National Ed Reformers React to Ohio Referendum

Ed Reformers React to Ohio’s Rejection of SB 5

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Ohio voters overturned collective bargaining reforms signed into law earlier this year.  The reform law, commonly known as Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), had banned public worker strikes, had ended collective bargaining practices for health care and other benefits, and had allowed non-union employees to avoid union representation fees.

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama

The White House press secretary issued the following statement Tuesday night on the President’s behalf:

“The President congratulates the people of Ohio for standing up for workers and defeating efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights, and commends the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other workers who took a stand to defend those rights.”

John KasichOhio Governor John Kasich

“It’s clear the people have spoken. I heard their voices. I understand their decision. And frankly, I respect what the people have to say in an effort like this. And as a result of that, it requires me to take a deep breath and to spend some time to reflect on what happened here.”

Bob TaftFormer Ohio Governor Bob Taft

“It’s fortunate that the teacher evaluation reforms that were included in Senate Bill 5 were also included in the state budget bill and will go into effect despite the referendum.

“These reforms will have a positive impact on teacher quality and student learning in Ohio for the years to come.”

Jeanne AllenJeanne Allen
Center for Education Reform

“Ohio voters are not in denial about the state’s fiscal problems. They are just woefully undereducated about the real effects of the collective bargaining restrictions Ohio and other states have enacted. Those restrictions are not an assault on workers’ rights at all – they are a course correction of overly powerful unions which have used their position to extract conditions from political leaders when those conditions have no bearing on outcomes for those they serve.

“The teachers unions are perhaps the best case example. Ohio schools are forbidden from assigning teachers to cafeteria duty, to permitting teachers, by their own volition, to stay after school and offer extra help. They are banned from hiring or firing teachers based on performance or quality indicators. And despite the fact that a teacher can be in a school for 30 years without account for whether their students are succeeding, they can retire with nearly 70% of their full salary borne by taxpayers for the remainder of their lifetimewhich can be 20-30 years or more!

“Surveys and anecdotal data we collect suggest the taxpayers do not understand that union bargaining is not just about salary levels, but about quality issues that have deteriorated rapidly in public service, deterring quality entrants to teaching, public safety and more. The voter rejections should be a call to action for proponents of sound labor policies, and not a deterrent. Gov. Kasich should ready his legislative leadership again to forge ahead once again, while doing a better job next time of educating the public about what’s really at stake.”

Gary BecknerGary Beckner
Association of American Educators

“This vote is a setback for the thousands of teachers across Ohio who want choices in their representation. The practice of forcing teachers to pay union dues as a condition of employment is archaic and simply wrong.

“While we had hoped that Ohio would have gone the route of Wisconsin in solidifying this law to institute important teacher freedoms, it is clear that with big union money and special interest manpower, the cry for reform and accountability can be silenced.

“The fact is the unions have spent an unprecedented amount — $24 million — in the repeal effort of Senate Bill 5. With SB 5 in place, the unions stood to lose tens of millions of dollars in compulsory dues. With a multi-million dollar war chest — much of it forced from dues-paying members –the unions succeeded in protecting their pipeline of cash.

“While the interests of teacher labor union leadership won in this particular election, the state of Ohio and the nation at large have ultimately changed for the better. Regardless of astronomical special interest spending, American voters are beginning to understand the very need for not only commonsense reform but holding unions accountable to their membership and the taxpayer.”

RiShawn BiddleRiShawn Biddle
Dropout Nation

“School reformers, especially conservative reformers and centrist Democrats who are not squeamish about abolishing collective bargaining, certainly have little to be happy about in yesterday’s defeat of Ohio Senate Bill 5. Nor can they or the rest of the movement be happy about the successful recall effort of Michigan State Rep. Paul Scott, whose work helping Gov. Rick Snyder enact a series of reforms arose the ire of the National Education Association affiliate there. Both losses prove that school reformers have less savvy in the political arena than in working congressional hallways and statehouse corridors.

“School reformers don’t need to lick their wounds. They just need to get to work for the elections that will be coming next year.”

Lindsey BurkeLindsey Burke
Heritage Foundation

“The powerful education union in Ohio has once again spent millions of dollars — taken from teachers — to stop sensible reforms that are in the best interests of teachers and taxpayers in the Buckeye state. The irony is that the millions spent by the union were forcibly taken from teachers in the Buckeye state, and spent on efforts to ensure teachers in the future would continue to be required to join the union or pay union dues if they wish to teach in an Ohio classroom. The Ohio education association has spent millions to deprive aspiring teachers of choice.

“There will continue to be only one road into Ohio classrooms for the foreseeable future — and the road runs straight through organized labor.”  

Bob CostrellRobert M. Costrell
University of Arkansas

“The core fiscal issues that motivated SB 5 remain unsolved for school districts.   SB 5 was a very broad bill, which contributed to its defeat, but specific provisions are quite important for keeping school district costs under control.   There were two particularly important provisions regarding health insurance.

