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Making Positive Changes to Our Public School System

School
Chris Myers

Ohio’s education system is one of our most important state investments. To move successfully into the future, we must give our students the best learning environment possible. I want to make sure that the configuration of our public school systems is most conducive to these objectives. We are currently providing our children with excellent opportunities for educational advancement, and it is one of my top priorities to make sure that this trend is continued and strengthened.

By now, I am sure that most of you have heard the buzz about Senate Bill 5—legislation that reconfigures the relationship among local government, public unions and Ohio’s taxpayers through collective bargaining reform. As a former public school teacher, I can especially appreciate the concerns raised by many of Ohio’s educators. However, many of these concerns stem from wide-circulating misconceptions on what the bill has in it, and I would like to provide you with the accurate information you need to understand Ohio’s collective bargaining reform.

Senate Bill 5 will, first and foremost, give local governments the flexibility to effectively manage their own finances. This will allow them to avoid unnecessary layoffs and cuts to public services by correcting fiscal problems in a way that best suits our community. In addition, taxpayers will feel some monetary relief, no longer being asked to shoulder the financial demands of iron-clad union contracts.

Contrary to recent rumors, there will be no mandated cuts to teachers’ salaries. Senate Bill 5 simply stipulates that teacher salary issues be dealt with on a local level that is based on performance. In this way, each school district can respond in a manner that meets the needs of their specific financial circumstances. Schools in fiscal emergency need the tools and flexibility to reverse the situation, and Senate Bill 5 provides for this.

A number of other worries that have been brought to my attention are also based solely on misunderstandings about the legislation. For one, under Senate Bill 5, educators will not lose the right to collectively bargain over wage and hour issues. Furthermore, sick days will not be eliminated—up to 10 sick days will be available per year. Another concern has arisen over the status of retired teachers’ pensions. Senate Bill 5 will not put these in jeopardy, and current teachers’ contracts will remain intact.

The changes instituted by Senate Bill 5 will, in fact, protect Ohio’s educators from massive layoffs due to school districts’ inability to meet financial obligations set by unions. In addition, collective bargaining reform better aligns the public and private sector in terms of healthcare costs. Teachers will be required to pay 15 percent of their health care costs, which is still less than the average 23 percent that private sector workers pay. By implementing these sorts of practical measures, Ohio’s school districts can improve their performance and better safeguard jobs.

Senate Bill 5 also sets up a performance-based evaluation system for making decisions about termination and pay in public schools. Instead of basing these decisions entirely on seniority, this new system rewards the dedication and enthusiasm of Ohio’s outstanding educators. By using this merit-based retention method, we will strengthen our public schools and ensure the best education possible for our students. The benefits for Ohio’s future are truly invaluable. We are making a crucial investment in our economy and in the lives of our children.

Collective bargaining reform and Senate Bill 5 need not be a touchy issue. The coming changes will only reverse many of our previous fiscal problems and allow for a sustainable fix. This legislation will benefit taxpayers and our communities immensely. Additionally, the effects on Ohio’s educators will be positive and constructive, providing for a more successful public education system. As these steps are gradually implemented, I am confident that Ohio will be ready to welcome a more prosperous future.

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Rep. Young may be reached by calling (614) 644-6074, e-mailing District63@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Ron Young, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.