A question I have heard a lot over the past couple months is, “How will Senate Bill 5 affect teachers?” Often, the people asking the question do not show anger or frustration or cynicism. They simply want to know the truth.

Although the bill has been described as many things, it really is an attempt to save public sector jobs. At the same time, however, we all must understand that times have changed, and our economy is in a rut. I, along with my colleagues in the legislature, believe in the greatness of this state and know that better times are ahead, but we also know that, in order for this vision to become reality, reasonable changes must be made.

Senate Bill 5 requires that all public sector employees, teachers included, pay a minimal amount—which many already do—toward their healthcare and retirement benefits. This can free up budget space for school districts to keep more teachers on the staff, instead of the recent alternative of laying off teachers in order to provide for generous—and sometimes outlandish—benefits demanded by the unions.

What has perhaps attracted the most debate, however, is the changes in the bill relating to collective bargaining. This has led some people to ask whether the determination of teachers’ salaries will be completely out of the teachers’ control. Some have even questioned the implementation of maximum wages for teachers. These are all false rumors. While SB 5 alters part of the collective bargaining process, negotiations over wages, hours and working conditions will remain intact. In other words, teachers will still have the ability to collectively bargain over their salaries.

Senate Bill 5 also provides a better balance of fairness for all teachers by implementing a performance-based pay system. In the past, it has been common practice to automatically lay off young teachers when facing a tight budget—often referred to as the “last-hired, first-fired” policy. The bill does not specifically define the standards for performance-based pay; these specifications will still be part of the collective bargaining process. Therefore, teachers will have a strong voice in determining what the conditions will be.

Teachers are not the problem, but part of the solution. We know that nothing, other than socio-economics, is more important than an effective teacher in front of the class of students. We understand the invaluable part they play in our society—people who have the challenging and often thankless job of educating the future leaders of our country. It is critically important that we are doing all we can to put forward the best we have.

We have a representative government, and as the elected official, it is my job to learn each bill, listen to both sides and make a decision. It is now the public’s responsibility to understand the bill, which likely will not happen by simply listening to the rhetoric on TV and radio. I encourage everyone to read the bill, or at least an official analysis of it. If you are tired of listening to politicians talking back-and-forth about what SB 5 does and doesn’t do, then take the time to do your own homework. It is important that you inform yourself about the issues and challenges facing Ohio, and to understand why certain changes are necessary.


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