We deserve to be at the table, not on the menu

Jumbo shrimp. Civil war. Freezer burn. A fine mess.

“It’s a cookbook!”

These are examples of oxymorons, expressions that combine contradictory terms. I discovered a brand-new one when I read a recent article referencing the governor’s yet-to-be-unveiled education overhaul plan.

The plan actually doesn’t belong to the governor so much as it belongs to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering acknowledged that Jackson’s plan contains many provisions that were “also in Senate Bill 5.”

Then she unveils her oxymoronic creation. Jackson’s plan, says Lehner, “…takes the best of Senate Bill 5.”

The best of Senate Bill 5 was than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions in less than two and a half months to send a message to the extreme politicians that passed the bill, that more Ohioans voted AGAINST SB 5/Issue 2 than voted FOR the governor who campaigned for it and that the 2011’s election turn-out was the largest in more than 20 years of Ohio election history.

Ohioans in the crosshairs of Senate Bill 5 fought against it because politicians rammed it through the legislature. Instead of being asked about what systemic changes should be made, we were told “This is how it’s going to be from now on in Ohio.” The legislation’s passage helped make We Are Ohio into an effective, dynamic organization that achieved its single goal—the repeal of SB 5.

This is an example of how the relationship between any school district and its teachers should work. Both sides share the same goal; to ensure their students’ success, but neither side can do it alone. They’ve got to work together. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Cleveland right now.

Rather than speak with the Cleveland Teachers Union about his transformation plan, Mayor Jackson held back-door conversations with city’s business community. Instead of putting teachers at the table, Jackson’s plan puts them on the menu.

Some his ideas sound strikingly similar to Senate Bill 5. There is a curiously strong focus on collective bargaining, and it is reminiscent of a letter Jackson wrote to legislators in June addressing his requests for the state budget.

The mayor knows that his transformation plan won’t happen without the assistance of the governor and the Ohio General Assembly. “Quite simply,” Jackson writes in this plan, addressing state legislators, “we cannot do it without your help.” The governor got Jackson’s message and is watching.

“I’m counting on Cleveland to deliver the goods,” said the governor in his 2012 State of the State address, adding, “Oh, I’ll work with them.  I’ll go door-to-door to every one of their offices.”

What happens in Cleveland will have statewide implications for us all. We must make legislators realize that collaboration is key to the success of our students. We must refuse to be cast as the villain. We as teachers are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

A fine mess indeed.

By Phil Hayes, Columbus Education Association

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