Let’s get one thing straight — I love Cleveland-area Senator Nina Turner.  I love her impassioned speeches and I still get chills as I remember listening to her fight against Senate Bill 5 last year on the Senate floor.  And her introduction of legislation to protect men from the dangers of “Viagra” was magical.

But last week Turner and Representative Sandra Williams got duped by Ohio’s education reform machine as the two were all but forced to co-sponsor legislation in their respective houses that would force significant changes on the Cleveland School district, effectively enacting Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s “Cleveland Plan.”  Turner and Williams were stuck having to either support the severe changes to the district or opposing the plan and being portrayed as not advocating for improvement in the struggling school district.

And while I understand that Turner should be rightfully advocating for an improved school system in Cleveland, I cannot convey to you in words the extent of my disappointment that she, instead of continuing to push for a collaborative local resolution on the part of the district and teachers, succumbed to the political pressure of introducing a bill that contains a majority of Mayor Jackson’s original proposal.  Additionally, the legislation has been introduced simultaneously in the Senate (SB325) and the House (HB506) to ensure an expedited adoption in the next few weeks prior to the General Assembly dismissing for the summer.

Said Turner of the process:

“The legislation was not perfect last week, and it is not perfect now, but Senate Bill 325 serves as a starting point critical to getting the legislative process moving. Based on the progress made over the past few weeks by all parties, I am deeply hopeful that the remaining concerns can be addressed.”

Hopeful?  When in the last year have we been hopeful by the actions of the majority party who is single-handedly ruling our state?

Now, Turner has inadvertently helped introduce a bill into the hands of a process that has demonstrated over the past 15 months that it is unashamedly dominated by Republican majorities that can fast-track these changes with complete disregard for thoughtful discourse.

The Cleveland Plan that was submitted by Mayor Jackson and Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon contained many different components.  But the most glaring omission was any form of empirical evidence that would support the idea that any item on the Mayor’s laundry list of demands has been proven to be an effective method of school improvement.  A second important piece that is absent from The Cleveland Experiment is any evidence of future planning to evaluate these reforms in an effort to gauge their effectiveness (or harm) on student learning.  Jackson, et al, are merely throwing handfuls of darts at the wall and hoping something hits a target without any sort of metric to determine how to measure their efforts or how to replicate any successful approaches.

You know what the legislators and administrators call a teacher who engages in such a scattershot method of instruction?  Someone they want to fire.

And what of that talk about the SB5-like components that have been included in The Cleveland Experiment?

“The traditional bargaining practice of adding and subtracting to the existing contract—essentially a give-and-take approach—will not get us where we need to be. Currently, Ohio requires collective bargaining on wages, hours, terms, and other conditions of employment and the continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing provision of a collective bargaining agreement. We will not be able to fully leverage the requested state policy changes without a “fresh start,” as the philosophy and approaches inherent in existing management-union contracts significantly constrain the direction and spirit of Cleveland’s proposed plan.”

Certainly Senator Turner would not have allowed that “fresh start” language to enter the walls of the GOP-owned Statehouse, right?

Turner said the “fresh start” language remains, but only until a replacement is worked out.  (Columbus Dispatch, 4/4/12)

Worked out?  Like Issue 2 was worked out last August?

Again, I have no clue why Turner is so trusting in her GOP counterparts who have done nothing to earn such confidence.  Within Senate Bill 325, the language eliminating previously bargained contracts reads as some version of the following:

“…the content of the plan developed under this division and any actions taken to implement the plan prevail over any conflicting provision of a collective bargaining agreement entered into on or after the effective date of this amendment.”

Once this is signed into law by Kasich (my prediction is no later than Thursday, May 10), that is the language we can expect to see linked to all of the provisions pertaining to every public school district in Ohio.

Why am I so confident that Turner’s move will backfire?  First, because Governor Kasich is literally begging for this bill.  And second, because the track record of this legislature over the past year in passing bills with ignorant anti-public education components is pristine.

