Ohio's airwaves have been abuzz with commercials for and against Issue 2 (the referendum for Senate Bill 5). For those not living in the Buckeye State, SB 5 is the state's highly contentious public sector reform law. According to Ohio's Secretary of State, opponents of the law have raised almost $24 million to shoot it down, while supporters have mustered about $6 million to save it. The Ohio Education Association and the National Education Association together have contributed $4.75 million to repeal the law.??

Despite the heavy spending by the teacher unions most of the anti-Issue 2 commercials have featured first responders, and one of the most effective and widely used spokespeople for We Are Ohio ??? the coalition leading the fight ??? has been a Cincinnati firefighter warning Ohioans about the impact of the bill on the safety of firemen and police. The Columbus Dispatch reported, ???We Are Ohio's campaign has featured heavy doses of police and firefighters, with a sprinkling of nurses and teachers.???

In studying poll numbers around the reform measures in SB 5 that effect teachers it is not surprising that SB 5 opponents have focused their attention on public sector employees like first responders and not teachers. Based on both national and Ohio polls many of the reforms in SB5 that would impact teachers are supported by Ohioans and have been for years. The Fordham Institute, for example, polled Ohioans on education issues in 2005, 2007, and 2009 and in each of these Ohioans said they preferred paying teachers according to their ???performance and how effectively they teach??? over ???years of service and degrees earned.??? In 2009, the margin was an overwhelming 69 percent to 15 percent. Further, an overwhelming 87 percent of Ohioans favored ???giving local public schools more freedom to fire teachers that aren't performing,??? while only 11 percent opposed such a measure.

Quinnipiac reported on October 25 that Ohioans supported by a 49 to 40 percent margin the measure that pay increases for public sector employees, including teachers, should be based on merit rather than seniority. Recent national polls show Americans overall support merit pay and basing tenure on performance. An Education Next-PEPG poll conducted earlier this year found that ???those who say tenure should be based on academic progress increased from 49 percent to 55 percent between 2010 and 2011.???

With all of the media attention swirling around SB5 and its potential impact on police, firemen, and other public sector employees, Ohioans may well have lost sight of the significant and mostly valuable changes in public education embedded in this controversial measure. But, as many of the education measures are supported by a majority of Ohioans they are sure to keep coming up. In fact, Ohio's Speaker of the House William Batchelder promised as much when he told the Associated Press yesterday that elements of the contentious law ???could be proposed again if the law is rejected.??? Batchelder told reporters he knew through polling which elements of the bill people like and dislike.


-Terry Ryan

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