So-called "right to work" Hot Potato

The House Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Schuring (R) held the first reading of HB151 and HJR5 - the anti worker so-called "right to work" legislation. They heard from the bills sponsors, Rep. Roegner (R) and Rep. Maag (R).

The hearing room was packed to capacity by opponents of the bill, indeed so many people were in opposition to this bill that they filled two additional overflow rooms, and left some standing in the hallways listening over a speaker system.

Educators opposing so-called 'right to work'

As expected, Rep. Roegner and Rep. Maag gave misleading and highly selective testimony, that failed to stand up to questions from the committee. Often they had to fall back upon "feelings", "beliefs" and ad nauseam recitation of the word "freedom" like they were auditioning for the role of William Wallace in an off-Broad St. production of Braveheart.

Rep. Tom Letson (D-Warren) said Ohio law already allows employees to choose not to belong to unions and instead contribute "fair share" payments. "It seems as though the freedom you are espousing here is already in the body of the law," he said, suggesting the proposal was redundant.

The Democrat's statement drew a roar of applause from the audience, prompting Chairman Schuring to slam the gavel and warn spectators to observe proper decorum or be ejected from the room.

Rep. Roland Winburn (D-Dayton) questioned whether the measure would allow workers who choose not to pay union dues to benefit from the union's representation and called it "a right-to-freeload law more than the workplace freedom law."

Rep. Patterson said he believed allowing individual workers to "cut their own deals" with management effectively undermines the efficacy of collective bargaining and asked the sponsors if they thought the measure would weaken labor unions in the state.

The true facts regarding so-called "right to work" laws and their impact on working people and the economy are clear

right to work stats

The hearing was more notable for what didn't happen, rather than what did. Not a single Republican questioned their colleagues about their proposed bill, despite intense questioning by the Democrats on the committee. It was also apparent that there were few, if any supporters of the bill at the hearing.

The lack of a convincing case for the bill, a lack of support in the Republican caucus, and widespread opposition led the chairman to declare the bill dead in his committee

The chairman of a House panel that heard testimony on controversial right-to-work legislation Tuesday said there would be no further hearings on the matter in his committee.

Chairman Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) said after the hearing that members of the panel had unanimously agreed not to continue deliberations on the proposals.

"I've surveyed the committee and for a wide variety of reasons, the committee has determined that it would not be appropriate to have additional hearings on the legislation," he said in an interview.

"My individual thoughts are that I've been in the legislature now for 20 years and I have not had one union shop - an owner of a company that is a union shop or an executive from a company that is a union shop - has come to me and asked for this type of legislation," the chairman said.

"So I think it's something that does not need to be addressed at this point in time. There are a whole host of other issues regarding our economy and how we can improve the economic climate in this state that we need to address."

The chairman's comments reflect the radioactive nature of the issue currently for majority Republicans who saw an attempt to curb union collective bargaining thrown out by voters last session (SB5, 129th General Assembly).

With that, the Republicans in the Ohio House passed this hot potato to their Tea Party grassroots activists. Signature collection by right wing extremists now being the only route left for this legislation to move forward. With that signature collection deadline fast approaching, and reports that the Tea Party are struggling to collect those signatures, it is unlikely a so-called "right to work" amendment will find its way onto a ballot this year. This Leaves next year (when the governor and most of his legislative pals are up for reelection) as the next possible date, followed shortly afterwards by the lame duck session of 2014.

But for now, it doesn't look like anyone wants to be left holding this anti-worker, deceitful hot potato.

Real consequences of ‘school choice’

For years, policy initiatives stemming from right-wing belief tanks have been wrapped in the rhetoric of positive outcomes that are, in fact, the complete opposite of what the measures are really intended to do.

A bill called Clear Skies that called for more pollution. Another called Healthy Forests offered incentives for cutting down valuable trees. No Child Left Behind, perhaps the crowning glory of duplicity, worsened the education of disadvantaged children it was purported to magically improve.

But without a doubt the most enduring of these wolf-wrapped-in-sheep’s-clothing ideas is the promise of “school choice” that’s been promoted to parents since the presidencies of Nixon and Reagan.

Sold as a way to “empower” parents to improve the education attainment of their children, school choice initiatives take on many forms, including vouchers, “scholarships,” and tax credits. But the most radical form of school choice is the so-called “parent trigger.”

The parent trigger has been relentlessly marketed to parents and policy makers as an “empowerment” that enables parents to conduct a petition campaign in their community to fire their school’s staff and change its governance. This has all the rhetoric of democratic activism – a majority of the parents deciding “what’s best” for the education of their children. But what are the results?

