Last week, the much-anticipated Cleveland Schools Plan hit the Ohio legislature with the final changes that came out of negotiations between Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and the Cleveland Teachers Union.  Senator Nina Turner has co-sponsored the bill and released a statement extolling its virtues and expressing her pride in the process.

(Statement courtesy ProgressOhio)

What a difference a year makes.  On February 28, 2011, Senator Turner was one of the most outspoken opponents against Senate Bill 5, releasing the following statement on her website:

Moreover, the input of public employees was never sought out in the search for fiscal solvency.  Time and again, they have made sacrifices to achieve what is best for our state as a whole, including pay freezes, furlough days and increased contributions to health coverage.  If a sound budget is what the governor is after, I believe that state workers would be more than willing to work with him to this end.
Instead, these public servants find their rights under attack.  It has become a talking point of many of my colleagues that Senate Bill 5 is an attempt to “level the playing field” with the private sector.  What is lost in this chorus, however, is that private sector employees are guaranteed their collective bargaining rights.  This legislation would make second-class citizens out of dedicated state workers, leaving them without many of the protections afforded to their counterparts.  This is not sound public policy; but rather a bid to advance a long-held anti-union agenda at the expense of hard working Ohioans.
Real leadership finds solutions – not scapegoats – to the challenges we face.  Instead of using the financial crisis as a pretext to undermine the rights of public employees, we should work with them to achieve what is best for the long-term health of our state and bring all stakeholders to the table throughout the process.  If we confront the problems before us as a divided people, then we will pursue solutions that leave us a divided people.

So imagine my surprise to find language in Turner’s Cleveland Plan legislation that is identical to Senate Bill 5.  More specifically, this new bill (SB335) eliminates the salary schedules that included consideration for education and experience in the same way intended by Senate Bill 5.

Here’s a comparison of the two bills (emphasis added):

Senate Bill 5

Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon performance as described in this section.

(C) For purposes of this section, a board shall measure a teacher’s performance by considering all of the following:
(1) The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher holds;
(2) Whether the teacher is a “highly qualified teacher” as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code;
(3) The value-added measure the board uses to determine the performance of the students assigned to the teacher’s classroom;
(4) The results of the teacher’s performance evaluations conducted under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code or any peer review program created by an agreement entered into by a board of education and representatives of teachers employed by that board;
(5) Any other criteria established by the board.

Senate Bill 335 (The Cleveland Plan)

(B) The board of education of each municipal school district annually shall adopt a differentiated salary schedule for teachers based upon performance as described in division (D) of this section.
(D) For purposes of the schedules, the board shall measure a teacher’s or principal’s performance by considering all of the following:
(1) The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher or principal holds;
(2) Whether the teacher or principal is a highly qualified teacher, as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code;
(3) Ratings received by the teacher or principal on performance evaluations conducted under section 3311.80 or 3311.84 of the Revised Code;
(4) Any specialized training and experience in the assigned position.

Regardless of your opinion about merit pay, these criteria are the wrong choices for teachers.  I testified to the House last spring about these in SB5 and my statements then are just as valid now.

Measure number one: The vast majority of full-time teachers in Ohio hold one of seven licenses or certificates: a four-year Resident Educator license, an Alternative Resident Educator license, a five-year Professional license, a five-year Senior Professional Educator license, a five-year Lead Professional Educator license, an eight-year Professional certificate, or a Permanent certificate.  The progression of licenses under updated state law includes limitations that set minimum years of experience. As a result, the inclusion of licensure as a performance measure implicitly places a value on years of experience. A teacher cannot obtain a professional license with fewer than four years of experience (regardless of performance).  A teacher cannot obtain either the Senior Professional or Lead Professional licenses with fewer than 9 years of experience (regardless of performance or credentials).  A teacher holding an 8-year certificate (last issued in 2006) will have at least 17 years of experience, while a teacher who holds a permanent certificate (last issued in 2003) will have at least 20 years of experience.  Therefore, by applying varying values to these licenses, the bill is assigning a value on experience, a specific provision the bill was supposedly intended to remove (SB5).

Many teachers hold multiple licenses, but are typically (and technically) only teaching under one at a time (for example, a high school counselor who also has an English license). There are many more iterations that make licensure an extremely complex problem to address.  I spoke with a principal a few weeks ago who was renewing NINE unique licenses.  How will educators who hold multiple licenses be measured if their licenses are assigned different values?

Other licensure components address experience in their own way.  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards requires a minimum of three years of teaching experience before one can apply for National Board Certification, and to become licensed as a principal in the state of Ohio, one must hold a valid teaching license and have completed three years of teaching experience under that license.  State and federal systems already in place reinforce the idea that experience matters.

Measure number two: “Whether the teacher is a ‘highly qualified teacher’ as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code;” If you don’t know better, you might think this sounds like a reasonable measure.  Unfortunately, it’s not what it appears to be.  Being “highly qualified” has an established definition at the federal level.  Teachers are required to report their Highly Qualified Teacher status for the courses they teach.  To clarify this point, only one teacher can be credited for teaching a class.  Immediately, this excludes many educators. In Columbus, nurses, social workers, counselors, resource teachers, some intervention and gifted specialists, and other assorted coordinators do not qualify for reporting purposes. As a result, many of these educators would be unable to meet ALL of the performance requirements. More importantly, consider this text from the Ohio Department of Education’s Highly Qualified Teacher Toolkit: “Newly hired and veteran teachers must satisfy the definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT). Veteran teachers must have been [highly qualified] by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. Federal regulations require that new and newly hired teachers be highly qualified at the time of hire.”   Again, it is against FEDERAL REGULATIONS to employ teachers that are not highly qualified. This performance measure is irrelevant.

But recent changes at the state level make the inclusion of the Highly Qualified Teacher provision even more ignorant than it was last year.

In February of this year, the Ohio Department of Education submitted a waiver to opt out of many of the No Child Left Behind requirements.  As a part of that waiver request, Ohio would phase-out all Highly Qualified Teacher requirements for schools participating in the state’s evaluation framework (Cleveland is in based on their RttT participation).  According to the waiver, “In 2014-2015, all LEAs will use effectiveness ratings in place of HQT to make equitable distribution decisions. At that time, HQT data will be replaced on the Local Report Card by effectiveness ratings for both teachers and principals.”

Meaning that one of the key components of the process of identifying salaries for teachers has already been scheduled to be eliminated in three years.  Yeah, that seems well-planned for a major reform effort…


So in summary, not only does this Cleveland Plan legislation include exact components from Senate Bill 5, those components again reveal the lack of thoughtful vetting by professional educators who would have helped eliminate such off-base provisions.

This is just the first of a variety of concerns we have about SB335, but time is short.  This bill also gives an unprecedented level of singular control to Mayor Frank Jackson and opens the door for charter schools to to get their hands on local property tax dollars.  The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on this bill beginning on Tuesday.  If you don’t have on speed dial yet, you can contact Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner at (614) 466-4538 or by email at

You can express your concerns to Senator Nina Turner, who also sits on Senate Education Committee, at (614) 466-4583 or by email at