  • Senate Bill 5 – Passed Senate 17-16 (3/2/11)
  • Senate Bill 5 – Passed House (3/30/11)
  • Senate Bill 5 – Signed by Governor (3/31/11)
  • House Bill 21 – Teach for America; Passed House 65-32 (3/22/11)
  • House Bill 21 – Passed Senate 26-6 (4/13/11)
  • House Bill 21 – Signed by Governor (4/27/11)
  • House Bill 153 – Passed House 59-40 (5/5/11)
  • House Bill 153 – Passed Senate 23-10 (6/8/11)
  • House Bill 153 – Conference Committee Report Passed Senate 22-11 (6/28/11
  • House Bill 153 – Conference Committee Report Passed House 59-40 (6/29/11)
  • House Bill 153 – Signed by Governor (6/30/11)

A perfect record of passage despite the alienation of a few Republicans on the way.  Once these bills were committed to print, the Democrats might as well have stayed home; their presence in the Statehouse was all but irrelevant.

And within five weeks expect to add The Cleveland Plan to that list thanks to the unwitting actions of two Democrats caught up in the destructive political game of trying to legislate public education while excluding public educators.

I want Senator Turner to be right on this, but I’m not deeply hopeful.

  • Kevin Blair

    This should come as no surprise. The Democratic Party has never been the party of the working-class they pretend to be. They opposed SB5, not because they so strongly support teachers, but because it’s passage would have dried up a major source of campaign contributions and campaign volunteers. The Democrats all around the country have taken positions that teachers should give up job security and take cuts to their pay and benefits in the name of reform. Obama even went so far as to applaud the Rhode Island district that fired all of the teachers after they refused to go along with increased hours with no pay increase without bargaining over it first. Only when workers organizer our own political party will these attacks stop.


    The REAL problem in Cleveland is the city turning over control of the schools to the Mayor in a vote. The residents have no voice in anything concerning the schools.

    Corporate fascism in Cleveland…..and America.

  • I AM SICK ABOUT THIS…She was just on Ed Show…I can not believe she threw us all under the bus…It’s SB 5…smoke screened under a different name…HOPEFUL ? SHE was our voice and this is unacceptable…We all want whats best for our children…this? I can see why they went after our voice…but to give in after Ohio citizens vetoed SB 5…Kasich knows what he s doing n clearly he is loving taking our voice and running over it with his bus..Cleveland , and all districts want to educate our students and work endlessly..we all know everything is in need of reform..as educators we r committed to our children n communities..but to co sponsor a bill because she would look bad to Cleveland in not supportn a change? She has a voice, and she looks worse..in the public eye..caving in2 Kasichs ramming of legislation…She just threw the entire state of Ohio under the bus…She fought for collective barganing…I still hear her powerful speeches..”UNJUST, UNSAFE n UNFAIR…hurts our children..seat at the table…”Reminds me of a bull rushn into a China shop….n then…? Ohioans are wanting to hear from her..her constituents, want to know why she betrayed our children and the good people who she represents…The excuse of not wanting to appear like she doesnt support reform is just a sad lame, poor excuse…Shame on her…Im not just disappointed but disgusted…We want answers…and Im sure Ed would like to know , too…She has alot of explaining to do…What happened to her backbone? I cant believe she is selling us all out…She just opened the door..the back door to SB5’s back up plan….I want answers…

  • Clearly…Ohio teachn unions are the largest unions in the state…I couldnt agree w/u more Kevin…It’s time to take back our states…n Obama is a big supporter of Teach America n frackn….I’m not happy w/him either..but what choice do we have at this point? Recall added to Ohio Constitution…vote the House/Senate over to Dem..then work on it from there…I want reform as well…I want reform where the Reps..represent the people..not there own pockets…and clearly..it appears..somethings changed w/nina…the Mayor has had years to reform Cleveland schools..SB 5 comes around and now..he’s ramroddn SB 5 legislation…”The Cleveland Plan…and they r going to try n tell the people its reform..when its really the same union busting legislation…Other countries are appaulled at what the corps are doing n how much ALL of our reps/legislators are corrupted by there money..agenda…Ive had enough of teachers gettn blamed and made scape goats of poor politicians…n the repub agenda…

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