No more teacher strikes?

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Columbus City Schools (CCS) Board of Education member Carlton Weddington informed the board at the Jan. 22 meeting that there are two pieces of legislation that came before the Ohio School Board Association and are currently in the Ohio Senate. If passed, theses pieces of legislation will cause changes for teachers and boards of education across Ohio.

Senate Bill 264 will change the Ohio Revised Code to ban teachers employed by any board of education in the state of Ohio from striking and require parties seek binding arbitration to settle collective bargaining disputes.

“Under the bill, like police officers and firefighters and other emergency personnel, teachers would have to enter into binding arbitration when there is a contract dispute,” said Weddington. “I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that legislation but its something for us to look at. We are a strong state and that’s a decision that’ll have to be looked at very closely by the legislature.”

Jeff Warner, district spokesperson, did not want to offer any opinion for the district on the legislation except to say that the district that will follow the letter of the law.

Greg Goodlander, a Columbus teacher and legislative liaison said he is opposed to Bill 264.

“I’m opposed to it as it stands. We have to understand that strikes are a challenging situation for students, teachers and the community. And it’s not something the union rushes to do. It can be costly to do. But we’d like to have that option available to us,” said Goodlander.

Senator John Carey, who introduced this bill, was not available at press time.

Michele Prater, media relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association, said the number of strikes has gone down and there were only four teacher strikes in Ohio in 2007.

She added that since the collective bargaining laws were passed, the strikes have been much shorter and negotiations more easily resolved.

“I think the right to strike is a labor reform issue to help develop consensus on key educational issues and if we eliminate collective bargaining, we’ll return school districts to dispute resolutions that are already proven failures,” said Prater.

Prater vowed their organization will testify in opposition when it comes up in the House.

Senate Bill 270 would automatically revoke a teacher’s license for committing one of 80 felonies, which include crimes such as murder, rape, gross sexual imposition and crimes associate with drugs and firearms without the right to a hearing by the Ohio State Board of Education.

A teacher would still have to be convicted of the crime or plead guilty before the license revocation would take place.

As the Ohio Revised Code stands now, a teacher still has the right to a hearing, even after a conviction.

Rhonda Johnson, president of Columbus Education Association said the current laws are set up so that if someone is convicted or pleads guilty of a crime, they will definitely lose their license anyway so it seems unnecessary to take that right away prematurely.

“I know they want to expedite everything but there’s people convicted of crimes that they didn’t commit,” said Johnson. “The hearing protects the employees the Ohio Department of Education and protects everyone to have the hearing. When you’re in real court, you have the right to a trial; now if you admit guilt, you don’t have to have the trial, but you have the right to it.”

Senate Bill 264 was introduced to the Senate on Dec. 11, and Senate Bill 270 was introduced to the senate on Jan. 9.

Neither bill has heard opposing testimony or been voted on at this time. The bills would have to pass the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives and then go on to the governor to be signed into law.

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