Money and politics

If the Tea Party are truly concerned about the influence of money in politics, then the "work place freedom" that is needed, is the freedom from corporations buying politicians and elections. This graph from amply demonstrates how asymetric the situation is

Corporate political donations far outstrip any other kind, including labor organizations, and since the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision to allow even greater freedom for corporations to buy elections and politicians, that gap is growing significantly.

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.

Data proves voters increasingly supporting schools

Since we launched Join the Future almost one year ago, we have been tracking Ohio's school levy election results. Below we have plotted the passage rates for New and Renewal levies, and the combined results. As you can see, passage rates have been steadily increasing since the May 2011 primary. Let's hope that voters continue to support our public schools in ever greater numbers, despite the Governor's inexplicable call to vote against school funding.

Levy Date New Renewal All
May 2011 35.3% 91.8% 58.9%
Aug 2011 19.0% 100% 32.0%
Nov 2011 28.4% 88.6% 50.8%
Mar 2012 56.6% 98.1% 75.2%

Levy Trend Results

Ohio charters are solving the wrong problem

NPR has begun what looks to be a very interesting series of articles on charter schools in Ohio.

In 1998, Ohio opened its first 15 charter schools. There are now more than 300, and they’re enrolling more than 100,000 primary and secondary students. Ohio is paying upwards of $500 million to support those schools. But as charter schools have grown, so have divisions between them and traditional public schools.

The whole piece is worth the time to read. As charter schools are given ever greater license to expand and spread, they are coming under ever greater scrutiny. A handful of charters, with a few failing might be seen by most as no big deal, hundreds of charters with dozens upon dozens failing begins to stand out in sharp relief.

One hundred and twenty charter schools in Ohio have collapsed over the last 13 years. They owe the state millions of dollars in audit findings.

Considering there are only 300 charters in Ohio, that's an astonishing number. When you couple that with terrible academic performance and the catastrophic failure of e-schools in Ohio, maybe greater attention to charter reform is needed.

The great promise of charters was supposed to be their ability to innovate without the shackles of regulation. Instead, charter operators and their sponsors have used the lack of regulation in order to drive down the costs of providing education, which in turn has driven down the quality. Why is it, free from regulation, no charter or sponsor has decided to try and replicate successful education models used in countries like Denmark? Here's Diane Ravitch talking about our race to the bottom, and the alternatives

The corporate influence on the charter movement isn't creating excellence in education through innovation, it is simply driving out quality by drivning down costs. That's decidedly NOT the problem charters were sold to Ohioans as trying to solve.

Is election tampering of SB5 coming to Ohio

Yesterday we read an article detailing some very troubling activity by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers funded astroturf organization

Americans for Prosperity is sending absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the election date.

The fliers, obtained by POLITICO, ask solidly Democratic voters to return ballots for the Aug. 9 election to the city clerk "before Aug. 11."

Those Wisconsin recall elections are central to the fight against SB5 like measures implemented by Republican Governor Scott Walker. Meanwhile, back in Ohio the Cincinnatti inquirer has a report

Americans for Prosperity-Ohio kicks off a statewide series of Taxpayer Town Halls on August 16th in the Greater Cincinnati Area. AFP-Ohio is partnering with Tea Parties, 9-12 Groups, and other liberty organizations to host these town halls, which will focus on the financial crises many local governments across Ohio are facing, how those crises could affect citizens, jobs and our economy, what local governments can do to address their financial challenges, and how Senate Bill 5 can help.

If anyone attempts to tamper with Ohio elections they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Guest Post: Thoughts about teacher evaluation

A guest post by Robert Barkley, Jr., Retired Executive Director, Ohio Education Association, Author: Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders and Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, Worthington, Ohio –

Thoughts about teacher evaluation

As it often has over the 50+ years I’ve been involved in public education, teacher evaluation is once again getting considerable attention.

And as is too often the case, many who are discussing it have little idea what they’re talking about – to put it mildly.

First, there can be no meaningful discussion of this topic unless and until the parties come to a clear and shared agreement as to what are the purpose and corollary objectives of education in the first place. Without doing so any process of evaluation establishes the educational purpose and objectives extraneously and inappropriately. Thus, in almost all cases, the discussion of teacher evaluation is entirely off base and counterproductive to say the least.

For example, I have concluded, after extensive study and discussions over many years that the fundamental purpose of education is: The purpose of education is to preserve and nurture an abiding enthusiasm for learning and an unending curiosity, and to first and foremost guide students to make sense out of their current reality.

Now one can argue with this conclusion, but the point is that for any evaluation of teacher performance, or the performance of any other worker, to be of serious consequence, such a statement of purpose must be firmly established and shared by all those evolved. Rarely have I come upon a district or school that has satisfactorily completed this first step of leading to any worthwhile evaluation system.

Second, most psychologists that I have studied I think would agree that most workers, and teachers in particular, want to do a good job. In fact, it has been long established that those who enter teaching have this intrinsic and altruistic drive to do well to an even greater extent than do those entering many other professions.

And if one accepts that premise, then top-down, punitive, and competitive evaluation will have greater negative consequences than positive ones. If that is the case, then a system of non-threatening feedback will be the most productive approach to set in place.

Over these many years the best of such approaches is one labeled “360-degree feedback.” In this system, once purpose is established an appropriate context determined, everyone in the system is provided feedback as to his or her performance from all directions. This would mean that each teacher would be provided feedback from students, colleagues, parents, support personnel, and supervisors. Each employee in that system would receive the same such feedback. This means that every principal would receive feedback from the entire faculty.

And let me emphasize the “non-threatening” part of such a system. This means that the feedback you receive is yours and yours alone. No one else would see it unless you choose to share it. The theory in all this is of course that, given a natural desire to do well and improve, we will all make appropriate changes and seek guidance when necessary.

Some would say this is a naïve and utopian approach. I have been involved in such a system. It works. And as one can easily see, there is no place for merit pay in such and system and it naturally encourages teamwork and collaboration, which are the hallmark of all successful enterprises.