Quolke's Corner Philadelphia Reform Commission Oct. 2014

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The actions of the Philadelphia Reform Commission and related information that we need to know:

As the November elections approach, we all know the politics of education never seem to improve.  Union bashing is still alive and well in Ohio.  However, a quick look to our east shows just how prevalent and outrageous this is across the nation.  

Last week in Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission held an emergency meeting on a Monday morning with no notice and very few people in the room---and voided the entire Philadelphia Federation of Teachers collective bargaining agreement. 

Yes, it is an outrage that a committee made up of three people appointed by the Republican Governor and two people appointed by the Mayor can in minutes wipe out years of work, protection, and rights.  It is an outrage that they have been in negotiations for 21 months and that more than 3,000 teachers, nurses, and paraprofessionals have been laid-off.  It is an outrage that awful learning conditions are being left for the children of Philadelphia.

If you are thinking that there is something here in Ohio that rings familiar with the Philadelphia Reform Commission, you are right.  Ohio has what is called the Academic Distress Commission.  I have written about the Academic Distress Commission in the past.  The Ohio Academic Distress Commission was created by state legislators and signed into law in 2005.  After years of poor academic progress, a school district can be forced into oversight by the Academic Distress Commission.  This Commission would have three members appointed by the state and two members (who live in the city) appointed by the President of the Board of Education.  This group has the ability, among other things, to design the school academic plan; hire a private company to provide management functions; create a budget; and most dangerously, pass work rules that are not subject to collective bargaining.

Were it not for the work that was done on HB 525 and subsequent passage of the Cleveland levy, the reality is that Ohio could have put CMSD under the control of the Academic Distress Commission.  Whether you like all of what was done or not, it was that work that enabled this district to continue moving forward under our CBA work rules.  It was that work that is enabling our educators and students to work and learn in reasonable, professional conditions. Our ability to sit at the table and take what was terrible legislation, then work to make it better, provided the state with the opportunity to allow CMSD to improve student achievement without additional state intervention---the horrible, awful, no-good intervention like the School Reform Commission imposed upon Philadelphia schools. 

Remember, the original HB 525 language called for the firing of teachers based on where they taught, not on their individual quality or skill as educators.  It further eliminated tenure, eviscerated our CBA, and unilaterally allowed the Board to write their own two- page contract.

The state of Pennsylvania has bled the Philadelphia Schools dry for years, which in turn has led to school closings, mass lay-offs, and the current state of duress that the schools are in.  It was Ohio’s HB 525 that led to the 2012 levy that passed with broad community support---the first successful operating levy in Cleveland since 1996.

Mandates via state laws that impact all Ohio teachers plus HB 525 have not been received gladly, nor should they be.  Legislators cannot simply legislate good teaching and good learning.  However, I will stand by the work that was done to mitigate the effects of HB 525, because that work was what was best for our members and best for the students that we serve.  And that work has not led to the ruin of our school district, unlike what Pennsylvania’s School Reform Commission is doing now to the students, employees, and community in Philadelphia. 

Elections have consequences, elections matter, and elections are important. Pennsylvania is on the verge of kicking out the Governor who has led the teacher bashing in PA.  In Ohio, we need to get our members out to the polls and Remember This November.