“First, the law capped district contributions at 85%, so that teachers would have to pay 15%.   By comparison, the collective bargaining agreement for Cleveland sets the employee share of premiums at about 5%.

“Second, and perhaps even more important, the law gave districts the ability to set plan design, subject to best practices established by a state board.   Currently collective bargaining agreements establish which plans will be offered, what the deductibles and co-insurance rates are, etc.

“In Cleveland, for example, there are no deductibles at all for in-network coverage, nor is there any co-insurance.   This is quite astounding well below industry standards, even for generous plans, like those we find in public universities.  These provisions are written into the union contract.   They will be very difficult to remove, under current bargaining law, which leaves school districts at a great disadvantage at the bargaining table.  So districts like Cleveland will continue to face huge budget difficulties, now and in the future.  The defeat of SB 5 will mean layoffs and other education cuts, unless these provisions are re-enacted separately.”

Christian D'AndreaChristian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute

“Teachers unions earned a big victory in Ohio Tuesday night, but individual teachers may still end up losing in this struggle. Ohio’s SB 5 will continue to give the teachers unions in the Buckeye State the ability to make membership a compulsory factor for all public school teachers. This means that all teachers will be given the same collective voice — a voice that often brushes off meaningful reform ideas like school choice, alternative teacher licensing, and more comprehensive teacher evaluation programs. It means that a flawed system that based layoffs on tenure rather than merit will continue to stay in place. It means that good teachers will be pushed aside in favor of older ones, regardless of ability.

“While the teachers unions struck gold by overturning SB 5, the results won’t be as rosy for anyone looking for significant reform in Ohio’s public schools. With cities like Cleveland struggling to educate their students, the real losers here could be Ohio’s children.”

Lance IzumiLance Izumi
Pacific Research Institute

“The results of the Ohio election show that the teacher unions still have a powerful hold on the public education system in this country.  While attempts to pare back this stranglehold are important, the Ohio results demonstrate that the ultimate solution is to give all parents school-choice tools to exit the union-dominated public system and choose the best school that fits the needs of their children.  Empowering parents through choice in the educational marketplace will balance out union political muscle.”

Terry MoeTerry Moe
Stanford University

“Over the last thirty-plus years, state governments have done almost nothing to rein in collective bargaining by public sector workers, despite the exorbitant costs it imposes on taxpayers and the gross inefficiencies it imposes on government agencies.  The states have done nothing for one simple reason: public sector unions are extraordinarily powerful, and reformers who dare to touch collective bargaining are taking enormous political risks — and asking to get their heads handed to them.

“Ohio Governor John Kasich exercised political courage in pushing through much-needed collective bargaining reforms for his state.  And he just got his head handed to him.  The lesson won’t be lost on other governors and would-be reformers in other parts of the country.  This is unfortunate, but hardly surprising.  The status quo is powerfully protected, and this is yet one more reminder of where the power really lies.”

Terry RyanTerry Ryan
Fordham Institute

“Ohioans like Americans generally are largely centrist in their politics. The political extremes on both sides are loud and see compromise as a weakness, but voters, at least in Ohio, are generally moderate and open to compromise. They don’t like one-party solutions and they are skeptical of big fixes, whether they be of a liberal or conservative bent. They reject one political party throwing its weight around to dramatically reshape or restructure government or their lives. Lasting change and reform in a state like Ohio requires some level of bipartisan support and working together.”

Larry Sand
California Teachers Empowerment Network

“After losing a collective bargaining battle in Wisconsin, NEA realized that it couldn’t afford to lose again in Ohio. Hence, it spent millions to successfully defeat SB 5 there, thus allowing the biggest union in the country to maintain its monopoly bargaining rights and denying teachers a choice of representation.

“As such, NEA once again has shown itself to be nothing more than a massive self-interest group, indistinguishable from the so-called ‘one percenters’ they claim to revile.”

Lisa SnellLisa Snell
Reason Foundation

“Teachers unions may have  spent millions of dollars to target and overturn the Ohio  law designed to reform the collective bargaining system that continues to obstruct improvements to teacher quality and student performance in Ohio.  However, they cannot stop the hundreds of teachers and students that continue to voluntarily opt out of Ohio’s collectively-bargained education system. 

“Ohio has eight school districts where charter school market share is more than 10 percent (Dayton 27%, Youngstown 24%, Cleveland 23%, Toledo 23%, Columbus 20%, Cincinnati 16%, Lorain 14%, and Akron 12%.) In addition, Ohio’s EdChoice, Cleveland voucher program, and special needs scholarship program continue to offer new choices to thousands of Ohio students attending low-performing schools. These programs offer a robust path to a high-quality public education system ruled by parent and teacher choice, rather than union rules.

“Here’s to the continued growth of school choice options in Ohio and the mandate of individual teachers and students who continue to vote with their feet and drive more dollars into a union-free, choice-based education system in Ohio.”

© 2011 ChoiceMedia.TV 

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