Archives for July 2011

Ohio Ballot Board will determine the SB5 question posed to Ohio voters

"Vote!" by Flickr user hjl.

On Thursday, July 21, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that more than 915,000 registered voters’ signatures on Senate Bill 5 referendum petitions were certified by county boards of election throughout the state. Slightly more than 231,000 valid signatures needed to be collected in order to send SB5 to the voters. We Are Ohio, the umbrella organization representing the statewide effort to overturn SB5 collected more than 1.2 million signatures in less than three months.

With slightly less than four months until the November 8 General Election, the SB5 statewide issue has a few more hurdles to clear. According to the Ohio Constitution, organizations or individuals who wish to dispute the validity of the petitions or their signatures must file a challenge with the Ohio Supreme Court. The deadline for such a challenge is Friday, Aug. 5, 105 days prior to the election. If a challenge were filed, the Ohio Supreme Court would have until Friday, Aug. 15 to sustain or overrule any  challenge(s) to the statewide referendum.

The next step is writing the argument against SB5 that will be seen by Ohio’s electorate when they vote on Senate Bill 5. The responsibility of writing the argument against Senate Bill 5 will fall on the committee that submitted the initial petitions to begin the referendum process. According to the Ohio Constitution, the argument against SB5 cannot exceed 300 words in length, and must be submitted no later than 80 days prior to the election.

The Ohio Constitution says that the individuals responsible for writing the 300 word argument in favor of SB 5 are to be picked by the Ohio General Assembly. However, since the legislature is not in session, the choice of who writes the argument in favor of SB5 goes to the governor. The Ohio Ballot Board is the body that will ultimately decide how the SB5 ballot issue will appear to Ohio voters.

The makeup of the five-member Ohio Ballot Board is prescribed by the Ohio Constitution and state law. The board is chaired by the Ohio Secretary of State, and the four remaining members are appointed by the state legislature. The constitution requires that no more than two of the ballot board members appointed by the legislature be of the same political party. The Current members of the board include Secretary of State Jon Husted, Chairperson, William N. Morgan, Vice-Chairperson, Sen. Keith Faber, Fred Strahorn and Rebeecca L. Egelhoff.

Secretary of State Husted determined earlier in June that the SB5 referendum cannot be split into multiple issues and that the SB5 referendum will appear to voters as a single item. Husted said in a July 21 press release that the board is expected to meet in early August to approve the language of the SB5 referendum issue.

In that meeting, members will determine the wording of the question that will be posed to Ohio voters. Ohio Ballot Board members could approve a question that makes a “No” vote repeal SB5. Conversely, they could also approve a question that makes a “Yes” vote repeal SB5. A full transcript each meeting of the Ohio Ballot Board is kept on the Secretary of State’s website.


[Updated] Governor's office invites Ohio teachers to a meeting and stands them up

"Waiting for my committee" by Flickr user anneohirsch.

One of the platform points campaigned on by Ohio’s current governor was that he would get rid of Governor Ted Strickland’s evidence-based school funding model, passed in the 2009-20011 state budget. With Ohio the only state in the nation without a permanent school funding model, planning has begun in earnest, as the current Ohio governor hopes to present a new funding model to state legislators before the end of the calendar year.

Leading the effort to create a new school funding model is Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education in the governor’s office. Mattei-Smith is no stranger to state government, having worked with the state since 1995 and the Ohio Department of Education since 2005. In March of this year, Mattei-Smith assumed her current role as Assistant Policy Director for Education in the Governor’s office.

While the anatomy of the new school funding formula has yet to be determined, the governor’s spokesperson has gone on record saying the new model will be contain the “over-arching principal of driving more money into the classroom.” Mattei-Smith scheduled five meetings over a two-week period inviting teachers, superintendents and principals, but failed to include teacher-leaders from the Ohio Education Association or the Ohio Federation of Teachers until much later in the process.

The email invitation that participants received stated that Mattei-Smith wanted educators’ help to “develop the principles that will guide” the development of a new funding formula. The email went on to say that Mazzei-Smith wanted “participants to come prepared to discuss the kinds of resources they need to do their jobs and help students succeed.”

On Wednesday, July 20, CEA Vice President Sally Oldham and eight other teachers from central Ohio school districts traveled to the Eastland Career Center to attend the final meeting that was called by the Governor’s office. The teachers arrived well before the 10:30 scheduled start time and were fully prepared to discuss the types of resources they needed to help their students succeed.

Unfortunately for the students and the families that those nine teachers represented, the governor’s office wasn’t prepared to discuss anything. No representatives from the governor’s office, including Mazzei-Smith, attended the meeting. Calls made by OEA to notify the governor’s office that teachers were waiting at Eastland Career Center were not returned. All nine teachers waited patiently for more than an hour for someone from the governor’s office to arrive for the previously scheduled hour-long discussion. No one ever did.

“I was looking forward to relaying the concerns of our teachers about how a new school funding model should be created,” said CEA Vice President Sally Oldham. “We are the largest district in the state of Ohio, and we have a perspective that others don’t have. I was quite disappointed that since no one showed up from the governor’s office, I was unable share those concerns.”

Central Ohio teachers wait patiently to meet with Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education in the governor’s office. Image courtesy Join The Future.

07/21/11 UPDATE #1: According to the blog of a local paper, “While nearly a dozen teachers waited in a conference room at the Eastland Career Center for the governor’s representative to arrive, the aid, Barbara Mattei-Smith, apparently was waiting in a nearby classroom for the teachers.”

7/21/11 UPDATE #2: According to an article from NPR’s StateImpact, a spokesperson for the governor said that the office of Ohio’s chief executive would “try to reschedule the meeting.” The spokesperson characterized the non-meeting as a “simple scheduling snafu.” The article also said the governor’s spokesperson also described “teachers’ suspicions of an intentional snub (as) “politically motivated.”

Solidarity Forever, sung by NEA Vice President Lilly Eskelsen

Since day one, the members, families and friends of the Columbus Education Association have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their union brothers and sisters during Ohio’s fight against SB5.

National Education Association Vice President Lilly Eskelsen’s rendition of “Solidarity Forever” provides the perfect soundtrack to complement the photographic record of the past five months of our shared struggle, recorded at the NYSUT and NEA RAs.

Special thanks to Lauren Michelle Kinsey for the use of her photos to document this historic period in Ohio history.