All four (legislators) hope that Jackson and CTU, who found common ground on several issues in a meeting this week, can resolve their last two sticking points.
"If an understanding cannot be reached, we will introduce the legislation we have and negotiate the remaining issues through the legislative process," said state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), state Rep. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) in a joint statement.This is a good sign because while there was much progress to be made out of Monday's meeting between the sides, there is apparently enough hope a deal can be reached that Jackson's willing to hold off introduction of the bill until after his next meeting with CTU Tuesday.
There are two big sticking points: 1) a so-called "fresh start" provision, which would annul all previously negotiated deals and re-start negotiations from scratch and 2) a provision giving CEO (superintendent) Eric Gordon huge powers to close buildings and make staffing and curriculum decisions at local buildings.
Again, one of the hallmarks of the Cleveland Plan is to give building leaders more freedom to develop curricula and staffing to better suit their particular school. This final sticking point would seem to run counter to that.
However, teachers made a huge concession, which Jackson agreed to accept this week, when they agreed to have personnel decisions like layoffs determined first by teacher evaluations, a large portion of which will be determined by student test scores. Tenure and seniority will only be used if there is a tie between teachers, which probably will rarely happen.
Still no word about whether Charter Schools will be able to collect local revenues and still collect more than double the per pupil amount the state gives to traditional schools. So there's still potential for legislative debate over that issue.
But let's be honest; if the CTU and Jackson are able to agree to a Plan, the chances of holding up the process, unless something unforeseen happens, seems remote.
That, perhaps more than anything else, helps explain legislators' willingness to wait a few days longer than they anticipated. For that agreement, if it's reached, is legislative gold.
Again, my concern remains that while there are many strong portions of the plan, like investing in universal pre-school for 3 and 4 years olds and early childhood academies, because the Plan asks for no additional resources from the state, it is dubious whether these grand plans will be realized.
So while the district may be able to gain significant concessions from teachers, unless the state puts some skin in the game, it is difficult to see how depending on the very dubious prospect of passing a huge levy in November (it would have to be about 10-12 mills just to close the projected deficit in the plan's first year) will make these important investments happen. Even if the levy passes, it will barely change Cleveland's financial position, but will increase Cleveland residents' property tax burden by $310 per $100,000 home on a 10-mill levy, which is significant for a district whose median income is $22,226.
Overreliance on property taxes to pay for schools is something the Ohio Supreme Court has been very clear is unconstitutional. Increasing this burden in Cleveland seems to fall into that category, though because the Supreme Court dropped jurisdiction over these matters, it is unlikely to consider this issue.
Again, it's the state's responsibility to educate Ohio's children under the Ohio Constitution. For the Cleveland Plan to ask nothing additional from it, not even a token gesture, is perhaps the Plan's greatest impediment to success.