Thursday, March 3, 2011

SB5--Help or Hinderance?

The hot topic in Ohio today is the passing of Senate Bill 5 (SB5), which removes the rights for collective bargaining by public workers in the state.

As a Republican, I understand the need for budget cuts to help our deficit.
As a teacher, I am appalled that this passed, especially when the public consensus was against its passing.

In short, the bill revokes the right for teacher unions (as well as other unions in the state, including firefighters, police, and factory workers) to bargain for teachers on topics such as health care coverage, sick days, class size, and continuing contracts. These are things that the individual teachers must now negotiate on their own, which puts a huge amount of stress and time constraints on teachers. Also, it gives the school district the upper hand in the negotiations; the best way I have heard it explained is this:

"It's like asking your in-laws to decide on how the property in your divorce settlement should be divided. There's always going to be a bias there, and your lawyers aren't able to negotiate for your right to the property anymore."

Also, SB5 has taken away the right to strike, which means the teachers' union has lost its leverage when we are able to negotiate issues. So not only do the teachers have to fight for themselves and spend time that should be used for educational purposes (planning, grading, tutoring, etc.) after school and in their free time to do this fighting, but if the district ends up ignoring our needs and requests we can't even use a strike as leverage.

My students are my number one priority because, thankfully, I don't have to worry about the stress of a contract change, my health care coverage or insurance, how many sick days I'm allowed to take, or issues with class size being too out-of-control. Right now, that's because I'm at a charter school and these things are out of my control. But in a traditional public school setting, these are things you didn't have to worry about because the unions took care of these issues. They fought for you, took care of the paperwork and meetings, and ensured your rights were safe. With the passing of SB5, all of that stress is on the shoulders of the teachers, not the unions. This means if I have an upcoming meeting to negotiate my contract and I don't have the leverage or the support to make sure that my rights and needs are met, the stress of that is going to be weighing heavily on my mind; that stress could easily interfere with my ability to teach and focus on the materials and students. My students have now become my number 2 priority, which is in complete opposition to what teachers should be doing.

This also means that there's a chance that my health care and insurance coverage could change at the drop of a hat, that my contract could change in the middle of the year, that I have little say in class size (studies show that at the high school level, class ratios bigger than 23 students/1 teacher have a negative impact on student learning because less one-on-one attention and help can be given), and that if something does threaten to change or actually changes, there's not much I can do about it because striking is not an option.

And this is just the impact it has on teachers; there are police, figherfighters, autoworkers, and other people around this state that are just as greatly effected by this, if not more.

I'm so disappointed in our lawmakers who passed this bill. Based on the amount of people who protested this over the past 2-3 weeks, clearly the people of Ohio are not in favor of this bill. Where is the voice of the people? Why are we taking away the ability of the people to fight for their rights within the workplace?