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.

Stan Heffner involved in major ethics violantions

The head of ODE and State Superintendent Stan Heffner, has been found in violation of state ethic laws according to an Inspector General report issued today. This investigation was prompted by Plunderbund reporting.

CONCLUSION TO THE INITIAL ALLEGATION At the time of his testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, Heffner had already interviewed and secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS). Heffner negotiated the conditions of his employment with ETS, signed an offer, and began the process of transitioning from Ohio to San Antonio, Texas. He had met with ETS officials out of state and allowed them to pay for his travel; he took time from attending an out-of-state conference on behalf of ODE to meet with ETS officials. Heffner’s testimony supported legislation which would result in an increase of testing for Ohio’s school teachers. Based on the prior relationship between ODE and ETS, it was inappropriate for Heffner to give testimony in support of this bill given the strong likelihood that ETS could stand to profit.

Ohio Revised Code Section 121.41 defines at division (G): “Wrongful act or omission” means an act or omission, committed in the course of office holding or employment, that is not in accordance with the requirements of law or such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government.

By providing testimony to the legislature as the state’s principal employee for leadership in education, in support of a bill that could and ultimately did benefit a corporation with which he had entered into an agreement of employment, Heffner failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and subverts the process of government.

Accordingly, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General finds reasonable cause to believe wrongful acts or omissions occurred in these instances.

The report further details other violations uncovered during their investigation, including the misuse of state time and resources.

While investigating the initial allegations, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General found during the course of negotiating the employment agreement between Heffner and ETS, Heffner advised associates at ETS to use both his state-issued cell phone and his state email account as the preferred method of contact to conduct non-state business arrangements.

Further evidence has Heffner directing state employees to make personal arrangement for him, as he was looking for a new job. Here's just one of many examples uncovered

In addition, Heffner’s former executive secretary also provided documentation of email instructions addressed to her by Heffner for preparing an envelope to send an employment application to USD. (Exhibit 13) She also stated that Heffner instructed her to coordinate a flight to Washington, D.C., for a meeting between Heffner and ETS. She stated that though ETS scheduled the flight, she was instructed to convey the details of the flight to ETS’s executive search company, JRS.

He directed his assistant to prepare and coordinate his move to Texas and the subsequent mortgage arrangements

Heffner’s executive assistant recalled on one particular day, Heffner brought in a brief case full of personal documents which were related to the potential purchase of a home in San Antonio, and for the sale of his home in Westerville. The new executive assistant explained Heffner instructed her to organize the documents and assist in getting the process “finalized” for the mortgage company. She described the documents as Heffner’s personal records such as tax returns, bank statements, letters of financial debt, and anything you would need for a mortgage company. She stated that from the personal documents given to her by Heffner, as mortgage companies would contact her, she would provide whatever documentation they were seeking and would utilize whatever state equipment was necessary to send or transmit them. Occasionally, she stated, Heffner would inquire as to how the process of his home purchase was proceeding and would want to know about “timelines.”
When asked if she believed that she had an option to refuse to perform this work she replied, “. . . and keep my job? Probably not.” She stated she was in “disbelief” that Heffner was instructing her to perform these personal tasks. She said, “My only option was to do what he needed and try to do it well so he, you know, so he would, so he would keep me.”

The Office of the Ohio Inspector General asks the State Board of Education of Ohio to consider whether administrative action is warranted and respond within 60 days detailing its decision.

The full IG report can be read here.
Exhibits from the investigation can be found here.


According to a Dispatch Report, the Superintendent is appologizing but refusing to resign

Ohio schools Superintendent Stan Heffner quickly apologized for ethics allegations outlined in a state watchdog investigation released today but stopped short of stepping down from the post he has held for a year.

“I accept the findings of the Inspector General’s report. I was wrong and I’m sorry for my lack of judgment,” Heffner said in a statement released by the Ohio Department of Education.

