A Columbus Teacher Testifies against HB153

OEA and CEA member Philip Hayes' opposition testimony to HB 153

Written Testimony
Ohio Senate
Senate Finance Committee, Chris Widener, Chair
Testimony in Opposition to Sub. HB 153 by:
Philip W. Hayes, Educator,
Brookhaven High School
Columbus City Schools

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Good morning Chair Widener, Vice Chair Jones, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee. I thank you for giving me the opportunity today to speak candidly and personally regarding my opposition to Substitute House Bill 153.

I am a high school social studies teacher at Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio. It is my first and only teaching assignment; I’ve taught there since 1998 and cannot imagine teaching anywhere else.

I want to tell you all that for the past four months, I wake up each morning at 5 a.m., angry. I go to bed each night, often at 10 or 11 p.m., tired, frustrated, hoarse from talking and arguing, and wake up angry again the next day, only to start the process over.

I am angry because of the various pieces of legislation that have been proposed or passed by the Ohio General Assembly that deal with education matters. This includes the items in HB 153 that threaten to change my profession, my calling, my life’s work into something much less—a job. Teaching is not what I do; it is who I am. Most importantly, the proposed changes will affect my students.

Who are my students? According to the latest state report card, each class of 30 students at Brookhaven has 25 that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Seven of the 30 have transferred from another school. Five students have an identified learning disability. Three students were learning how to read, write and speak English as they were being instructed in that language. Roughly one student in each class of 30 was homeless.

Here are just some of the proposed “solutions” that have been included in HB 153 that will affect my students, my colleagues and their students. Why has an overall K-12 funding decrease been touted as a state foundation increase? While the promise has been made that the state will not increase taxes, the truth is that local school districts will have to put levies on the ballot at an ever-increasing rate to make up for the shortfall in state funding. This proposed budget shifts the burden from the state to local governments.

I take issue with the provision that gives teachers a $50 bonus if their students achieve more than a year’s worth of academic growth. This transforms our students from human beings into fifty-dollar bills. Why would you want to create a situation where a teacher walks into a class and sees their students with dollar signs hovering over their head? Our students are equal human beings, and should be treated as people, not profits.

I disagree with the section that calls for retesting teachers that teach in core academic areas if they work in a school that is identified as one of the lowest 5 percent statewide. We have already passed a national test, selected for use by the state’s Department of Education to establish our subject area competence. Just weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter.

I object to the House’s inclusion of teacher evaluation provisions from SB 5 into HB 153. It is, at its best, disingenuous; at its worst, it is duplicitous, divisive and devious.

The basis of merit pay within the bill, as proposed, is completely without merit. There are many areas where state achievement test scores or growth data cannot be used to inform the evaluation process. How can anyone possibly determine the worth of an art, music or physical education teacher that inspires and motivates a student to become an artist, musician or more physically fit, enriching, changing and perhaps saving their lives?

For the past four years, I have my students pick the best teacher they’ve ever had and write them a letter, thanking them and explaining why they were chosen. Often times, those teachers write back to my students and their share stories and recollections from when my students were in their classroom.

Over the course of those four years, none of the student letters have contained the sentence “Thank you for helping me pass the test.” Not one. But these are the best teachers these students have ever had; they have made their subject come alive for them, encouraged them, inspired them, fought for them, laughed with them and cried with them. All of those are teacher attributes that cannot be tested, surveyed or measured.

Chair Widener, Vice Chair Jones, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee, I thank you for your time and attention. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have at this time.

Please contact your State Senator and urge them to remove the SB5 provisions from HB153 (the budget bill).