DAYTON, Ohio – Teachers in the Dayton, Ohio school district are holding the education of learning disabled students hostage as a negotiation tactic for a pay raise that taxpayers can’t afford.

With less than a week until school starts, members of the Dayton Education Association are threatening to head to the picket lines instead of their classrooms if officials with Dayton Public Schools don’t comply with their demands.

According to the Dayton Daily News:

Some teachers are wearing buttons that say, “I don’t want to strike, but I will,” as the union pushes for higher pay, better counselor/librarian staffing, and retention of teacher planning time, among other issues.

The contract negotiations between the DEA and DPS has dragged on for seven months, most recently with two full-day mediation sessions last week and another scheduled for today.

DEA officials, meanwhile, are threatening to call a teachers strike on Friday if the two sides don’t ink a deal by Thursday night.

Dayton schools are scheduled to start classes on Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Union president David Romick wants district officials to levy a new tax on area residents to fund teacher raises and hire more counselors and librarians, which of course would become dues paying members of the DEA.

Romick alleges taxpayers would “get that money back in the end” because the increased quality of local schools would draw businesses to the area and boost the tax base.

District officials are less enthused about banking on hypotheticals, with DPS Superintendent Rhonda Corr insisting that taxpayers can’t afford all of the union’s expensive demands, the Daily News reports.

The situation has left school leaders scrambling to locate substitute teachers in the event the DEA follows through on its strike threat, but there’s one group of students who would be in a particularly bad spot if educators take to the picket lines.

Some parents of the nearly 3,000 Dayton students with learning disabilities are speaking out to highlight how the union’s standoff will spell doom for their children if district officials are unable to locate enough qualified teachers for their specialized classes, WKEF reports.

“Obviously, you want the right people in the right places taking care of children such as my son,” Bobby Koze said.

Koze’s sophomore son Nicholas is autistic and relies heavily on specially trained Meadowdale High School teachers to help him cope with his condition.

“If you get someone in there that has no qualifications whatsoever, that’s bad,” he said.

Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton told WKEF administrators are trying their best to locate qualified individuals to help with special needs classes. If they can’t, those students will end up in regular classes, she said.

“As much as possible we’re going to try to address the needs of our special needs students,” Burton said.

The push to find substitutes is aimed at avoiding an extended school year because state law requires schools to provide a minimum number of instructional days. Without enough subs, district officials could be forced to make other arrangements to make up for the lost time, school attorney Jyllian Bradshaw said.

“Depending on the length of the strike you’re talking about extra days on the end of the year or extra hours added onto the day,” she said.

The situation is leaving parents like Koze to pray that the DEA comes to its senses and puts students ahead of its own self interests.

“The teachers, we depend on them. As parents, we rely on them to educate our kids whether you have autism or not,” he said. “The children are the ones that suffer the most, because without educators how are they going to get educated?”

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