So far, the trigger has only been carried out to its fullest extent in one school: Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California. A new video “Parent Triggers: Another Reform Misfires,” (see below) released by the Education Opportunity Network, recently looked at the results of the parent trigger in Adelanto and found that rather then uniting parents in doing what’s best for children, the parent trigger brought deception, division and disruption to the community.

Thus, parent trigger bills join the ranks of other school choice schemes that are proliferating across the country. And rather than giving parents more control of the trajectory of their children, these policies are leaving more parents overwhelmed and powerless.

So what should parents expect when the parent trigger or any other school choice scheme comes to town?

In New Orleans – perhaps America’s choiciest school district, where 70 percent of students attend charter schools – most of the schools remain the lowest performing in one of the lowest performing states, and parent activists have come to the conclusion that choice means “a choice to apply” while still remaining “trapped” in the same lousy schools.

A recent article in The Washington Post told the story of how the District of Columbia’s complex school choice landscape has led some parents to hire an educational consultant to navigate the public school system — and this is being seen by some as the wave of the future in districts around the country. More than 40 percent of the District’s 80,000 students attend charter schools. Even when parents do choose traditional public schools for their children, “more than half do not attend their assigned neighborhood school.”

“It’s just totally overwhelming,” one parent was quoted as saying in the Post story.

And the results? D.C. schools have among the lowest high school graduation rates in the country and the largest achievement gap of any urban school district.

According to this New York Times story, parents in New York City face a similar, if not more daunting, “school choice maze” that leaves thousands of children “shut out” of any real choice at all. Parents trying to navigate the complex system end up “feeling inadequate, frustrated and angry.”

Not to worry, school choice advocates reassure us. We’re told, as in this article at, to rejoice in the fact that while “it used to be that when it was time to find a school for the kids, most Americans looked no further than the neighborhood school.” Now we have a wonderful “open” system where our precious little darlings get to “compete” against the precious little darlings of our friends and neighbors.

Just make sure you’re one of the “smart parents” who knows how to “work the system.”

How could choice possibly lead to fewer options for parents?

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Assessing Ourselves To Death

I have two points to make. The first is something that I think everyone knows: Educational outcomes, such as graduation and test scores, are signals of or proxies for the traits that lead to success in life, not the cause of that success.

For example, it is well-documented that high school graduates earn more, on average, than non-graduates. Thus, one often hears arguments that increasing graduation rates will drastically improve students’ future prospects, and the performance of the economy overall. Well, not exactly.

The piece of paper, of course, only goes so far. Rather, the benefits of graduation arise because graduates are more likely to possess the skills – including the critical non-cognitive sort – that make people good employees (and, on a highly related note, because employers know that, and use credentials to screen applicants).

We could very easily increase the graduation rate by easing requirements, but this wouldn’t do much to help kids advance in the labor market. They might get a few more calls for interviews, but over the long haul, they’d still be at a tremendous disadvantage if they lacked the required skills and work habits.

Moreover, employers would quickly catch on, and adjust course accordingly. They’d stop relying as much on high school graduation to screen potential workers. This would not only deflate the economic value of a diploma, but high school completion would also become a less useful measure for policymakers and researchers.

This is, of course, one of the well-known risks of a high-stakes focus on metrics such as test scores. Test-based accountability presumes that tests can account for ability. We all know about what is sometimes called “Campbell’s Law,” and we’ve all heard the warnings and complaints about so-called “teaching to the test.” Some people take these arguments too far, while others are too casually dismissive. In general, though, the public (if not all policymakers) have a sense that test-based accountability can be a good thing so long as it is done correctly and doesn’t go too far.

Now, here’s my second point: I’m afraid we’ve gone too far.

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Santorum spread thin in Ohio

We have previuosly covered some of the (evolving) positions on education of the Republican Presidential candidates, but with the Super Tuesday primary tomorrow in Ohio, we thought we'd take a look at the current state of play. Current polling averages have a very tight race: Mitt Romney at 36.2%, Rick Santorum at 36.1% and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with 16.1%.

Of course, even if Rick Santorum does win the popular vote in Ohio tomorrow, things aren't quite so simple.

Rick Santorum still holds a slim lead over Mitt Romney in the latest Ohio polls, but win or lose on Tuesday, the results of the primary are almost certainly going to give way to an ugly fight over delegates that has the potential to last for weeks.

Santorum failed to submit the required paperwork in three of the state’s congressional districts to be eligible to win any delegates and only partial paperwork in six other districts. And it’s in those six where things start to get complicated.

The former Pennsylvania senator’s campaign needed to come up with at least three names in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts for full delegate eligibility, but his failure submit full slates in some places will result in “unbound” delegates, which will be up for grabs after Super Tuesday.

