SB21 Decoded

A number of readers have asked us to decode the Ohio House's version of SB21, which is likely to be passed into law.

In the area of teacher qualifications, after July 1, 2013, third grade students who have been retained or are on a reading improvement plan shall be assigned to a teacher who has at least one year of teaching experience and satisfies one of the following criteria:

a) K-12 reading endorsement on their teaching license
b) Master’s degree in reading or literacy
c) Rated “most effective” for reading instruction for the most recent two years based on student growth measures
d) Rated “above expected value added” in reading instruction as determined by criteria established by ODE for the most recent consecutive school years
e) Passed a rigorous test of principles of scientifically research-based reading instruction approved by the State Board of Education
f) Holds a teaching license for P-3 or 4-9 issued on or after July 1, 2017

The House version limited or did away with qualifications in the Senate version that allowed for evidence of completion of a program of scientifically research-based reading instruction programs approved by the department (limited to until July 1, 2016) or the teacher is an effective reading instructor as determined by criteria established by the department (eliminated).

The House version of the bill also expands who may offer services in the following ways:

  • A teacher with less than one year of experience provided they meet one of the qualifications and is assigned a teacher mentor who meets one of the qualifications
  • Through July 1, 2016, a teacher who has successfully completed training on reading instruction approved by the department
  • A teacher other than the classroom teacher to whom the student is assigned provided the teacher meets the qualifications, the teacher and the principal agree and the assignment is documented in the student’s reading improvement plan
  • A speech language pathologist may provide reading intervention and remediation services

Additionally, the House version of the bill allows school districts who cannot furnish the number of teachers to satisfy the qualifications to submit a staffing plan to the Ohio Department of Education. ODE may grant extensions of district staffing plans through the 2015-2016 school year.

Other provisions of the House passed version of SB 21 include:

  • Specifies that retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is triggered by failure to attain at least the “equivalent level of achievement” as determined by ODE
  • Exempts English language learners enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years
  • Exempts students with significant cognitive disabilities from diagnostic tests on a case-by-case basis as determined by ODE
  • Requires the State Board of Education to adopt competencies for reading credentials and training by January 31, 2014. Requires all new applicants seeking an educator license for grades P-3 or 4-9 to pass an examination aligned with these competencies. Requires reading endorsement programs to align to these new competencies not later than July 1, 2016
  • Requires school districts and community schools that receive a D or F on the K-3 literacy progress measure on the new school district report cards and less than 60% of students score at least proficient on the third grade English language arts assessment submit a reading achievement improvement plan.

Thanks to OEA's Government Services for their expertise in helping to decipher SB21.

Teachers stay strong in Strongsville

The teachers strike in Strongsville, Ohio is now entering its 5th week. Since the Strongsville Board of Education made their last offer, the Strongsville Education Association has made 3 counter offers that have been met with silence. The board's resistance to talk has been so extreme that a court had to order them to release public records. With this as a backdrop, we decided to travel up to Strongsville.

When we arrived we were met with the sight of hundreds of determined educators walking the picket line

After talking to them and listening to their side of the strike, it was clear to us that even after being out on strike for over a month, they were determined to secure a fair contract. It was also clear that the Strongsville board of education is being guided by special interests with an agenda and not the interests of the students and the community. This became even more apparent later in the day.

As the teachers marched up an down the sidewalk of the very busy road, they were receiving a tremendous amount of support from passersby,both in cars and on foot (a number of parents were walking the picket lines with the teachers).

Around 1pm, in the wind and cold, teachers and their supporters march to a common area to gather around a gazebo. Sen. Sherrod Brown was scheduled to address them.

At least 1,000 people turned out for a rally on Strongsville’s square attended by members of other unions.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Avon Democrat, called on Frazee to kick-start the stalled negotiations.

“Most importantly, students are not well-served when both sides are not sitting at the bargaining table,“ Brown said.

“Strongsville students deserve a settlement – now. But a settlement can’t be reached if the two parties aren’t talking. That’s why I joined teachers today – who told me how they want to be back in the classroom – and why I will keep in contact with the school board,” Brown said.

