Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Plea for a Participatory Democratic Process

I am advocating for making changes based on careful deliberation and consideration of the facts and available research on the implications of any proposed changes. I think the process for passing Ohio Senate Bill 5 should be participatory where all of the stakeholders and individuals affected should be given time to have their voice heard. In Ohio, we have many freshman legislators who recently finished a campaign and who are being confronted by a lot of difficult public policy decisions that require processing an enormous amount of data and research. Ohio Senate Bill 5 proposes that all salaries be merit-based. I would like to have more clarification on that system. I would like a guarantee that the merit system for public school teachers is ultimately up to the local school district—not dictated by the State Department of Administrations. I think that we still need to be more explicit on these considerations and the implications of any proposed changes. And I am ultimately not convinced that merit pay for public service will work effectively and efficiently.

Many have not supported the process undertaken to pass Ohio Senate Bill 5. Many believe that there should be explicit provisions to protect local control of Ohio schools. Many believe that we need more explicit details for how merit pay will be determined and what that system will look like. The current process has left many teachers, police officers, and fire fighters feeling like the current political leadership is against them, not for them. The implication of the communication from the current Ohio political leadership is that the state is crippled by ineffective public servants who are so greedy that they are willing to bankrupt their local communities and the state as a whole. The tone of much of the communication has been disrespectful and characterized by disdain for public servants. This tone of communication and belief has filtered down to many people. I can understand people recognizing the need to cut costs and balance budgets. I can understand people who want to send their children to good schools. I can support discussions of equitable compensation for public sector employees verses private sector workers. Those are reasonable discussions that we should have. However, if public servants of this state do not feel supported and respected by the current political leadership, they will feel that they have no choice but to look to other state and national organizations for help. The process has antagonized the many public workers who identify themselves as Republicans--maybe forever. The current political leadership of the state could have utilized a more participatory and democratic approach to reforming the system. Instead, it appears that they have desired to fast-track legislation that has vast implications for how the state operates. I am not opposed to change. But I am opposed to change enacted for political expediency at the expense of sound public policy procedures. I don’t feel that enough time has been given yet to researching and discussing the issue. I understand that there are time constraints on budgets, but I hope that we don’t push some piece of legislation quickly through in the interest of short-term political expediency at the expense of good public policy.