Thursday, February 09, 2012

Kasich's backdoor SB 5 plan for public schools to wipe out seniority and take away other negotiated benefits

From John Curry, February 9, 2012
Will educators fall for it? Will the public even care since it doesn't affect firefighters or police?
Plan to overhaul public schools similar to SB5

By Laura A. Bischoff, Columbus Bureau
February 9, 2012
(Click image to enlarge.)

COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich loves Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s ambitious plan to overhaul the city’s failing public schools, but its chances of being a statewide model may rest with its similarities to the failed Senate Bill 5 collective bargaining plan.

“Certainly, Senate Bill 5 poses a real challenge to this because many of provisions of this were also in Senate Bill 5,” said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “I would love to try some of this stuff in Dayton. It’s just not the right time.”

In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Kasich said, “I’m counting on Cleveland to deliver the goods.”

Kasich continued: “We can change urban education in Ohio and change the urban education in America. And that is worth fighting for and risking for.”

Kasich said he would work with Jackson, a Democrat, on the reform plan.

The plan calls for state law changes to give the district more autonomy, eliminate seniority as the sole factor for employee layoffs or assignments, require differentiated pay to attract talented teachers and principals, mandate that Cleveland schools and unions begin future contract negotiations without carryover items from previous agreements, and provide targeted funding for year-round schools, high-performing charter schools and other initiatives.

It begs the question: Is this something Kasich would like to see spread to other urban districts such as Dayton, Springfield and Middletown?

Kasich Press Secretary Rob Nichols on Wednesday declined to discuss details of any upcoming education reform efforts and said Kasich’s policy team is digging into Jackson’s plan. And the governor was short on details about what the Cleveland plan might mean for other urban school districts.

The governor told his audience Tuesday that state leaders need to analyze successful models, such as high-performing charter schools in Cleveland and Wells Academy in Steubenville where elementary school students scored the highest in the state on achievement tests. “We need to study them, find out what works, be data-driven and do it,” he said.

Lehner called Cleveland’s plan “very bold and innovative” and said the parts of it that closely mirror SB 5 were provisions that polled well with Ohio voters even though they didn’t like the entire bill.

“The challenge here is to get people to understand this isn’t just a rerun of Senate Bill 5,” she said. “This takes the best of Senate Bill 5. It doesn’t touch any of the other public employees. It doesn’t touch a lot of the other things they didn’t like about Senate Bill 5.”

David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association, said he would rather rely on open communication at a local level than changes in state law.

“We are improving,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s a product of the relationship between the union and management.”

Dayton Schools scored “continuous improvement” on the state report card and beat the statewide high school graduation rate by a hair, though it doesn’t meet the statewide standard of 90 percent. Overall, the district met two of 26 statewide standards.

That performance easily beat the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, which Jackson quite openly says is a mess.

According to his plan, the district is in academic watch, has a 63 percent high school graduation rate, only 43 percent of fifth-graders tested proficient in reading, 30 percent of fifth-graders tested proficient in math, and enrollment dropped by 3,000 students in the last decade.

The district is controlled by a board appointed by the mayor.

Romick said education isn’t a one-size-fits-all system. “What may work in Cleveland doesn’t necessarily work in Dayton or Akron or Columbus.”

The Ohio Education Association, which represents 124,000 teachers including those in four of the eight largest urban districts, isn’t interested in any plan that brings back elements of Senate Bill 5.

As long as there is mutual trust and respect, OEA spokeswoman Michele Prater said, “Unions representing teachers can work well with school administrators to improve schools while still honoring the principles of collective bargaining.”

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