Sent to us by Jeanne Melvin, OEA-Retired Teacher from Hilliard
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Theodor Seuss Geisel was one of the greatest American writers, cartoonists, and political activists who ever lived. He had this natural ability to present philosophical concepts through children’s literature that provoked thought at many different levels. Whether one works with elementary, middle, or high school students, Dr. Seuss is a favorite resource for helping both kids and grown-ups alike to understand many issues in our world.
Three years ago, educators from all over the state joined with police officers, firefighters, and other public employees to fight against Ohio Senate Bill 5, an unjust law that would have stripped away public workers’ collective bargaining rights. "Collective bargaining" is the mutually beneficial obligation of public employers and their employees to negotiate in good faith on wages, hours, terms, and other conditions of employment, and people were outraged that these rights were being crushed by their elected officials.
Rallies and petition drives against Senate Bill 5 brought unprecedented numbers of teachers out of their living rooms and into the spotlight. Educators made considerable numbers of phone calls and sent many emails to their legislators decrying this unfair attack. Teachers sent letters of concern to the editors of every Ohio newspaper about what was being written into the state budget. All of this teamwork contributed to the issue being put on the ballot, and in November of 2011, voters overwhelming repealed Senate Bill 5.
In the aftermath of SB 5, many teachers remained politically active and began to keep a watchful eye on everything that was happening at the Statehouse- not just legislation that affected the rights of public workers. If Ohio lawmakers could so easily follow an outside agenda that enacted policies detrimental to public servants, then continued vigilance from their constituents was the logical course of action. The rights of all Ohioans were at stake.
That outside agenda came from a corporate bill mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly known as ALEC. Because of gerrymandering, most of Ohio’s legislators belong to ALEC, the secretive organization of lawmakers and corporations that has taken over the Ohio Statehouse. ALEC’s corporate policy-makers create bills, such as Senate Bill 5, for ALEC legislators to sponsor and get passed into laws in states all over the country. ALEC bills erode worker rights, consumer rights, and the rights of citizens injured or killed on the job. ALEC promotes the privatization of public agencies and the outsourcing of jobs, and the corporate-funded group was behind efforts to prevent implementation of healthcare reform, such as Medicaid Expansion in Ohio.
ALEC’s top priority is to promote a private for-profit education model- in 2013 alone, 139 education bills written by ALEC were introduced in state legislatures around the U.S., and 31 of those have already become law. Unfortunately, most of Ohio’s Republican legislators are deeply entrenched in following the ALEC playbook and are quick to promote its anti-public school agenda. Look at all of the educational reform that’s recently been put into place that will diminish Ohio’s public schools through high stakes testing, school grade cards, OTES, private school voucher programs, and virtual learning. These are all ALEC initiatives.
Many educators still care enough to be proactive about Ohio politics, but a number of them don’t pay attention to political initiatives anymore unless they directly affect them. They neglect to sign petitions and attend rallies meant to support people’s rights because of claims that they’re too busy to keep track of current legislative campaigns. Some teachers don’t find it necessary to contact their representatives or write letters to newspapers to express their disapproval of unjust laws. Several of them even vote for the same ALEC legislators that have worked to destroy public education in Ohio, even though a little bit of research would help them to express their displeasure of ALEC by voting out its politicians.
The midterm election is upon us, and with it comes the re-election campaigns of many of those politicians who continue to follow the ALEC agenda, including Gov. John Kasich, an alumnus of ALEC who has been an important part of its initiatives over the years. Capitalizing on economic turmoil throughout our state and country, Kasich has worked diligently to further ALEC’s #1 priority, the privatization of many of Ohio’s public entities, since he took office in 2011. To help enable the expansion of his private school voucher program to move forward, the governor and his legislature first created financial hardship through drastic budget cuts, just as in other ALEC-controlled states. Richard Lee Colvin, director of D.C. think tank Education Sector, said: What’s particularly unfortunate about this wave of voucher programs now is that they come at a time when states are so strapped and they are cutting the basic funding for public education. So, we’re undermining public education by our state budgets and then we’re undermining through these voucher programs.
Ohio teachers should heed the wisdom of Dr. Seuss and renew their commitment to standing up for our system of public education, instead of standing by as spectators. Their most powerful tool to positively impact public education is to make well-informed choices for candidates and issues during this very important election that will conclude on November 4, 2014. Vote for candidates who value our public schools, educators, and students.
Times have changed- we teachers cannot afford to just close our doors and work in a vacuum any longer. Unless people like us care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.