UA teachers take action against Issue 2, organize to repeal Senate Bill 5
by Kate Magill, ’13
As the Nov. 8 election looms, one issue stands out as the most controversial and discussed topic on the ballot: Issue 2, which has the potential to repeal Senate Bill 5.
Senate Bill 5 has caused debate throughout the state between public employees and administrators. Sponsored by first-term Ohio Sen. Shannon Jones (R), Senate Bill 5 would limit collective bargaining rights for public employees. According to the General Assembly of Ohio, the bill states that public employees would work directly with administrators when negotiating job conditions. When an agreement could not be reached during employee-administrator negotiations, the administrator would make the final decision on issues such as payment and pension. These measures have created dispute throughout the state on the right of public employees to voice their opinions and concerns in negotiations.
The bill is also supported by Gov. John Kasich (R), who said the bill will save the state as much as $1.3 billion by cutting pay increases for public workers and requiring workers to pay more for health insurance, according to the March 2, AOL News story “Ohio SB 5: The Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill Explained,” by Mary Phillips.
In addition to Kasich’s cited $1.3 billion, Jones said the bill will provide local communities with a more flexible way of negotiating between employees and administrators, which will ultimately save local economies and jobs. In an interview with Cincinnati.com on March 4, Jones explained the problems the bill is meant to solve.
“These cities and school districts and townships and counties are going to crumble and be forced into mass layoffs if we don’t provide some flexibility,” she said.
Teachers throughout UA disagree with such statements, and some are taking a stand against the bill by attending rallies, writing letters to local papers and giving testimonies. One leader of the movement has been Wickcliffe Elementary School Instructional Specialist and former Ohio Teacher of the Year Maureen Reedy. She has voiced her concerns about the bill and its effect on public employees throughout the state.
“Senate Bill 5 takes away the voice of the professional,” Reedy said. “[Public employees] have a lot to bring to the table and it makes no sense to silence our voices. It’s not good for our students, and it’s not good for the community.”
As co-president of the Upper Arlington Education Association, Warren Orloff also has serious concerns about the potential for administrations to halt good communication and compromise with employees.
“If we are negotiating, and we can’t agree, then the decision will be made by the administration,” Orloff said. “It sets the table for them to get whatever they want.”
Both Orloff and Reedy feel that if the bill is left in effect, future teachers will be discouraged from working in the state, because of the changes the bill makes to the profession.
“[Senate Bill 5] rewrites job security for teachers. [It makes teaching] a less enticing job. I have a fear that in Ohio we’re taking a job that really should be directed at our most skilled students and making it less appealing,” Orloff said.
According to Phillips’ AOL news story, supporters of the bill have promoted it as a money-saving measure, something that is necessary to save the state economy.
However, Orloff said he feels this assessment of the bill is incorrect, calling it a “fluff issue.”
“Suggesting that this is saving the state money is a non-issue. It is not a money-saver. It is a reform effort; it is not a budgetary effort,” he said.
Reedy said other efforts to save the state money should be considered rather than going forth with Senate Bill 5.
“I don’t think that we should be quadrupling vouchers to charter schools,” Reedy said. “One out of two charter schools are on academic watch, while only one out of 11 public schools are.”
Additionally, Reedy said she feels positive dialogue between the state and its educators can occur once the bill is repealed, which she is confident will happen.
“I think when this law is repealed, that’s when the positives will start, because that’s when we can go back to the drawing table,” she said. “We aren’t saying that some things don’t need to be looked at. But let it come from the people talking to their representatives.”
Despite the conflict that has arisen from the bill and the upcoming election, Reedy said she has experienced unanticipated support from the community, as well as an increased sense of colleagiality among her fellow teachers.
“I am so proud and overwhelmed with the spirit, the support, the passion, the intellect and the commitment of my teaching colleagues in this district,” she said. “It has been overwhelming to see how connected we all are and how supportive we all are. That has been an unintended consequence of these really, really difficult times in the last six months. We’ve pulled together and there’s no place I would rather be than with my teaching colleagues in this district.”