Fordham Exposed Part I

Since the blistering repudiation of SB5 by Ohio's voters last week, supporters of the extreme measure have wisely fallen silent. Whether it's the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, Ohio CPA's, or even the legislative architects themselves, all have decided that the best course of action after this stinging rebuke is to instead return to silently seeking ways to undermine working people.

That is, all except one. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a conservative corporate education reform organization.

In one post on their website, only a day after the election, their Vice President for Ohio Programs & Policy, Terry Ryan proclaimed "You’d be crazy to see SB5’s defeat as a defeat for Ohio school reform". He is of course talking about corporate education reform - the very thing voters rejected the day earlier.

Mr. Ryan tries hard to minimize the loss, and pass all credit to safety forces for causing the rejection of SB5. But even while mentioning the $30 million spent, he fails to recognize that teachers and education support professionals contributed over 1/3 of the campaign funds used to defeat SB5, provided thousands of the volunteers who made calls and knocked on doors, and featured in a number of widely broadcast ads, ads such as this one

You'd be crazy to believe voters didn't reject corporate education reforms.

The Fordham Foundation has decided to double down on its undemocratic opining, with a new article from Michael J. Petrilli their Executive Vice President. This new article, designed to be incendiary is titled "Dealing with disingenuous teachers unions: There are no shortcuts". Despite being an uncharacteristically offensive piece of writing published by the Foundation, it's also disgraceful in its call for voter nullification. As if voters had not rejected SB5 by a wide enough margin, Mr. Petrilli pushes further to join with the far right tea party in his calls, perhaps even betraying the cause of his organization.

So where do reformers go from here? One option is to be even more radical: To go after not just collective bargaining but school boards too. Make all of the key decisions at the state level. Negotiate with the teachers around a statewide approach to pay and benefits, the whole kit and caboodle. (Marc Tucker’s “New Commission” made such a proposal several years ago.) That’s an attractive long-term strategy, but voters—averse to big, sudden changes—will need some time to get used to the idea.

Indeed. The push to eliminate collective bargaining has been going on since 1958, and voters are still rejecting the idea overwhelmingly. Mr. Petrilli might have a very long wait.

Perhaps these petulant responses from a conservative organization immediately after such a big loss should be expected, but this is not what surprises us.

What surprises us about the Fordham Foundation's response to SB5 is the simple fact that of all the supporters of SB5, they have always been in a position to prove its merits, but have failed to do so.

You see the Fordham Foundation sponsors 8 Ohio charters schools.

Here at JTF we have posed the question to charter operators and SB5 supporters many times - if you believe SB5 and its education reform tools are so effective at producing quality educational outcomes, why is it that charter schools in Ohio that already have all these tools at their disposal fail, consistently, to produce these results today? We have yet to receive an answer.

Join us in part II of Fordham exposed as we take a look at the failures SB5 like policies have had at Fordham sponsored schools and the hypocrisy of its most vocal boosters.