Forced Laryngitis: The Absence of Collective Bargaining

Forced Laryngitis: The Absence of Collective Bargaining

It’s been a sunny beautiful fall in Ohio, and yet there is a storm brewing just beneath the political surface. It may not be a major election today, but the residents in Ohio are taking this election very seriously. All you have to do is look at the tree lawns with the signs “for” or “against” Issue 2 and you know that something important is happening. Issue 2 is on the ballot to repeal Senate Bill 5, a bill signed in March by Governor Kasich. The bill greatly affects public employees (teachers specifically) and their ability to negotiate over working conditions, wages and benefits.

How can teachers understand the impact of this bill?

I would encourage teachers and other voters to research the pros and cons of this bill like I did. For those who may not have time to read through extensive articles before you vote today, I summarize the issues and arguments here:

The issue:

SB 5 requires that most teachers be evaluated at least once a year and that school boards use the evaluation results to “inform” decisions about pay, non-renewal of employment contracts and termination

The argument:

For: Having more information about teachers’ performance and using it to guide these important decisions could help schools identify and retain great teachers, identify good teachers and help them improve, and identify and remove lower-performing teachers. In addition, each district can develop its own evaluation system as long as it follows certain state guidelines.

Against: A poorly designed or implemented evaluation system could ingrain favoritism and have negative effects for Ohio teachers and their students.

The issue:

SB 5 would eliminate automatic pay raises based on seniority and substitute performance pay based on a plan that is still being developed.

The argument:

For: Most teacher salaries are not directly connected to their classroom performance. By tying compensation to classroom performance, school districts will be able to identify and reward great teachers and give lower-performing teachers less of a reason to stay in the classroom.

Against: A poorly designed or implemented evaluation system could lead to unfair differences in teacher pay. And competition among teachers could lead to less collaboration among a school’s staff, which could hurt students.

The issue:

SB 5 eliminates the requirement that schools collectively bargain over wages, hours and working conditions and prohibits collective bargaining over maximum class sizes. It also allows a school board to impose a contract on employees when all else fails, and prohibits public employee strikes.

The argument:

For: The changes give school boards local decision making to control costs and determine class sizes and other working conditions.

Against: The changes remove a powerful way for teachers to shape their schools and influence their compensation and working conditions. They also remove a check on school boards’ power.

The issue:

Teacher evaluations will include student achievement data which will comprise 50% of the evaluation and salary increases will no longer included steps or credit for graduate coursework.

The argument:

For: Teachers rated exceptional by their principals will receive $5,000 bonuses. Teachers will have an opportunity to make more money and be rewarded for excellent teaching.

Against: This additional compensation is based on yearly evaluations and could change from year to year. It is not clear what the other 50% of the evaluations will be comprised of.

As I talk to teachers in many different districts around Cleveland, the climate is one of nerves and anxiety for an unclear road ahead. The lack of teacher voice in curriculum decisions, and the creation of thoughtful and supportive evaluations are at the top of the list of talk around the water cooler.

How can policymakers better serve the people they represent?

As public servants, policymakers are charged with creating a better environment for their constituents. For real change to be implemented in a successful way, policymakers need to make teacher voice an integral component in reforming state evaluations.

Teachers are pushing for change. Every teacher I speak to makes that clear. We all want to be evaluated. We want to grow and learn and absolutely want to get paid more. However, it is clear that without direct teacher voice, input, and clear explanation of and direction for the evaluation process, teachers are hesitant to put their faith in this bill.



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