Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You’d be crazy to see SB5’s defeat as a defeat for Ohio school reform

Terry Ryan of the Fordham Institute argues that the recent vote in Ohio isn't a repudiation of ed reform:

Ohio's electorate soundly rejected Issue 2 (the referendum on Senate Bill 5) on Tuesday. As almost everyone knows, that statute made significant changes to collective bargaining for public employees in the Buckeye State. The most controversial bits included changes to binding arbitration (to give management the right to impose its last best offer), a ban on strikes by public employees, and the elimination of seniority as the sole factor for determining who should be laid off when cutbacks are necessary.

Though teachers and their unions were most definitely included—both in Senate Bill 5 and in the frantic, well-funded ($30 million) effort to persuade voters to repudiate it—education-policy watchers outside Ohio may not appreciate the extent to which this was really a referendum on policemen, firemen, and other "first responders" in the public sector. They and their unions were covered by the measure, too, and played the lead role—and by far the most visible role—in the campaign to undo it. There is, in fact, every reason to believe that if the first responders hadn't been involved, Senate Bill 5 would have survived Election Day.

…What does this mean for education reform? Are we facing a period of political paralysis in Ohio (and beyond) where nothing can be changed even when change is needed? Will elected officials be so shell-shocked from this particular electoral pounding that they will simply nibble on the margins of reform?

That would be a terrible mistake. Surveys have consistently shown that Ohioans support bona fide school-reform efforts, and many of the other education reforms that were tucked into the 300 pages of Senate Bill 5 had and still have the support of voters. These include:

·         Creating a salary structure free of automatic step increases;

·         Requiring performance-based pay for teachers and nonteaching school employees;

·         Limiting public employer contributions toward health care benefit costs;

·         Requiring annual evaluations of teachers to include student performance data; and

·         Requiring that any lay-offs be based in part on these evaluations.

The Fordham Institute polled Ohioans on education issues in 2005, 2007, and 2009 and in every one of these surveys Buckeye residents said they preferred paying teachers according to their "performance and how effectively they teach" rather than compensating them for "years of service and degrees earned." In 2009, the margin was a striking 69 to 15 percent. Further, an overwhelming 87 percent favored "giving local public schools more freedom to fire teachers that aren't performing," while only 11 percent opposed such a measure.

Quinnipiac reported two weeks ago that Ohioans supported (49 to 40 percent) the provision in Senate Bill 5 that pay increases for public-sector employees (including teachers) should be based on merit rather than seniority. And again, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. Recent national polls show Americans overall support merit pay and tying tenure to performance. An Education Next survey earlier this year found that "those who say tenure should be based on academic progress increased from 49 percent to 55 percent between 2010 and 2011."


You'd be crazy to see SB5's defeat as a defeat for Ohio school reform

Posted by Terry Ryan on November 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm


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