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One year ago in Ohio the election for Governor was in full swing.  By that time, John Kasich had already given a speech at the City Club where he pledged to break the backs of unions – well actually not unions, teachers unions.  So, it is not surprising that since January 2011, unions and teachers unions have been under attack from this governor and many Republican legislators. 

On Tuesday, the State Senate voted to approve the Governor’s Budget (HB 153) as amended by the Conference Committee.  The budget that was approved includes a new evaluation system for teachers (at least 50% of which must be based on student test scores), merit pay for teachers, and elimination of seniority as the main factor in lay-offs and recalls, among other anti-teacher provisions.  These are the same (or worse) provisions that are in SB 5 that is going to the ballot in November for Ohioans to vote on. You will remember that the House had put these provisions (and worse) into the budget, and then the provisions were removed by the Senate.  These provisions were re-introduced by the Conference Committee on Monday night (although bad, these provisions are better than what was originally in the House version of the budget bill) and have become a part of the budget.  Tomorrow, the House will vote on this same budget – and it will pass. 

The new provisions require the State Board of Education to develop a framework for the evaluation of teachers.  This evaluation framework will be used as a component of the merit pay.  The evaluation framework is to be developed by December 31, 2011 and the new evaluation is to be used as CBAs expire.  So, although not explicitly spelled out, it would seem to me that these provisions intend for merit pay and evaluation to start simultaneously and when current CBAs expire.  Attorneys are reading through the over 40 pages of teacher-related budget amendments and there are areas that are not clear what the intention is (was). But we will work with our colleagues throughout the state to figure this out.

I am dismayed and disappointed by the consistent attack on teachers by certain state legislators.  Just 3 weeks ago, both Republican and Democratic Senators worked to remove the SB5 provisions from the budget.  Additionally, a number of Republican Senators pledged they would not support a budget with SB 5 provisions in it.  Yet when it came to casting their votes all but one Republican Senator voted for a budget with these anti-teacher SB 5 provisions back in the budget bill.  All of the Senate Democrats and only Republican Scott Oelslager voted NO on the budget. 

IT IS NOT OVER.  Even when the Governor signs the budget at the end of the week that does not mean that this is finished.  There are several options that we are weighing.  We are going to reach out to work with OFT and OEA to decide what is best for the teachers of Ohio.  I do not want to say too much in this public forum, until we speak to our colleagues from around the state.

In March, we all felt disappointed and beat-up when SB 5 was signed into law, however today 1,298,000+ signatures were turned into the Secretary of State to place SB 5 on the ballot.  That is ONE MILLION more signatures than required!  Today is a good day and shows that Ohioans support teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, mental health workers, bus drivers, and all of the public employees that work in their communities.  We have to continue to fight SB 5.  If SB 5 is not defeated in November – it will be worse than the language that is in the budget.  We have to keep our chins up, keep educating the public, and keep fighting for public education.

I have so much more to say on this issue and responses to the provisions and why these do not belong in the budget bill, but will leave it at this for now.  Our Attorney, Susannah Muskovitz, has written a preliminary summary of the teacher provisions to HB 153 and it is posted on the CTU website. 

In Union,