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.

 

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