February 17, 2011 marked the third day of testimony in Columbus over Senate Bill 5. It has been a contentious debate, but the facts are all on one side. The union influence is centered completely on emotions and clinging to the past and they can’t argue any facts of a financial nature. Most of the people promoting the bill are people of reason, thought, business sense and tea party supporters. Doc Thompson covered the issue live as the protests escalated prior to testimony. If you want to hear the facts, Doc lays them out there for your convenience at around the 10 minute mark.
Below is my own testimony for the record that I’ll include here in its entirety. It can’t be stressed enough how important this bill is to Ohio and the future of our financial strength. As the union groups attempt to fluff their feathers to appear larger than they truly are while real working people continue on with their jobs, too busy to attend such protests, feel free to make your voice in favor of this bill known by sending your support to Senator Bacon at the email address displayed.
Senator Kevin Bacon
Ohio State Senate
Re: SB 5 – For the Record
During the year of 2010 I was heavily involved in a resistance group to oppose the requested levy increases by the school district of Lakota, from South Western Ohio located in Butler County.
There are many reasons that I can see for the implementation of a collective bargaining reform bill such as Senate Bill 5. It is obvious to me and many of the voters that participated in defeating the Lakota Levy on both 2010 occasions that unions under the collective bargaining bill of 1983 have done what they accused business of doing, and that is acting greedily and knowing no limit to the impositions of their demands. Nor did they show any sign of caring what the cost off those impositions where to the tax payer. The result has been an unfair system that has formed between the public sector worker and the tax payer.
My focus of this testimony is on what I consider to be the most pertinent of the many benefits of S.B.5 and that is the elimination of “step increase” as a hidden cost that is deceiving communities all across Ohio. As much of the talk from Fire and Police Unions has centered on their lack of ability to strike, teachers can, and do. “Step Increases” are an ominous appeasement to those potential strikes that is largely hidden from the eyes of tax payers.
In October of 2008 the LEA (Lakota Education Association) threatened to strike and staged a demonstration against the school board. Their reasons for the strike were increased wages and benefits. In the small hours of the morning on the final day of contract talks a settlement was reached, and the LEA achieved its objective.
Two years later Lakota had an operating budget of $160 million dollars even with the declining revenue imposed under the Strickland Administration which favored allocation of state funds to poorer districts. Lakota saw a decline in state funding but through their property taxes, which saw approximately $11 dollars per $1,000 in home evaluation going directly to the schools, still maintained the large budget mentioned.
In the spring of 2010 again the LEA was pushing for a renewed contract and threatened to strike. They did this just months before a new levy request was being placed on the ballot in May. This was a reckless enterprise on their behalf and showed incredible arrogance in an economy that was already weakened. The residence of the Lakota District easily defeated that levy in May.
By August the LEA had announced that they would take a “pay freeze” in order to work with the school board on bringing down their costs as the announcement came from that same board that another levy attempt would be coming in November.
As I looked at the financial situation I realized that the reason the Lakota District was in trouble was because nearly 80% of their budget allocation was tied up in salaries and benefits, so it was obvious to me that the LEA should renegotiate their contract to fit the needs of the community. The average salary of a teacher at Lakota had been during much of 2010 $59,000 per year. As the new school year started that fall, those salaries on average had crept up to $62,000, and this was a baffling statistic. After all, the LEA had just agreed to a pay freeze.
I had loosely understood what “step increases” were but didn’t really give it much thought as to the impact on community budgets. I learned through the campaign that fall how devastating they truly are to financial forecasts. The reason is that often communities only consider the finances of their local districts. They don’t concern themselves with the affairs of their neighboring districts. However, the teachers unions do. The LEA is an arm of the OEA (Ohio Education Association) and they do have a statewide strategy that they impose district by district. It’s a game communities have been unaware was occurring, until now.
Knowing the game was larger than just the situation at Lakota I took my story to WLW radio in Cincinnati and engaged in many debates on the air hoping to get input from school districts around the region, and that’s how I learned about the terrible cost and manipulative nature of “step increases.”
As the facts that are known to many of the law makers that have graced Columbus for many years became apparent to me and a small army of tax protesters that were gathering in Southern Ohio and pockets all over the state, it became evident that communities were being selfishly misled intentionally and action would be needed to return real management power to the district where we elect members of the community to manage our resources.
School Boards under the current system have no choice but to just keep asking for increases in funding because they are so constrained by legislation lobbied and secured by the same forces that have collected themselves to protest this bill S.B.5 and the people who fund this activity have been manipulated and outright lied to regarding the intentions and motives of collective bargaining agreements.
This education funding issue that has plagued Ohio for decades is an unsustainable path, and collective bargaining is at the heart of the problem. I have planned to stand in the way of every single levy initiative for every district that wants my help until true reform is initiated from our State Representation. I consider any further property tax increases for any district in Ohio to be as good as throwing money on a fire. The money will not go to improving test scores for kids, or making children more comparable to students in the international stage. The entire nation is seeing the same story from its public education system, and it has failed in its current form. No amount of union rhetoric can hide that fact now. A majority of the voting public is now ready to admit it to themselves. Putting this bill on the table for discussion is a bold move by this legislative body and hopefully is a sign of things to come, for I do not believe if S.B.5 goes far enough. Many, many reforms will need to be implemented to give the State of Ohio the competitive advantage it needs to step out in front of the nation in education.
There are programs available that could save the State of Ohio a lot of money and make it a premiere state of education reform in the country. Representative Bill Coley from my district has started that process in the last session of congress with a technology bill which allows students to use technology to greater effect, and take away some of the “brick and mortar” costs imposed on school districts currently. There is also “School Choice” which is a phenomenal program utilizing all the best traits of competition to make education better, that will trickle down to the culture of the children attending those education systems.
But all those programs will take courage and they start by dealing with the type of resistance organized by groups like SEIU who have flown in protestors to lobby against this bill. They are applying their work to Wisconsin also where the governor there is also trying to reform their collective bargaining issues, only to be degraded as the villain from the Austin Powers films.
Such actions have taken our state through the collective bargaining process to extort millions of dollars from the intended target of those dollars and it has been to a loss of the entire state not only in being disingenuous to the tax payer, but to the competitive nature of the state as a whole. Over the next decade, the states which become swifter or most innovative will become the guardians of prosperity. Collective bargaining is a failed system that does nothing but help the people on one side of that bargaining, which leaves everyone else feeling depleted and used.
Innovation in most every category is available to Ohio ripe for the picking. But we have to have the courage to reach beyond the fence of collective bargaining to pick our harvest and unleash the true potential that resides among the true labor of Ohio.
Thank you for your service.
Now, have a look at the below video and compare the union comments to what you heard from Doc Thompson above and make a decision on your own. I can speak for myself; I support completely Governor Kasich and the Senators that stand behind Senate Bill 5. We can no longer afford to allow emotion and luxury to govern our actions.