Fighting for the future, today

A guest post from Central OEA/NEA President Scott DiMauro

By now you have, no doubt, read about all the reasons why Senate Bill 5 is bad news for public employees. We educators, along with state and local firefighters, police officers, and other public servants, are under attack. We are being blamed for problems we didn’t create and targeted for “reforms” that will silence our voices in decision-making and weaken our professions.

As damaging as this bill is for us, it’s worse for our students. Taking away collective bargaining rights means taking away the ability to negotiate for needed classroom resources and professional support for teachers and other school employees. Weakening the union gives control of educational decisions to bureaucrats and politicians.

This will almost certainly lead to less pay, diminished healthcare benefits, greater pension costs, and weakened job security. Worse, we’re on the verge of losing a meaningful voice at the bargaining table, a voice over our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. In short an erosion of our profession, a race to the bottom.

Like you, I didn’t go into education for the money, prestige or union support. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people and help shape a brighter future for our country. I’m angered that we have become scapegoats for economic woes not of our own making. While we all know shared sacrifice will be needed to balance the state’s budget, I fear the extreme approach taken by Governor Kasich and many majority party legislators will diminish our ability to attract the best and brightest to the classroom in the future. Too many politicians and business leaders want to make it easier to move teachers through the “factory model” of education. How can that possibly be good for our students? How can our communities possibly be helped by this? What on earth does this do to create jobs?

Ultimately, attacks such as this one will undermine the very system of public education that has been the hallmark of America’s greatness, if we were to stand idly by.

As difficult as the fight over collective bargaining has been these past few weeks, it has also given me hope for our future. Never before in my 20 years of teaching have I seen so many friends and colleagues standing so strong. Your phone calls, emails, and letters may not have killed Senate Bill 5 yet, but the message is being sent loudly and strongly that we care too much about our students, profession and public education system to let our voices be silent. Standing with tens of thousands at the Statehouse and across our communities has made me exceedingly proud to be a member of this union and given me hope that our best days are still ahead of us.

It’s not yet clear where this fight will take us. Whether it’s to another showdown in the legislature, a referendum at the ballot box, or the streets of our communities, I’m confident that we’ll be in it together, and we will prevail. Our students’ futures and our profession are depending on it.