No laughing matter

Hearings on the education MBR, in the Ohio House and Senate, took place yesterday. The hope for some relief from the draconian budget cuts enacted last year faded, according to a report from Gongwer

Much of the MBR debate centered on a failed Democratic amendment to provide $400 million for schools and additional funds for local governments, as the minority party continued the argument that the bill does nothing to address communities hit hard by the Kasich Administration's decision to slash local government funds to help balance the state's coffers.

Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster), chair of the House Finance & Appropriations Committee and the sponsor of the bill "by request," kicked off the debate by stating that the measure is in keeping with the restrained spending in the biennium budget passed last spring (HB 153).

"Clearly, we are steady as she goes, which is a good thing," he said. "Because we are on track, we are able to deal with a bill here today that doesn't make further difficult decisions."

It's a strange world we live in where thousands of teachers, support professionals, cops and firefighters are losing their jobs, weakening communities is considered "a good thing", but the Governor's reaction was even more shocking, Mr. Kasich bursts out laughing when asked about the push for more spending and what he thinks is an appropriate level for the Budget Stabilization Fund. He also suggested that any attempt to add significant appropriations to the measure would be vetoed.

It's no laughing matter. The rhetoric is about improving educational achievement, the means appears to be by slashing budgets. Headlines from just this week include

We're in a funding crisis. The legislature needs to step up and fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.

In other news, the proposed A-F grading system came in for a lot of questions

Mr. Cohen said feedback to ODE on the proposal so far has focused on four topics:

  • The value-added component should carry more weight than others in the final grade.
  • The scale of grades for the student progress component is unfair given a grade of "C" is assigned for districts that have "met" value-added expectations for two consecutive years.
  • The threshold for "A" grades should be lowered and traditional rounding rules should be applied.
  • Pluses and minuses should be applied to the grades.

Sen. Sawyer said that because many districts will go to the ballot seeking a levy this fall, the new scores, which are expected to be lower than previous ones, could be difficult for the districts to deal with as they ask voters to support their work to improve student performance.

Mr. Cohen said the current scores, which show a large portion of districts as "excellent" or better, will lose their meaning for the public. The simulation of what schools' grades would look like under the new scoring was merely that, and it is unclear how the public will react to the actual grades.

Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Canfield) asked if there is a score for things such as extracurricular activities offered and the like, which some people would attribute to whether a school system is a good one.

Mr. Cohen said ODE has considered looking at other measures, such as remediation rates; but the report card largely reflects assessment-based metrics.

Sen. Lehner asked if a report card could be developed for charter school authorizers in the same way school districts have report cards based on the performance of students in all the district's school buildings. Mr. Cohen said that would be possible.

If we had to guess, we expect that the technicals of the grade will see some minor modifications, and the implementation date will be pushed back a year to coincide with the introduction of common core.

Done deal in Cleveland?

Deal reached.

The compromise struck by the mayor and union after several weeks of marathon negotiations, will bring major changes to the contract rules governing teacher assignments, seniority, pay, evaluation, layoff and recall that give the district more flexibility as it tries to improve schools.
Jackson, district officials and CTU representatives all said today that they negotiated an agreement on the plan because it will provide a better education for students.

As CTU President, David Quolke said, "This agreement is a testament to the idea that when collective bargaining trumps conflict, progress can be made that helps the children of Cleveland."

Frank Jackson got into this mess because he didn't show respect to the teachers in his school district, and didn't trust the collective bargaining agreement. He famously avoided involving educators in his reform plan because

Mayor Jackson said he did not talk to the union before coming up with his latest plan because he wanted to avoid further delay.

"We need to get something done," he said. "We've been in perpetual discussion about a lot of things. Our sense of urgency is such that something has to happen in a systemic way and it has to happen now."

How much delay was caused? A week? Maybe 2? If he had of respected the teachers and the process, imagine the good will that would have been garnered, instead of the acrimony.

If the defeat of SB5 wasn't a strong enough message, maybe politicians will look at this example and finally realize that collective bargaining and collaboration will get you far further, much faster than a my way, or the highway approach.

This should cause some pause for thought however

The plan has also gained wide support from business and political leaders in the city, with Cleveland City Council voting this week to endorse the plan and the cities' charitable foundations and the chamber of commerce, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, helping to write it and sitting in on negotiations with CTU.

Under what statute does the Greater Cleveland Partnership get to sit in on negotiations between public employees and their government employer? The GCP was front and center supporting the Governor's efforts via SB5 to dismantle worker protections, and they were instrumental in adding the union busting measures into the "Cleveland plan" too. Now a deal is done - let's see them step up to the plate and fund efforts to pass a much needed levy. That, after all, is still the biggest crisis facing Cleveland Municipal Schools.

Unworkable "solutions"

This letter is in response to a Dispatch Op-Ed column published Wednesday, January 25th.

Dear Ms. Smith,

Your January 25 Dispatch column starts by lamenting “More and more money, a lot of tinkering, constant reforms and so little change,” and worrying because “The recession and state budget woes set off alarms, warning that many education needs can’t be met if we keep this up.” But then your suggestions are in large part old suggestions, unworkable, or expensive.

Year-round school, four-day school weeks, education via technology, state-leveraged purchases (buses, etc.), “best practices”/reports, and prefab buildings (“trailers”) have all been around for a while. And who will pay for the air conditioning needed for year-round school? How much expensive investment will techno-ed require if it is broadly applied in all schools? And many schools already temporarily use prefab classrooms to address population fluctuations.

