COMMENTARY | The highly publicized public employees union battles in Ohio and Wisconsin might be over, but funding problems still remain. The short-lived triumph claimed by teachers unions after the failure of Ohio Senate Bill 5 -- Issue 2 might be coming back to haunt them during contract negotiations.
The fiscally responsible legislation would have ended the unrealistic practice of automatic "step" increases. Handing a raise to each employee every year is not only cost prohibitive but rewards mediocre educators at the same rate as dedicated and quality staffers. The Westerville School District is battling fiscal restraints and public opinion, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The three public school employee unions that exist in the district cannot come to terms with the administration on contract benefits and are asking taxpayers to pass another operating levy. A similar levy failed last fall.
School board meetings are rarely well attended unless there is a controversial issue. Westerville meetings have been standing-room only for months as levy opponents and supporters strained to have their voices heard. Oddly enough, some of the same nonschool public workers who campaigned against Ohio Senate Bill 5, are demanding greater fiscal accountability and withholding support for the union promoted school levy.
Slight increases in employee health insurance benefits and ending the annual salary step increase were major sticking points for teachers who protested in front of the Ohio Statehouse against SB5. Concessions the Westerville teachers union have agreed on to get a contract include those two issues and far more stringent financial restraints than mandated by the collective bargaining reform legislation.
There would be no need to freeze all raises for two years if the rank and file would have utilized common sense when reviewing the Issue 2 proposal. Most school districts would have been able to afford merit-based pay raises for qualified staffers.
It defies common sense to award raises for anything but hard work and good attendance. Teachers do not issue "A's" to every student for showing up, so why should taxpayers support a similar philosophy by voting yes on a levy or no on reasonable reforms? As much of a cliche as it might be, Ohio's public school employees bit off their nose to save their face when believing panicked rhetoric from union leaders and voting against legislation that would have secured their employment and affordable benefits.