When Ohio lawmakers approved a sweeping overhaul of collective bargaining for public employees, the teachers unions quickly led a counterattack that that saw the controversial legislation overturned in a statewide referendum.
But the battle is far from over—and the fallout from the state’s 2011 legislative session may still have profound implications for local school boards, according to labor relations experts with the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) who led a Monday workshop at NSBA’s annual conference on education labor law and contract negotiations.
Under Senate Bill 5, a conservative-minded legislature two years ago attempted to curb collective bargaining rights, said Renee Fambro, OSBA’s deputy director of labor relations. The law prohibited teacher strikes, abolished tenure for future teachers, eliminated salary schedules, and limited the range of issues that could be negotiated by unions.
“The law hit unions on a very powerful level,” she said. “Their response was, if we can’t strike, what power do we have?”
Joining forces with other public employees, the unions ran an aggressive referendum election campaign that saw the law overturned by a sizable margin. But, noted Van Keating, OSBA’s director of management services, the controversy over Senate Bill 5 meant that teachers largely overlooked another potentially game-changing piece of legislation: House Bill 153.
That law mandated a new statewide teacher evaluation system that, as developed by state education officials, will rate teachers according to student academic growth as well as a number of other measures. All teachers will end up with a rating of accomplished, proficient, developing, or ineffective.
One potentially controversial side effect of this new system is that, right now, these teacher ratings will be a matter of public record, Keating says. And that raises some interesting political challenges: What if a school has two sixth-grade teachers—one rated proficient and one rated ineffective? And exactly will you assign students to those two classrooms?
“I’m going to have about 50 percent of my parents pretty angry with me,” he said. “As a school district, assigning half of my kids to an ineffective-rated teacher, how are we manage the results that are going to come out of this?”