There is a lot of discussion of Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 in Ohio and a lot of misunderstanding about the implications of the legislation. One of the most debated aspects of the bill is the possible impact it would have on the salaries teachers are paid. Several groups are claiming that no teacher’s salary will be reduced as a result of Ohio Senate Bill 5.
Senate Bill 5 requires that teachers’ salaries be determined by their level of teaching license, highly-qualified designation, “value-added” measures of student performance, performance evaluations and other criteria established their school board. Ohio issues four different teaching licenses: resident educator, professional educator, senior professional educator and lead professional educator. Currently, very few teachers in the state have a senior professional educator or lead professional educator license because they just became available in 2011. To receive a senior professional educator license, teachers must earn a “master teacher” designation. This requires teachers to write a 12-page paper with up to 10 individual pieces of evidence as part of a Master Teacher portfolio. Time spent learning these requirements and complying with them is time that will not be spent on instructing students, planning instruction or evaluating assessments. To receive a lead professional educator license, teachers must receive a “distinguished” rating on their Master Teacher portfolio and earn the Teacher Leader Endorsement; or complete the National Board Certification process. It costs $3000 for a teacher to simply apply for National Board Certification (money which does not stay in the state) and requires at least a year’s worth of work to complete. The Master Teacher portfolio requires participation on a lot of different committees and district initiatives that will limit the opportunities for individuals to complete this program and take their focus off the students in their classroom. If districts are required to pay individuals with these new advanced licenses more, it means that they have to pay individuals who do not have these advanced licenses less. So, a highly effective classroom teacher who has taught for twenty years, earned a master’s degree and whose students perform well on assessments but who does not jump through the hoops to get an advanced license would probably get a pay cut. Also, if no more funding is made available for education and politicians want to pay teachers deemed to be “good” more, they are going to have pay other teachers less. It will be impossible to have less funding for education and at the same time pay teachers more. Furthermore, the state has not yet provided the details of the basis for the teacher evaluations and there are many potential problems that have not been solved. Teachers who are highly effective but who work with low-performing students may also receive a cut because their students do not score well on standardized tests—even though the teacher is effective but unable to overcome all of the factors that influence a child’s performance that are outside of the teacher’s control. This may discourage teachers from working with high need students. So, despite what some people are claiming, Ohio Senate Bill 5 will in fact reduce the salaries paid to many teachers.