Quolke's Corner 3/12/12

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Things have been very busy since the unveiling of the Mayor’s Plan for education in Cleveland on February 6. Since that day representatives of the Executive Board,  our legal counsel, and I have met on several occasions with the Mayor and his team which includes:  CEO Gordon, representatives of Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), and counsel for the GCP to see if there are areas of agreement and/or room for compromise on aspects of the Plan. These meetings were mostly informational – the Mayor’s team explaining to us what they intend to do via changes to state law. It was an often frustrating process, since the legislation was being developed, but much of the discussion sounded like SB5. We believe that the Mayor does have good intentions for the children of the CMSD and we believe that the Mayor does want to find areas of consensus. However, we also knew that while we were talking, legislation was being drafted to present to the Ohio General Assembly to change laws affecting the educators in the Cleveland Schools.
On Saturday, the legislation was released to us and to law makers. Whether this legislation appears in the “mid-biennium budget review” (MBR) or appear as separate, stand- alone legislation could be determined as early as this week by the Governor and the Republican leaders.
Many of the requested changes to the law are restarts of Senate Bill 5, if not outwardly worse than what was proposed in Senate Bill 5. The difference this time is that this legislation targets only teachers and only teachers in Cleveland (at least for now). Some of the suggested legislative changes would:
·         Require a fresh start to all labor union contracts in the CMSD. This is a Senate Bill 5 restart. This would require each union to start with a blank piece of paper and negotiate a brand new contract. Failure to reach agreement on a new labor contract would lead to a contract created by the BoE as the new agreement or a strike.
·         Mandate RIF (lay-off) based on a multitude of factors (HB 153 bases lay-offs after 2013 on evaluation, using seniority only as a tie-breaker). These factors would include: Level of license, the number of subject areas a teacher is licensed to teach, evaluations, specialized training, and any other credentials established by the Chief Academic Officer.
·         Mandate that the seniority cannot be used as a factor in transfer of teachers.
·         Expand the reasons for reduction in force to include: reduction in student enrollment, repurposing of schools, school closure, consolidation of teaching positions, suspension or changing of teaching programs, finances.
·         Permanently eliminate continuing contract for anyone hired after passage of this law.
·         Allow the district to suspend the teaching contracts of teachers in low performing schools.
·         Develop a new pay schedule that is not based on longevity and level of education. A new schedule would be developed based on a variety of factors including: license, training, hard to staff schools, additional duties, performance, etc.
·         Allow the district to share levy funds with high performing charter schools.
·         Create a Transformation Alliance that would oversee charter schools and evaluate the educational plan of both the charter and public schools in the district. This Alliance would be exempted from sunshine laws, open meetings laws, and public records requests.
There are many other things that appear in the potential law changes. The legislation is being analyzed by our legal counsel and others - we will get a summary to you this week. We will also send more information hard copy to all members and we will have a job action for you later this week. Regardless of whether this legislation is introduced in the mid-biennium budget review or as separate legislation, the General Assembly hopes to conclude all legislation by Memorial Day. That is roughly 10 weeks. We have already made contacts with our brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO, the Ohio Education Association, city council members, faith-based leaders, community leaders, and many of our friends during the SB 5 attacks. Please make sure that your building chair has your personal email. As I have said in the past, things will begin to move and begin to move quickly and we will need a lot of help from all of our members.
In Union,