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Published: Tuesday, 10/18/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Teachers group: Issue 2 could lead to larger school classes

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Betty Evans, who has taught in Toledo Public Schools for 21 years, speaks against Issue 2 with Dan Greenberg, an English teacher in Sylvania’s Southview High School, front middle, and Perry Lefevre, president of the Sylvania Education Association union, front right. Betty Evans, who has taught in Toledo Public Schools for 21 years, speaks against Issue 2 with Dan Greenberg, an English teacher in Sylvania’s Southview High School, front middle, and Perry Lefevre, president of the Sylvania Education Association union, front right.
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A group of teachers Monday called for defeat of Issue 2, saying it deprives them of the ability to fight for smaller class sizes for students.

The ability to bargain for maximum class sizes would be eliminated if Issue 2 passes. Issue 2, on the Nov. 8 ballot, is a referendum on Senate Bill 5, which would reduce public employee union bargaining rights.

Supporters of the law said school boards, administrators, and the public, not just teachers, are interested in class sizes that benefit pupils.

“Collective bargaining is what makes it possible for teachers to bargain for the best learning conditions for our students,” said Betty Evans, a 40-year teacher who has taught in Toledo Public Schools for 21 years, and now teaches in a school for children with behavioral challenges. She said the school was kept open because of her union’s negotiations.

“As front-line professionals standing in front of the classroom every day, teachers are in the best position to know what is probably the best for our students,” Ms. Evans said.

She also said the bill opens the door for nepotism, favoritism, and discrimination, problems the unions have fought for years. The proposed law also would require performance-based pay for teachers and prohibit seniority as the basis for layoffs.

The group of about 10 teachers included mostly Sylvania teachers who were on an unpaid furlough day. The event was organized by We Are Ohio, formed to campaign for the defeat of Issue 2.

Dan Greenberg, an English teacher in Sylvania’s Southview High School, and Perry Lefevre, president of the Sylvania Education Association union, said they bargain to reach agreements that solve problems in the schools. They said the union has given concessions, including freezing pay increases this year and in taking an unpaid furlough day, to help the school district and to reduce teacher layoffs.

Diane Friedman, a science teacher at Timberstone Junior High School, said the class-size restriction is one of the rules that forces a district to hire substitutes when a teacher is out sick. Otherwise, she said, classes might be doubled up.

An area representative who voted for the bill, and whose House district includes Sylvania, said she’s confident that school boards and parents would be concerned enough about the success of children in their schools to set appropriate class sizes.

“I’m certainly not going to argue with the fact that the teachers want to protect the students. But I will tell you also that the districts aren’t going to want a failing classroom because of class sizes, nor are parents. I think there’s lots of checks and balances in place,” state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) said.

State Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) said the basic goal of the law is to give school boards more flexibility.

He called the current pay system a “lockstep system” that doesn’t recognize teachers who go “above and beyond.”

Mr. Wagoner said it would be up to the boards and management to avoid letting nepotism, favoritism, and discrimination seep into school staffing and merit-pay decisions.

Issue 2 has come under attack from public employee unions over the provisions that bar them from negotiating for staffing numbers. Nurses and firefighters have appeared in anti-Issue 2 television commercials to attack the proposed law as dangerous for the public because of the chance that municipalities and state-owned hospitals will save money by stretching firefighters and nurses too thin.

Senate Bill 5 was passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Groups associated with public-sector unions and the Ohio Democratic Party raised enough signatures to put the law on hold until the voters could repeal it or uphold it in next month’s election.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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