Prepared Notes for Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee
February 15, 2011
Marc A. Schare –
Chairman Bacon, Ranking Member Schiavoni, thank you for allowing public participation in this process. My name is Marc Schare and I am the President of the Worthington City Schools Board of Education. At the outset, let me make it clear that these views may or may not represent the views of my colleagues on Worthington’s Board or any employee of the district.
SB5 is a complex measure impacting many aspects of current law. While I’ve gone through the bill, these comments are intended only to highlight the problems that whatever comes from this legislative process must fix and that the comments refer only to the education component as I’ve never studied collective bargaining as it relates to police, fire or state workers. There are parts of SB5 that could be improved and I believe the bill will be strengthened through the legislative process, however, I am supportive of the requirement for collective bargaining reform.
Education in the United States is failing to keep up with the rest of the world. Nationally, we are turning out a below-average product despite ever increasing public investment and many attempts at reform. In Ohio, we have a flawed state report card system that allows some districts that fail to exceed 50% of academic standards to be rated “Excellent” and our new high stakes value-add component has raised questions as to its accuracy. Ohio’s remediation rates for high school students entering college would horrify our constituents if they knew. In addition, we are going broke trying to sustain the status quo with education expenses rising at almost twice the rate of inflation over the last ten years. A tax levy system is in place that allows districts to run levys 3 times a year, every year until passage so there is no incentive for financial reform, but to make the levys palatable to voters while maintaining union contracts at a level that assures labor peace, the only alternative is to cut programs that benefit kids. This has been going on statewide for at least a decade and if you don’t believe it, refer to any news reporting of a planned levy and you’ll see a district touting how much they’ve cut from the budget. We need education reform now and frankly, we are running out of time.
In my 5 years as a school board member somewhat immersed in the culture of the education community, the sharpest disconnect I’ve observed is that teachers are white collar professionals with a blue collar contract. Think about that for a second. Great teachers are highly trained, highly skilled individuals who understand brain science, have tremendous communications skills and an emotional empathy that can reach kids across cultural barriers, racial boundaries and the socio-economic spectrum, yet, we treat teachers like interchangeable factory workers where one is as good as the next, offering contracts that govern every minute of every day. How does this make sense to anyone?
We need to revamp the way that teachers are compensated and we need to treat them like the professionals they are. SB5 says that teacher pay will be based on merit without really defining what that means, so let me offer an opinion. Market forces must be allowed to work in the education sector. Teachers who are excellent at what they do or who are scarce are worth more. Teachers that are average or do not have special skills are not worth as much. In our last hiring cycle, my school district had thousands of applications for teaching positions in elementary education, but only a handful for high school chemistry and high school physics. I need to differentiate compensation to attract quality educators in hard to fill positions. Once hired, we need legislation that will allow us to reward excellence with something other than a “Thank You” and also deal with teachers who have not demonstrated competency in the classroom. We need legislation that will allow us (or you) to define a real career path for teachers that does not necessarily lead to administration for these are two very different skill sets. All of Worthington is proud that the 2011 Teacher of the Year, Tim Dove, works in our district. All Mr. Dove and his colleagues at Phoenix Middle School have done in the last 5 years is create an alternative, cutting edge middle school on their own time from scratch, define and implement that program with tremendous results and has now achieved rock star status amongst educators in the state. In the private sector, Mr. Dove could write his own ticket. He is worth a small fortune, yet I am prohibited from even offering him a raise or a bonus. For him to earn more money, he has to leave the profession or go into administration. How does this make sense to anyone?
We need to revamp the way that teachers are evaluated. The notion that education is the only profession where there is no fair way to objectively measure the worth of an employee to the organization is flawed, however, the current paradigm is that evaluations can’t be used to reward excellence or penalize failure, so why bother. Once compensation systems are partially determined by subjective and/or objective evaluations, the industry will find ways to evaluate teachers that are fair, just like they do in the private sector.
It had been my hope that with initiatives like Race to the Top, these common sense reforms could have been negotiated under existing law. I cannot believe, for example, that OEA leadership wants incompetent teachers in the classroom any more than I do. The reality is, however, that there is no evidence of any movement on these issues despite Ohio’s winning of “Race to the Top” funds. I reluctantly conclude that collective bargaining reform is a necessary first step if we are ever to see the changes necessary to make our education system competitive in the 21st century.
Let me close by sharing with the committee my view that collective bargaining reform, in and of itself, may not reduce expenditures in public education. Letting market forces prevail can cut both ways. The societal imperative is that we attract great teachers, pay what we must, but only what we must, and allow the free market to work its magic on this critical public service.