Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Columbus Dispatch on Proposed Changes to Education in Ohio

Public-school teachers are facing a multitude of changes that could diminish their pay checks, benefits and working conditions - among them Gov. John Kasich's proposed state budget, legislation overhauling Ohio's 27-year-old collective-bargaining law and plans to restore fiscal solvency to public-employee pension systems.

An Ohio public-school teacher's average salary is now about $57,000 for 182 official working days.

Among the changes that have been proposed:

• Cutting school funding $1.3billion over the next two years

• Increasing the pension contribution rate, which now is 10percent, by 2 percentage points to save money ($200 million statewide)

• Increasing the pension contribution rate by another 3 percentage points to give the pension system financial stability ($300 million statewide)

• Requiring teachers to pay at least 15 percent of their health-insurance cost (the average now is about 9 percent)

• Taking 15 sick days out of state law, making it a term of negotiation instead

• Limiting the number of unused sick days that can be built up and paid out upon retirement

• Ending continuing contracts

• Eliminating automatic pay increases for longevity, replacing them with merit pay

• Quadrupling EdChoice vouchers to 56,000, funding more students to leave public schools

• Lifting the cap on charter schools, where teachers are paid less

• Instituting Teach for America, which brings in college graduates to teach for two years at low-income schools. Unions in other states have opposed the program.

• Delaying the retirement age from 30 years of service at any age to 35 years and age 60

• Lowering retirement payments to 77 percent of a teacher's highest five years of salary after 35 years on the job, down from 88.5 percent based on the highest three years

• Chopping annual cost-of-living-adjustments for retirees from 3 percent to 2 percent, with no COLA the first five years of retirement

• Streamlining the process to dismiss teachers for poor performance

• Banning collective bargaining for health insurance or limits on a school's ability to privatize services

• Ending work rules as a topic of collective bargaining, such as length of school day, building assignments, class sizes

• Eliminating the ability to strike

• Allowing a school board to implement its own last offer in order to end a bargaining impasse

• Allowing a school board to terminate, modify or renegotiate the collective-bargaining agreement if it faces significant fiscal problems