bargaining table, at the building level or with city leaders we are told there is no money,” Coneglio said to boos from the crowd. “Take a moment to look around—does it look like there is no money?”
Coneglio took particular aim at CoverMyMeds, a Columbus-based health care software company that was acquired in 2017 for $1.3 billion. Coneglio says CoverMyMeds and its downtown headquarters will avoid more than $50 million in property taxes thanks to the abatement it received from the city.
“We cannot continue to return time and time again to individual taxpayers to shoulder the burden of funding our schools while the richest among us don’t help push the cart,” Coneglio says.
— Nick Evans (@nckevns) April 24, 2019
Because schools relying on property tax receipts, Coneglio argues those incentives aren’t sustainable.
“Columbus City Schools estimates that from 2000 to 2016, they lost over $148 million in property tax revenue to abatements alone, and that was before CoverMyMeds,” he says.
The teachers union’s current contract expires August 18, the first day of classes. In a statement, the school district said it would not comment while negotiations are ongoing but that it respects the union’s right to march and it’s pleased organizers are “focusing on what our students deserve.”