After Sen. Brown spoke, SEA President Linscott addressed her members and the crowd. She laid out the clear reasons why the strike has happened and why it continues. But more importantly she offered the board yet another opportunity to resolve the strike fairly.
In 2009 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration should it be needed.
Again, in 2010 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration. In both cases that course of action wasn't needed as agreements were made.
Yesterday, SEA once again offered to end the strike immediately if the board agreed to binding interest arbitration. The proposal can be read in full below.

Strongsville E.A Binding Arbitration offer

Unlike in 2009 and 2010, the Strongsville board rejected this offer before the end of the day, once again demonstrating bad faith and a motive other than ending the month long strike. If their goal is to try and break the SEA, and it appears that that is their goal, they are going to fail. The hundreds of teachers we met, saw and talked ot yesterday were determined and resolved to continue their strike until a fair labor contract is agreed to.

The Federal mediator has called both parties back to the negotiating table today. Pressure on the Board is mounting as conditions inside Strongsville schools is deteriorating

Dozens of parents and students fed up with the Strongsville teachers strike took their pleas for the school board to negotiate and find common ground with the teachers union to City Council’s April 1 meeting.

Six Strongsville High School students recounted concerning conditions inside the school – overfilled classrooms, substitutes who did not know the material they were teaching and were not told where the regular teacher left off and an abundance of movies and study halls peppering the eight-period school day have become the norm, they said.
Pam Mullen, who has three children in the district, says her two youngest children at Muraski Elementary School are on IEPs for speech and reading.

“For over a week they did not receive the help they needed,” Mullen said. “My daughter tried her best to keep up, but it was too much. It led to melt downs and stomach aches.”

Mullen said she received a letter from the district saying no speech therapists had been hired yet, and she could not afford to hire one herself.

“This past month has been frustrating for my family,” she said.

Moser said some of her classmates who are on IEPs were left to fend for themselves at a time that was crucial for not just them, but the school district – Ohio Graduation Tests, which took place March 11-15, during the second week of the strike.

“Strongsville City Schools was thriving before this,” Moser said. “Now there’s no learning, no love and hallways are filled with dread.”

Junior Mathangi Sridharan painted the picture for those students who are in AP classes, high-level courses the district has struggled to fill.

Sridharan said students have been going over the material that will be covered in tests given next month by themselves – she and two other students have even taught some classes.
Other students spoke about the void of honors classes and extracurricular activities, including concerts and plays the students had spent months preparing for, but a common theme came up between parents and students, alike – the strike is on the brink of doing irreparable harm to the community.

The board has now had 4 opportunities offered to it by the striking teachers and has remained silent, refusing to negotiate in good faith. Let's hope they see sense and reason, and find a way to end this strike in a way that is fair to everyone, students, teachers and the community at large.

You can stay up to date on the strongsville strike at the SEA Facebook page, and on Twitter.

What teachers are telling the Governor: Day 5

Previous days comments can be found here:

Today's installment covers perhaps the most common theme encountered when reading through submissions made by educators regarding the idea of merit pay. Fairness. It's a theme that runs through so many of the comments we have spent time reading. The concern is deep and wide, and the lack of transparency and apparent partisanship being exhibted by those involved in the development process is causing deep anxiety within the education professions ranks

