Submitted by Bexley Superintendent, Mike Johnson
Public negotiations take two parties to carve out outcomes based on mutual interests to add value and ultimately benefit the community. These mutual interests provide opportunities to serve the common good. The common good principle is a concept that assures everyone will share in the benefit of a service, independent of the wealth and status of any individual community member.
These benefits, whether they are in the form of public education, safety, health, welfare or transportation, are always provided by loyal and dedicated community servants. Community servants allow each of us to have access to a world-class education; provide peace of mind in knowing that our properties are safe and secure; and ensure that the basic needs of the poor, the disabled, the unemployment and the underemployed are met.
Public servants have one negotiation chip, their service. They do not have capital, land or money to bring to the table. They only have their willingness to labor and to serve the public and thereby benefit everyone. The only power that a public servant or public employee can exercise in negotiations is the ability to ultimately withhold services.
In the case of the services provided by fire and police, withdrawal of services would threaten our property interest and personal safety. Therefore, third party arbitration provides for a balance of power during negotiations. Fire and police personnel are secure in knowing that if negotiations are at impasse that a neutral third party will hear the facts and render a decision, while public and private safety are maintained.
If the United States and the state of Ohio are to become leaders in a knowledge economy, then educators must be invited and remain at the table as equals. Educators are knowledge workers and if we are to overcome some very serious national and international challenges, then we will need our teachers to assist all of us in making decisions, designing the best possible research driven solutions and implementing those decisions over time. The full value of our knowledgeable and professional teaching staff will not be realized in an environment where they are on the receiving end of a power shift.
It strikes me as a case of very poor timing to suddenly develop laws to truncate the advantages, negotiations provides for those responsible for growing our economy. In Ohio, we will need to rely more on our intellectual capacities and assets and less on physical inputs or natural resources. I cannot think of a greater source intellectual capacity, than can be found within our K-16 public education community. As Powell and Snellman (2004) state, that an upsurge in knowledge production is associated with the emergence of new industries.
We need to make sure before making any final decision on SB5, that we will achieve the intended ends. Personally, I believe that we are going to experience some adverse unintended consequences as a result of passing such legislation. It is going to take some creative, collaborative, and systemic decision making to keep Ohio at the forefront nationally and internationally.