Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why We Need to Repeal...

I told you it was coming, so here is my rant on Ohio’s SB5. Since much has been made of the general union issues, I won’t bother touching those here. Instead, I wanted to focus on the largely overlooked parts. Keep in mind that, though this is from the point of view of a teacher, it affects all public employees. That means police, firefighters and many others. The people you depend on to save your butt when a problem occurs.

Merit-based pay for teachers: Ohio's 146,000 primary and secondary school teachers will be evaluated largely based on how their students did on standardized testing along with other more subjective criteria. By April 1 of each year, teachers would be evaluated based on their students' test scores, their licensure level, whether they had achieved "highly qualified" teaching status, at least two 30-minute or more observations of them by administrators as well as other criteria selected by local school boards. Decisions about which teachers are laid off or fired and what kind of pay they would receive would be based on this evaluation process.

I’m all behind the idea of merit based pay, but clear specifications need to be laid down. At every private sector job I’ve ever worked, there was a standard evaluation form that was used to decide raises and any employee had access to this form. This meant that there was no question about what the expectations of the employer were and any disputes over amount could be referred to this form. Here, the language is very loose and imprecise, allowing school boards to decide on their own criteria with no set guidelines. For instance, what specific test scores will be required for what level of raises? Will it be based off of average scores, improvement of scores, average scores compared to state averages or some combination? This is all very important. How about the observations? For ohio teaching certification, there used to be very specific observation forms that were used during internship and to move past the two year provisional license. Even though it was still subjective, the general criteria was clear and available to teachers and the general public. Do they plan on using the same form? Will it be different for a teacher’s 15th year than for their first? Once again, very important to know.

With any other proposed project, we would demand specific details. There’s no reason this should be any different.

Health care: Requires public workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care coverage. The goal here is to force unionized workers to pay more for their health care costs and thereby lower that expense for local and state governments. Supporters of the law say that private sector workers on average pay about 23 percent of their health care costs.

This one is perfectly reasonable, since it is the direction much of the employment market has gone in. Sure, we’d all rather pay less for health care, but we have to live in the real world. Besides, doing this may allow for schools to afford to provide better quality health care for the teachers while still saving money. No problem here.

Decertification: Makes it easier to end union representation by lowering the percentage of workers needed to trigger such a move. In the past, a majority of employees was needed to back a petition to decertify a union. Now, a vote by only 30 percent of workers is needed.

Notice that this only goes one direction. Does it also mean that a 30% vote would be all that is needed to reinstate a union? Can you imagine the obnoxious back and forth tug of war that could, and likely would, occur do to this possibility? Beyond that, imagine if I said that we could pass a law with only a 30% vote in its favor. Nobody would support such a thing, as it goes against what a democracy stands for. If a clear minority can make a decision for a clear majority against their will, then we are operating much more along the lines of a dictatorship. At least a dictatorship has a clear leader instead of saying that any fool could tell the majority what to do.

Payroll deductions: Prohibits any public employer from providing a payroll deduction for contributions to a union political action committee without first having written permission from the employee.

Once again, perfectly reasonable. No complaints here.

Dues: Employees who do not want to join a union -- but nonetheless still receive the same wages and benefits spelled out in the union contract -- no longer have to pay "fair share" dues. Fair-share dues are based only on the cost of bargaining a contract and are less than full dues.

Here is the problem: if a union negotiates for higher wages, everyone in the organization receives those benefits. If I told you that I refused to pay for highway upkeep since I don’t drive on the highways, even though the produce at my local grocery store and nearly everything else I use and benefit from is delivered in a timely manner largely due to those same highways, then you’d slap me and tell me to shut up. If it is something that everyone benefits from, even if they do not use it directly, then they should all pay into it.

Of course, this is largely a moot point, since the removal of collective bargaining rights (yes, I know that it is only for benefits, but that is also where the largest need is) and binding arbitration will effectively kill the unions anyways.

Strikes: Prohibits public union workers from striking, though workers who strike illegally will not be subjected to jail time because lawmakers dropped proposed contempt of court penalties from an earlier version of the bill.

Precisely why paying attention to your history is important: This calls to mind the strikes of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, where state militias were sent in to bust them up. The results were never pretty, and can we really afford to use government resources to shut down peaceful protests? I’m scared of what this will mean.

Information regarding this bill (in bold) was taken from

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