Teachers Lobby Lawmakers Over Education Plan

Feb 22, 2013

Teachers throughout Ohio are starting to get a clearer look at Governor Kasich’s proposed education plan. And they have some concerns about it.

As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, educators are taking their concerns to Ohio lawmakers.

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It’s a typical day at the Ohio Statehouse.  Lawmakers are here.  And so are some teachers who are concerned about the newly proposed education plan.  On this day, those teachers turn into lobbyists.

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Rod Miller is a middle school teacher in Ontario Ohio.  He and two other teachers sit in the office of Republican State Representative John Ecklund, explaining their concerns about proposed changes for teachers….like the proposed 3rd grade reading guarantee for example.  It declares third graders won’t be allowed to move on to fourth grade unless they can show they can read.  Miller explains he doesn’t have a problem with the idea that children should have attained a certain level of literacy by the third grade.  But he says the rules and implementation for the guarantee are downright confusing.

Miller – There is so much change coming around evaluations that we have and we don’t even know how it’s happening.  It seems like in one meeting they will say one thing and in another meeting, they will say something else.  So we are not sure and we work hand in hand with our school board and our administration and we are trying to solve and come up with what does this mean, what does this mean to our teachers.

Miller says it’s not only the proposed curriculum changes that are at the front of his mind.  He says he’s also worried the proposed state funding levels for schools will not help districts like his.

Miller – Back a few years ago, we went back to our public for a levy and it had been 13 years since we did that and we had spent 20% less than the state average, we were rated excellent and still it took us 6 attempts to pass that levy.  That’s troubling.

Darold Johnson with the Ohio Federation of Teachers says Miller’s concerns are echoed by teachers statewide.

Johnson – What we are hearing is that they’d like to see a lit bit of slowing down of the changes that are being made.  They are concerned we won’t be able to implement the third grade reading guarantee because we won’t have enough third grade teachers.  They are concerned that we want to have a value added score to help teachers improve their teachers and not punish them.  And we are concerned about the funding levels.  We want to make sure we get rid of the over-reliance on property tax and that we adequately fund schools.

Many lawmakers are willing to sit down with teachers to talk about these issues.  Republican State Senator John Ecklund says he wants to hear what they have to say.

Ecklund – They are legitimate concerns.  What’s most important about them is they are coming from the people who have to deal with the issues on a day in, day out basis.  And that’s the way we get information brought to us in the legislature is when the people who are closest to the issues have the patience and good sense and fortitude to bring them forth to the legislature and express them.

Ecklund isn’t ruling out making changes to education plans in the future based on what teachers are telling him now….including Governor Kasich’s proposed school funding plan.

Ecklund – My initial look at it is that there are many components to it that make good sense.  I think it’s a good faith attempt that try to take into effect in funding issues that perhaps have not been given as much emphasis as they could have in the past so I think it’s a creative idea in that respect.  So I’m in the process of talking to superintendents and school treasurers to get their reaction to it and see how they think it’s likely to impact them.  And it’s largely informed with that information that I’ll be able to come to some kind of conclusion, depending on what comes out of the house of course.  God knows what it’s going to look like by the time they are done with it.

Hearings on the budget and plans for schools are in the early phase right now.  Teachers are hoping they will have the ears of lawmakers as the legislation goes through the process.