Ohio teachers air merit pay concerns to governorWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Fired up over Ohio’s new collective bargaining law, teachers have sent hundreds of emails to Gov. John Kasich trying to educate him on their side of a debate over how they should be paid and evaluated.
An Associated Press review of several hundred of the roughly 1,000 emails the Republican governor has received since late April shows teachers aren’t so much angry but full of advice — though some messages are more pointed than others.
“NO TO MERIT PAY UNLESS YOU ARE PAID ON A MERIT SYSTEM AND THE PUBLIC GETS TO EVALUATE YOUR PERFORMANCE EVERY YEAR!!!!!!!,” one writer told the governor.
At issue is a performance-based pay system contained in the collective bargaining overhaul signed by Kasich in March. Lawmakers are debating whether the idea should be included in the $55.7 billion, two-year state budget.
A November referendum on the collective bargaining law is likely, but putting the pay proposal in the budget could make it complicated to repeal it through a referendum.
The AP obtained the teachers’ emails through a public records request. The messages were sent to the governor through an address on his office’s website, which allows people to share their performance pay ideas. Not included in the records were any hand-written letters or messages sent to the governor in the larger fight over the budget or the collective bargaining legislation.
Some educators in e-mails questioned the fairness of basing their pay on such factors as how well their students do on tests. They also expressed concern over whether parent feedback should be a part of their evaluations.
“If I make a child work hard and show responsibility, and the parent thinks I am expecting too much, and dislikes me for it, then my pay will go down?” Nancy Scott, who’s been a teacher for 32 years at Findlay City Schools, asked in her email.
Other educators, such as Melissa Wood, acknowledged the current system needs an update. Wood, a fifth grade teacher from southwest Ohio, wrote to Kasich to ask him whether she could be a part of reforming teachers’ pay.
“We’ve just got to make some changes here,” Wood said in a telephone interview about her message. Asked whether performance-based pay should be a part of that, she said, “I think it’s going to be. I think it’s going to have to be.”
Kasich has used Twitter, his campaign email account and public speaking events to solicit teachers’ opinions on merit pay.
The messages to Kasich on the topic of merit pay come as the first-term governor’s fellow Republicans in the Ohio Senate have stripped the provisions dealing with the issue from the state spending blueprint. The House had inserted changes when it passed its version of the budget that were similar to the performance-based pay provisions contained in the collective bargaining law.
Opponents of the new law are seeking to have voters decide whether it should be overturned. Critics of the law, including the state’s largest teachers’ union, have said putting performance-based pay for teachers in the budget bill skirts the chance for voters to weigh in on the idea in the expected referendum.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said putting the merit pay in the budget had nothing to do with a possible referendum.
While he said the administration views the merit pay plan as “far more comprehensive” than what’s in the collective bargaining law, Nichols declined to say whether the administration was pushing senators to restore it to the budget bill.
“We’re working with the House and Senate on a whole host of issues related to the budget,” he said. “We’re not negotiating through the press.”
The governor’s office had worked with House lawmakers on their merit pay proposal.
Under the initiative, teachers’ salaries would be based on how they are rated in a new evaluation process. Their amount of training and number of years teaching — the main components in their current salary schedules — would not be given as much weight. Instead, their employers would rate them on four categories that range from “highly effective” to “unsatisfactory.”
Senate President Tom Niehaus says his chamber wanted to remove the wording out of respect for the referendum process. They also wanted to be sure, he said, that if any merit pay provisions are included in the budget, they are in line with what schools are doing to comply with their federal Race to the Top grants.
“I believe teacher evaluations can be an effective tool in improving educational outcomes for our children,” Niehaus said Friday through a spokesman. “Having said that, we want to be transparent in our process and make sure we are not appearing to circumvent what voters may choose to do in November.”
The full Senate plans to vote on the budget next week.
Lawmakers in both chambers would have to work out any differences between the two budget plans in what’s called a conference committee. They face a June 30 deadline to pass the state spending plan.