You mention exempting prevailing wage. So, is it a new idea to pay for tax cuts by taking it out of working people’s income? You complain about “More and more money,” but apparently money taken from workers doesn’t count. Your suggestions don’t really seem to be against spending money. How will orphanages be paid for? Don’t you think that eliminating grade levels would require greater expenditures on personnel, software, and planning/ oversight? Do you agree with the governor that this could all be paid for by effectively eliminating collective bargaining for educational employees?

Statewide collective bargaining for salary or salary and fringes would be interesting. Do you actually think the well-to-do suburban schools would reduce their present levels to some overall average? Would the state raise all poor schools to the level of Upper Arlington, or even to a state-average level? We already have a ridiculously low minimum salary schedule.

Moreover, collective bargaining involves many more IMPORTANT aspects beyond salary, such as working conditions, fair and professional treatment, due process in discipline, sensible educational policy, and more. How would a state-level bargaining entity deal with such questions coming from over six hundred districts? Either the local boards would have to deal with this – eating up much of the “savings” – or you intend that such matters would no longer be considered. If the latter, then you would diminish the profession.

Without these options teachers have no way to demand respect, no real way to help mold policy, no way to counteract prejudice, nepotism, vendettas, foolish board policy, and other matters that harm teachers, students, and the educational process.

You end with: “Ohio can either greatly increase systemwide productivity or continue to rely on more local taxes, more district cuts and doing less with less.” Are those the only options? Why are you willing to frame the options as increase local taxes and make district cuts versus taking needed funds out of workers’ standard of living (I know: part of it – you think – would come from “productivity”)– but you don’t even mention calling for higher, progressive taxes to “stop the cuts in important areas such as preschool, the arts and foreign languages”? Is this any different from Tea Party types who MUST balance the budget by cutting the safety net but won’t touch taxing millionaires?

Finally, I am shocked by your asking a Republican governor and legislature, which supposedly hates “big government,” “Tzars,” and the federal Department of Education, to set up a “a board, which would have authority over early childhood, elementary, secondary and higher education, and could make the system function more cohesively.” What happened to “local control”? And even if local boards continue to exist in some form, isn’t this super board, as conservatives like to say, “just another level of worthless, expensive bureaucracy”?

All in all, I don’t think Einstein would be pleased with your column. It doesn’t seem that different from the same old easy (to say) fixes and politically oriented silver bullets. Much of it is entirely impossible to implement - for political and economic reasons; some cannot be universally or properly implemented; some is destructive of a valuable profession.

And your selection of types to serve on the “expert panel” is astounding: “certified public accountants, economists, futurists and technologists and perhaps be chaired by Ohio’s state auditor.” These are the “experts” – not one of them is connected to education in any way. None of them is qualified to understand education! Clearly, you are looking at money, not the education of kids. Would you make the same recommendation regarding a medical practice “expert panel” and keep everyone connected to medicine off the panel? Maybe, if you worked for a health insurance company.

Education doesn’t change because the power structure won’t deal with the real problems and people who have a public platform make proposals like yours that serve the power structure.

Yours - Tom Harker
Retired School Teacher.

Gov Kasich "I'm done talk, talk, talking

How big of an empty promise was the Governor's offer to sit down with labor and discuss a meaningful compromise? ProgressOhio captures his flip-flop on tape.

From the Governor's press conference Wednesday 17th August, 2011

Governor Kasich, "We're inviting them to talk. We think that would be a good thing for all of us to sit down, see if we can reach some agreement."

Governor Kasich, "erm, when I was approached, err, by, by, er, by, the former Speaker Joanne Davidson, about should we sit down and talk, I said are you kiddin' me? Absolutely we should talk."

On February 26th, 2011 the Governor appeared on the Bill Cunningham radio show and told a very different story. Roll the tape.

Bill Cunningham, "Even at this late date in February are you willing to sit in a room with the representatives of the public employment unions, waway from the television and away from the radio and listen to the legitimate concerns of those that..."

Governor Kasich, interupting, "Listen, I've heard their concerns, I mean it's on TV and in the newspapers everyday. I know what their concerns is, they do not want ot give up the right to collectively bargain."

Bill Cunningham, "Meet with them Governor, You've got to get in a room with 'em Governor."

Governor Kasich, "Bill, Bill, let me explain to you. I'm not gonna let you put me in a position to say that I don't listen. I've listened. I've Heard. I've made a decision. It's not like I'm not talkin' to people. But y'know we spend a lot of time in Ohio talk, talk, talk ,talk, talkin'..."

Bill Cunningham, "And the Governor's done talkin', you;re walkin?"

Governor Kasich, "It's time to do some things."

Here's the video

As if to punctuate the insincerity of the offer ot find a compromise, here's Speaker Batchelder quoted in the WSJ regarding the offer to repeal then deal

Republican House Speaker William Batchelder rejected the unions' suggestion to craft a new law. "That dog won't hunt," said Mr. Batchelder

Urge your lawmakers to do the right thing. Call 888-218-5931 and tell your lawmakers NO DEAL until they repeal SB 5.


The Governor, Speak and President sat alone waiting for a meeting they knew was not going to happen. They even went to far as to create silly cardboard name tags. When asked if they would repeal SB5 so negotiations could happen in an atmosphere of trust they said no to repeal first because it's an "ultimatum" and we would "lose leverage".

Three men, sitting alone. That's what is has come to for the proponents of SB5.