“I’ve apologized to my staff, my friends and colleagues at the department, and the board. I have learned from my mistakes, and I will work with the board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”

A Worthington teacher testifies against HB153

OEA member and WEA President Mark Hill's written testimony against HB 153

Chairman Widener, Ranking Member Skindell, and members of the Senate Finance Committee, my name is Mark Hill. I am a math teacher in the Worthington City Schools currently serving as president of the Worthington Education Association. Thank you for allowing me to offer testimony on HB153.

I come today to talk to you about the teacher accountability provisions in HB 153. I have some concerns about the structure for accountability that is in the version passed out of the House.

I would like to begin by saying that I don’t have a problem with a rigorous evaluation system for teachers nor do I disagree with the notion of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom. That may sound unusual coming from a leader of a local teachers union but I am a parent, too, and I care about access to a high quality education for my kids. The teachers I represent take a great deal of pride in teaching in an excellent school district; many of them live in the district and all of them want it to remain excellent; none of them want to work alongside a bad teacher.

HB153, as passed by the House, goes too far. It requires teachers to be rated highly effective, effective, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory based on an evaluation in which 50% of the score is measuring student growth through value added scores averaged over three years. It requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to set a minimum level value added measure for a teacher for each of the rating levels. Furthermore, it imposes draconian penalties for teachers who are rated as unsatisfactory or needs improvement including imposition of unpaid leave on a teacher rated at those levels if their principal does not consent to placing them in their building the next year effectively ending their careers.

Value added scores are a great concept but as a statistical measure, they are fraught with error. Scores fluctuate by random error; in Houston’s value added system only 38% of the top fifth remained in the top rating the next year. 23% of the top fifth in performance ended up being in the bottom fifth the next year and vice versa. Fluctuations like that defy reason; it is highly unlikely that a fourth of the top teachers in Houston one year were poor performers the next.

According to another study done for the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation found that, using three years of data, a teacher who should be rated as average has a 25% chance of being rated significantly below average. A teacher who should be rated as a top performer has a 10% chance of being rated significantly below average. This means under HB 153, 25% of the average teachers in Ohio and 10% of the good teachers in Ohio would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs due to statistical error. I hope the Ohio General Assembly would not want to add a “Wheel of Fortune” element to teachers’ careers.

Under this system, who would take care of the kids? There are teachers who ask for the students with behavior problems and learning disabilities because they care about them and believe they deserve an education. Under HB 153, these teachers would be putting their career at risk to do so. My own son has Aspergers Syndrome, which is a condition on the autism spectrum – who will want to teach him? Under HB153, math and reading teachers are far more at risk for losing their jobs than other teachers because those are the only areas with enough scores to build a value-added modeling system. Who would want to work in an area where you are constantly worrying about losing your job due to a statistical error?

I don’t come just to complain but to offer solutions. First, you’ve already passed this framework for evaluation in Senate Bill 5. There is no logical reason to duplicate it in HB153 – frankly, I don’t believe it belongs in either bill but should be a subject of debate on its own.

Second, instead of mandating 50% value added, allow the local education agency to decide how to best fit value added in their evaluations. This is the system under Race to the Top – Worthington is a Race to the Top district, so we have already agreed to rate teachers’ effectiveness through evaluation using value added modeling. A top down statewide approach will have serious unintended consequences.

Thank you for listening.

Please contact your State Senator and ask them to remove the SB5 provisions from HB153 (the budget bill).

ODE Budget Testimony

Budget testimony given by the Ohio Department of Education can be found here
Testimony from ODE - 129th General Assembly

 Date Presented  Bill/Topic of Testimony Legislative Committee Presented To
March 31, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
Scholarship Programs

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education
March 31, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
Teacher Licensure

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education
March 31, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
Community Schools

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education
March 30, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
Standards, Assessments & Accountability

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education
March 30, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
IT, EMIS & Longitudinal Data Systems

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education
March 30, 2011

HB 153 (Budget Bill)
State System of Support

House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education

ODE also provides constantly updating page of useful budget information and refenercne documents, which can be found here:
FY 12 – FY 13 (HB 153) Budget Information

The Arc of Truth bends towards Justice!