I am concerned about pay based on performance of students. In the field of Arts, Music, and Phys. Ed., we see all the children in assigned grade levels within a school and help children establish right brain and left brain thinking which can be different ways than their classroom teacher might require. It would be difficult to measure this type of performance. Also we see some teachers who have classes that are functioning at a lower level and sometimes, they do remarkable things with those students, other times those students might wind up on an IEP so they can receive the specialized attention that they need to move forward. This is not a reflection of the teacher, but rather demonstrates how some students don't advance at the "normal expected" rates of their peers. I don't see why teachers could then be penalized for that as well...which will happen in a "performance based pay". This is why I find it hard to conceive how this concept of "performance based pay" would be fair or even recognize a teachers success. Thank you for considering this fact.
Not and idea, but questions. How will the pay of teachers be determined by merit? What are the exact parameters? How will the pay of teachers not involved in standardized testing be determined? Will this not lead to the most experienced teachers being released from duty simply because of their expense?
I don't think that there is a fair way to do performance based pay for teachers. This will turn into a system of the administration picking out their friends for pay raises and leaving everyone else at the bottom of the pay scale. Their is no way to know how a teacher is effecting a student. I have had students that I thought that I did not reach, but later, after they graduate, they tell me that I was the reason they stayed in school and did well.
Teachers would absorb better this if you would just be fair: elected officials are public employees, yet you are not including yourselves in this merit pay plan. Senators and some representatives make more now than we'll make at any point in our careers (especially those of us who teach in rural Ohio), yet you place yourselves above your own mandates. We've already proven ourselves: we had to pass student teaching, get the degree, pass the Praxis / NTE, and we work harder every year to improve our district's report cards. My school has been excellent the last five years, excellent with distinction at least the last two years. You? Your only "test" is the election process. You didn't take a test to prove that you know anything about Ohio history, current events, or fiscal responsibility, characteristics that all elected officials should possess. You don't have to prove that you've connected with your constituents; that your constituents have better lives because of your work. We've proven our merit. With all due respect, when will you prove yours?
It is hard to understand how teachers will equitably be able to have their pay tied to student acheivement. How will teachers that do not teach a tested area be evaluated? How will the "human" factor of our product be accounted for? How will teachers in low income districts be fairly evaluated? I'm all for making sure that we have high quality teachers, but using student achievement or satisfaction cannot fairly evaluate a teacher's worth and will only drive good people away from the teaching profession. I also find it interesting that the state of Ohio after all of these years has still not figured out how to fund our education system and has yet to comply with the Supreme Court decisions about state funding. And yet we want teacher's pay to be related to a system of evaluations that are already flawed.

Right now the process isn't fair, isn't open, and lacks any collaboration and cooperation. That needs to change.

A balanced approach to the budget

The Republican controlled legislature and the Governor have determined that the state budget will be balanced on the back of public education and the middle class. Much of the solution will pass the buck to local government and school districts, by eliminating the tangible personal property tax (TPP) replacement money, leaving many school districts in dire straits. Further costs are passed onto working Ohioans with a 2% pension shift, directly extracting hundreds of millions from paychecks over the next 2 years alone. A significant portion of the money that is left over for public education is diverted to expand charter schools and vouchers. A plan even conservative charter proponents oppose. Much of the rest of the budget gap is filled with one time money from the privatization of Ohio's assets, from roads and prisons, to the lottery and alcohol.

Clearly a more balanced approach would be welcome.

A short while ago we discussed and demonstrated that the income tax cuts made through HB66 in 2004 has had a negligible effect on a typical teachers tax burden. For those tax cuts to make a real tangible difference one would have to earn significantly more than any Ohio teacher - hundreds of thousands of dollars more in fact.

A recent study by the Education Tax Policy Institute (ETPI), found

that Ohio ranks as the 17th lowest state in taxes levied at the state level. Increases in local taxes place Ohio with a total state and local tax burden at about the national average. Ohio's ranking among states is higher when local taxes are included in the comparison because state policies have shifted the responsibility for funding public services, including education, down to the local level.

While the study determined that the reform of Ohio's business tax structure in 2005 improved both the fairness and the competitiveness of the state's revenue system, the authors also determined that the combination of the recent recession and the changes in the state’s tax system in House Bill (HB) 66 lowered state revenue by $3 billion below the levels anticipated in 2005 when the state revamped its business tax structure.

The summary can be read here, with the full report is below. The report demonstrates that Ohio does not have the crushing tax burden that some would have us believe, but instead has areas where improvements could be made that would raise revenue without causing any economic harm.

The following two charts from the report show the sources of tax revenue, the first for the state, the second for local taxes.

State Sources of Tax Revenue

State sources of tax revenue

Local Sources of Tax Revenue

local sources of tax revenue

As you can see, business pays very little, with the vast majority of taxes being paid by individuals through income tax, property tax and sales taxes. One would hardly have to be draconian to realize significant tax revenues from simply closing outdated loopholes

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's cash-strapped government could generate an additional $300 million a year by closing tax loopholes that are outdated, benefit a few or do little to spur economic growth, a trio of policy think tanks spanning the political spectrum told state leaders Monday.

You can see some of the crazy tax loopholes in this document

The Tax Expenditure Report Ohio

In total those tax exemptions add to over $7 billion.

The evidence is overwhelming that an alternative, more balanced approach to the budget is available to law makers should they choose. They do not have to continue on this path that seriously harms public education and the middle class. They can solve the budget problems without passing the buck down to local government. The question is, will they chose a new path?


This week in education cuts