A Teacher's Open Letter to John Kasich

Elementary music teacher Kelly Riley asked us to publish her letter to the Governor and his response. Great letter, not so great response.

Dear Mr. Kasich,

I do not teach a tested subject area. I am an elementary music teacher with nearly 350 students that I work with once every 3 days for 50 minutes. I recommend that I be assessed on how I benefit my school community. My students present musical performances at least once per year for their families and the entire student body. My fourth grade students are successful recorder players, my fifth grade students produce a CD of their original compositions each year, nearly all of my students sing tunefully and beautifully, and every single one of them is an appreciative consumer of many different musical genres and a respectful audience member. I serve as a staff liaison to my building PTO, I am my school’s technology coordinator, I sit on our Intervention Assistance Team, I coordinate the afternoon car pickup, I monitor the cafeteria for 30 minutes each day, I volunteered on my district’s levy committee, I have mentored student teachers, and I regularly present professional development for my colleagues. I also hold master’s degree in literacy and a license to teach reading, and I frequently integrate other subjects and technology into my music curriculum, which helps my students perform to the best of their abilities on standardized tests.

How would you quantify all that I do for my school community? I would love to use all of the above information to negotiate my salary. I could certainly argue that I’m worth quite a lot because of my education, experience, and the myriad of essential roles I play. I was going to begin my “Idea” with stating that the average salary for an American with a master’s degree is about $65,000 (with eight years of experience and an MA I make $57,113), but that really isn’t the point. I didn’t choose a teaching career for the money; I just want to be respected for all that I do for my kids.

I’ve been teaching elementary music in central Ohio for eight years, and since January, I have been extremely disheartened by the way my colleagues and I have been treated by many of the legislators of Ohio, including you, Mr. Kasich. You say in the YouTube video that you’d like to see teachers paid $100,000 and that what we do “is so critically important.” I laughed out loud at those comments, because that is in direct opposition to all of the news coming out of the Statehouse since you’ve taken office.

SB5 is disrespectful in that teachers must be evaluated on their students’ achievement on standardized tests. Teachers have very little control over a child’s life outside the 7 hours they spend at school 180 days a year. What is a teacher to do if a child is hungry or tired or sick on the single day of the test? And when the teachers and other union members banded together to attempt to put SB5 to a referendum vote, you added the pieces on teacher evaluation to the budget bill. That’s not only disrespectful to teachers, that is disrespectful to the democratic process. I demand that my students be respectful and thoughtful to others. You’re setting a terrible example for Ohio’s youth. Effectively taking away the teachers’ collective bargaining rights undermines the hard work we put into obtaining advanced degrees and countless hours of professional development required to maintain our teaching licenses. Teachers are not stupid; in fact, many teachers are more educated than our elected officials. How is it that you can run a state with only a bachelor’s degree, but teachers are required to obtain a master’s degree by their twelfth year of teaching (ORC 3301-24-08 B)?

Not only am I an angry teacher, I am also a taxpayer and voter. I choose to live in the community where I work so that I can support the school issues that affect my students and my working conditions. I am HAPPY to pay more in taxes to create a strong and desirable community. I have always felt that PAYING TAXES IS A PRIVILEGE because it benefits everyone in the community, especially those who may not have the means to help themselves. And yet, you propose cutting taxes when Ohio is in the red, and cater to business interests. I have yet to see data that validates these policies.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to perform my civic duty and exercise my right to vote you out of office.


Kelly Riley

A Canned Response

As you know, a couple of months ago I asked Ohio’s teachers for their help in building a better system for rewarding educators for the difficult and important work they do. You’re getting this e-mail today because you were one of more than 1,200 people who joined in this process and shared with me an idea, suggestion or concern. Thank you for taking the time to do that and helping to shape this important effort.

As part of this process, I tasked my staff and Ohio’s Teacher Liaison, Sarah Dove, a 4th grade teacher from the Gahanna-Jefferson school district, to collect information, conduct listening roundtables across the state, and learn more directly from teachers about how to create a system of teacher evaluation and compensation that enhances our ability to increase achievement among Ohio’s students.

More recently, this week I had the opportunity to sit down myself with a small group of teachers who sent me e-mails and showed interest in getting involved in the process to determine how teacher evaluations will be shaped in Ohio. I learned a lot. For example, there are some great school districts that have already created innovative systems of teacher evaluation that work for both educators and the kids we all want to help succeed. Additionally, I learned just how very important it is to communicate our intention to assess teachers by using a wide variety of measures. One idea that particularly interested me provided teachers a choice as to which measures best evaluate their abilities as an educator. These substantive contributions, and yours, will help all involved as we work to develop a more fair and effective system of evaluation.

The Ohio Department of Education has created a website that includes information about the benefits of teacher evaluation, a blog from Ohio’s Teacher Liaison that will keep you up to date on our progress and, most importantly, a link where you can continue to submit your ideas and encourage your fellow teachers to get involved in the process. You can visit that website by clicking here: http://teachers.ohio.gov

As we work toward creating a manageable system for evaluating, rewarding and encouraging teachers, I feel it’s important that you recognize my firm belief in developing an evaluation process fair to educators and best for those we all are here to help – our children.

Please continue to stay involved, encourage your colleagues to participate by submitting their own ideas, and together, we can continue our work to make Ohio great again.


John R. Kasich

Governor of Ohio