Take the state’s fourth congressional district, for example. There Santorum submitted the name of one delegate, but left two other lines blank. If Santorum were to win the district, the state party would award him one delegate with the other two remaining officially un-allocated.

Rick Santorum faces other problems too. Santorum has some old fashioned ideas about education, and by old fashioned we mean pre-1785. Even Fox news, bastion of far right reporting, began to notice how extreme, and in some cases, hypocritical his positions have become.

Reporting from Bowling Green, Ohio -- Rick Santorum repeatedly fumbled on Sunday morning, with statements from his 2006 Senate campaign contradicting his current views on No Child Left Behind and placing him squarely in agreement with President Obama's call for post-high-school education or training.

On "No Child Left Behind," President Bush's signature education reform law that is now deeply unpopular among GOP voters, Santorum told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he voted for it because he supported increased testing provisions for schools, but did not like the increased spending.

Wallace highlighted a statement on Santorum's 2006 reelection website that noted Santorum's support for the act and called it "the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades." Wallace also noted that Santorum later said he "took one for the team" in voting for the act, and Santorum denied making such a statement.
Santorum backed down over a statement he made recently that called President Obama a "snob" for saying all Americans should attend college. Wallace noted there was no evidence that the president had made such a statement, and rather had called on all Americans to do something after finishing high school, whether college, vocational training or an apprenticeship, a statement similar to what Santorum has said.

Close in the polls, lacking delegates, and attacked by the Republican party media machine, Rich Santorum is spread very thin in Ohio, and elsewhere.

The diminished power of the press

The governor wasn't the only big loser last night. In fact, he probably wasn't even the biggest loser. That accolade might well be laid at the door of Ohio's print media. In usual tradition, each of Ohio's major newspapers made their endorsements to both fanfare and derision, but as the State Troopers Association notes not so ironically on the Facebook page

Ohio State Troopers Association (O.S.T.A.)
Newspaper Endorsements: Building a Better Ohio trumpeted the endorsements of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch. A review of the clout of these endorsements discloses the Dispatch endorsement produced a 36/64% vote against Issue #2 in Franklin County. The Plain Dealer did even worse, helping Issue #2 to a better than two to one thumping and the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsement preceded a 42/58% vote against Issue #2.

Is it any wonder that the printed media is looking so economically unstable. The real endorsements were found in the millions of social network pages that served as a peoples press.

Quite. But that is not all. Plunderbund, in their long SB5 reaction piece makes mention of this too

The irrelevancy of newspaper endorsements

Building a Better Ohio made much to do about getting the endorsements of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Here’s the splits on Issue 2 for those counties:

Cuyahoga: 31% (endorsed position)/69% (against endorsed position).
Franklin: 36%/64%.
Hamilton: 42%/58%.
The Dispatch and Plain Dealer saw their endorsed position perform substantially worse in their home counties than they did overall. How is endorsing a position that is opposed by roughly two-thirds of your customer base smart business?

Let’s also not forget that it was many of these media outlets who called labor “foolish” for risking an all-or-nothing political gamble on a referendum campaign, even as polls at the time showed them with twenty-point leads. That was the main argument for a compromise… because Issue 2 was too divisive. Issue 2 won by almost the same margin as Ted Strickland did against Ken Blackwell in 2006. Nobody called Strickland’s election “divisive” with those numbers.

Keep in mind, there wasn’t a single newspaper in Ohio that endorsed Issue 3, either. There is nothing in the 2011 results to suggest that these endorsement brought about anything but cancelled subscriptions.

We raised this question, with the Editor of the Dispatch, Ben Marrison, about newspapers making endorsements and how they might cause readers to question the partiality of the Dispatch's reporting. The reply

@jointhefutureOH Newsroom doesn't make endorsements. We just write stories.

We replied "@dispatcheditor Yeah, but do you think readers really make a distinction? Newspapers should get out of the endorsement biz, and just report."

Given that newspaper endorsements no longer appear to carry any influence, and rightly run the risk of alienating readers, subscribers, advertisers and raising doubt on the partiality of reporting, should newspaper endorsements be cast into the dustbin of history? We believe they should be.

The cost of Charters

One slide presented last night at the Dublin budget town hall really stood out.

Dublin City Schools Budget Presentation - May 11th, 2011


 only receive ~
state, but if a student in their district transfers to a charter school $5,732 is taken to pay for that. That's a disproportionate subtraction and one of the direct costs of so-called "Choice". In Dublin it's costing between $300,000 and $400,000 alone.

What's more baffling about this continued policy is that Dublin City Schools are rated Excellent with distinction and have one of the lowest percentages of expenditure on administration per pupil. There's simply no need for charter schools to suck money away from high performing districts like this, yet we allow it.