We recieved this in our mail bag from teacher Maureen Reedy

Dear Friends,

SB 5 Signing I know the past few days have been very tough days for all of us, but take heart... and if you were at the Statehouse Wednesday night, up in the balcony of the House of Representatives chamber and on the floor of the Senate, hearing the impassioned testimony of the Democrats and a few Republican legislators then you know what I am feeling right now.... there is hope for what we believe in, what we teach to our students and children, our future as educators and the preservation of the very creed of our democratic society.

If you were not there, I thought I would share some quotes from my notes as Democratic Representatives and Senators and Republican Senators Grendell and Seitz spoke on the floor of the House and Senate just before the votes were taken...

"Senate Bill 5 is anti-liberty, anti-life, anti-justice, anti-truth, anti-pursuit of liberty and happiness..."

"We are all in the same boat and one-half of a boat don't float..."

"The arc of Truth bends towards Justice...."

"What side of history do we want to be on? The RIGHT side of history!"

"Historically progress is marked by moving FORWARDS not backwards, SB 5 is pushing our society BACKWARDS... it turns the clock back 100 years..."

"My father taught me that being a politician was not about voting on issues just to win an election but for standing up and voting for what you believe in your heart."

"Senate Bill 5 is dishonest, it insults, demeans and denigrates the very people who save the lives of Ohioans and educate our children for their future..."

"When Senate Bill 5 passes and there is no collective bargaining for Paramedics, how are YOU going to feel when it takes the EMT 10 extra minutes to reach YOUR mother's house? What if she does not survive?"

"Senate Bill 5 is unfair... it will generate unfunded mandates locally and statewide and encourage nepotism in the workplace...."

"Never let Truth get in the way of a good story..."

"Senate Bill 5 is just a smokescreen for eliminating the middle class... SB 5 is not fair, not just and not equitable... "

"Absent binding arbitration, Collective Bargaining is useless..."

"Collective Bargaining is Democracy in the workplace..."

The testimony and voting went on until 9:30 pm, we heard the most impassioned, moving and affirming speeches, the air was electric. This truly is becoming the civil rights movement of our time for all of us AND for the children of tomorrow. When we were in the House chambers, it was like a scene out of To Kill a Mockingbird, all of the people sitting in the balcony, hanging onto every syllable of every word of testimony...

Then the vote was taken and everyone was standing up, looking down over the balcony to the legislators below.... Here were their voices : "What about the people?" " You voted against humanity!" "What about the children?" "We risk our lives for YOU!" "We CHANGE lives!" "You let Ohio down!" "Shame on you!"

Then we all walked down the stairs singing "Power to the People" and gathered in the Rotunda to listen to each democratic Representative of the House address the crowd with a promise to get the Referendum up and moving so that the voice of the people would prevail, hundreds of people cheering and waving together.

We then went into the Senate chambers for the next 3 hours, lots of singing, chanting, clapping , standing , stomping, the democratic legislators were there singing and talking with us, at 8 pm began another hour of impassioned testimony and loud cheering...

Then the final vote of the Senate on the amended House version of the bill...

The reaction of the crowd to the final vote was just incredible, we felt the truth rising and filling the chambers, in spite of the outcome of the vote, we did not feel it weighing us down, rather liberating us to move forward towards the referendum movement, towards the voice of the people resonating with justice...

As the onlookers shouted, the supporters of SB 5 were escorted out of the chambers by state troopers , it was as if they were moving through a tunnel of shame, their heads were actually hanging down... just amazing to watch.

We all left quietly with the voices of the people filling us with purpose, passion and conviction for the days and months ahead...

Together, we will move forward toward the light... and remember the words of a wise legislator who stood up on the Senate floor and said ...

"The Arc of Truth bends towards Justice!"