Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Republican Friend of Mine Wrote This

A Republican Friend of Mine Wrote This:

Why SB5 and the Kasich Proposals are NOT Conservative. Here is why Republicans should oppose it:

 • A key principle of conservatism is local control. In SB5, the state moves in and removes control from school districts to do what they deem best. For instance, local districts would not have the power to offer step increases to teachers, regardless of how little money the district receives from the state. This is the exact type of thing that incenses Republicans at the state level when the national government is taking the lead. Doing the same would be an exercise in hypocrisy.

o A related point on local control: It’s understandable that the legislature must cut state funding to schools in order to balance the budget. There is no reason that can’t be done without this bill. Cut funding as necessary and let the local districts determine the cuts that will be made. I can assure you that school districts operating with 15-20% less state revenue will not be offering increases in benefits or salaries to educators. Similarly, given those constraints any union that wanted to be taken seriously would not ask for them. Many would accept paying more into health care.

• Conservatism, by definition, is a philosophy based on maintaining traditional institutions and making gradual, measured change when necessary. SB5, as currently written, does no such thing. It destroys the positive along with the negative, ultimately leaving students and teachers as the victims. Are there areas to reform? Certainly. Look at matters such as sick day reform, tenure limitations (not elimination), a state health care pool (negotiate for one company, but allow the percentage of the premium paid by each local district to remain a bargaining issue to a reasonable degree), limits on districts picking up the employee’s share of STRS, perhaps making it easier for employees to opt out of joining unions- particularly the NEA & OEA, and even limitations on wage increases tied to the amount of funding a particular district receives from the state.

• Conservatives understand that incentives attract quality employees. If teachers (or plumbers, CEOs or members of the governor’s cabinet) are paid poorly, poor teachers will enter the profession. If teachers are paid well, many of the best and brightest will bypass high-paying private sector jobs for the teaching profession. Likewise, eliminating all step increases will drive some of the best teachers out. I SEE THIS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN MY DISTRICT & THE BILL HASN’T EVEN PASSED YET. Education is too important to be a profession for mediocre talent.

• Less money spent on education at the state level opens the door for the federal government to increase aid to fill part of the vacuum. With federal aid come expensive federal mandates that will eventually lead to federal, rather than local control on a variety of things, including curriculum and performance standards. Do you really want Department of Education bureaucrats in Washington telling teachers in Ohio what “truths” need to be taught and tested about the New Deal, the United Nations, economic systems, climate change, religion, or political parties? These are just a sampling of social studies issues. Add other subject areas and the list is endless.

• This bill creates new and expensive bureaucracy. Who will be developing and creating the new performance reviews that “merit” pay will be based upon? What will their salaries and benefits be? Studies show very inconsistent findings regarding merit pay for teachers. Most, in fact, show that it does not improve education. We will be spending money on bureaucracy to implement unproven or even counterproductive methods. That is the definition of wasteful government spending.

• The bill has hidden costs to taxpayers. It will cost time and money to train teachers and administrators in the new performance reviews. It may open the door to costly litigation by employees who disagree with the reviews. Districts will inevitably hire consultants to advise them on how to implement all of the changes associated with the bill. This is money that need not be spent.

• Passage of this bill, in current extreme form, will result in the demise of the Republican Party in Ohio for a long time to come. Although a minority of teachers are Republicans, it will alienate nearly all (my estimation is about 40%) of those who are. It’s astonishing, right now, how many traditionally very loyal Republican teachers have one foot out of the door of the Republican Party. This is to say nothing of firemen or policemen. Simply put, passage of this bill as currently written will halt the passage of important Republican policies for decades to come. Is it really worth killing the Republican agenda for twenty years?

The budget can be balanced without this bill.

 A note to my Democrat friends: You can save your “I told you so” propaganda, too. Part of the reason teachers unions are in the situation we are in right now is because of the antagonistic nature of the NEA, OEA, and some local unions. There is no reason for teachers unions to be active regarding issues that have no concrete impact on teaching and learning. The NEA or OEA have official positions on the following issues: a balanced federal budget (oppose), Obama Care (support), same sex marriage (support), and abortion (support). Regardless of what you think of these issues, teachers unions should not be involved in them. If you don’t think that this riles up conservative politicians who are now in positions to weaken unions, let this be your lesson in politics.