Friday, June 17, 2011

Fresh thinking about SB5

Gov. John Kasich e-mailed his supporters this week, asking them to spread the word about SB5's "common sense reforms." The other side, gathering petition signatures to stop SB5, says the new law will "destroy jobs and harm communities."

Republicans or unions? Teachers and cops or budget-cutters? The arguments are polarized, and they'll get more so by November, when Ohioans will likely vote on whether to overturn the law's limits on government employees' collective bargaining.

It's easy to take a side, and most commentators do. But who's actually writing for the undecided voter? Not many.

That's why I think Dan Moulthrop's commentary on SB5 and the teaching profession is the best, most thoughtful piece I've read on the law -- which is why we published it in the Talking Points section of this month's Cleveland Magazine.

You may know Moulthrop from his role with The Civic Commons, the new civic-journalism website in town, or his previous job as WCPN's morning show host.

He's also a former teacher and co-author of a book, the ironically titled Teachers Have It Easy, on how to improve the teaching profession. (One of his co-authors is Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, co-founder of McSweeney's and the writing and tutoring program 826 Valencia.) The book's just been made into a documentary, American Teacher.

Moulthrop makes it clear he'll vote to repeal SB5 if it's on the November ballot. He thinks its restrictions on unions' dues and memberships amount to a political power grab.

Yet SB5's education reforms go right at an issue he's passionate about: how to define and reward good teaching. He writes:

Despite my feelings about the law, I think it may have created a chance to improve schools.

SB 5 and Gov. John Kasich's budget deal will radically change how teachers get paid. Raises will be based on performance evaluations, peer review (where it's in place), value-added measures (which measure growth in students' test scores rather than just the score itself) and any other criteria established by a local school board.

Many educators complain these requirements are vague. That's not a problem, though. It's an opportunity.

To read Moulthrop's commentary, "Lesson Plan," click here. To see his blog post about it on the Civic Commons, click here.

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