That's why I'm curious why legislators are so eager to drop their version of Mayor Frank Jackson's so-called Cleveland Plan for education, especially when it's clear progress is being made.
State Sen. Nina Turner told the Plan Dealer yesterday that she and three other legislators will drop the Cleveland Plan today. But why the hurry, given that legislators aren't even in town for two weeks and Jackson and the Cleveland Teachers Union have been making steady progress on their two biggest issues: the power CEO (superintendent) Eric Gordon would have to fire entire buildings of teachers at will, and having the state dictate to Cleveland that they must have a do-over on 30 years of negotiation, is another story.
This is especially curious because the fastest way to move a bill is to have an agreement before it's introduced. And given that legislators aren't in town for two weeks anyway, why not spend those two weeks letting the sides work out their differences?
According to the Plain Dealer account of the negotiations,
"The mayor and union met for three hours at City Hall Tuesday and left with each side saying they made substantial progress on one of the final sticking points – how to fix failing schools – but had little discussion on the other – Jackson's desire to throw out all previous contracts and negotiate a new one with a so-called "fresh start" provision."The teachers have already made an historic concession when they agreed to essentially tie all their compensation and job protection to a new teacher evaluation system, undoing years of reliance on seniority and tenure for those things.
Yet now Jackson wants them to agree that Gordon can fire them, regardless of their evaluation scores, if they happen to be in a failing building. Why would any successful teacher even think about going to an at-risk building, if it would mean they could lose their job -- a job Jackson's own evaluation system indicates if they're really good at doing? We should be trying to get as many great teachers in struggling buildings, not scaring them away from the challenge.
And forcing both sides to do a "do-over" on contract negotiations? There were 30 years of hard work, sacrifice and good will built up developing the provisions that are in the Cleveland contract. Yes, some of those provisions are probably worth re-examining. But tossing out the whole thing seems like the actual definition of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."
Finally, I was most encouraged by the last couple paragraphs in the Plain Dealer story. That's where state Rep. Mike Foley explained what the competing bill he is drafting would include.
"Within hours after the negotiations ended, state Rep. Mike Foley, a Cleveland Democrat, said he is already drafting amendments to the bill and having CTU lawyers review it. Foley wants to remove "fresh start" and will also ask Gov. John Kasich for more money for the district."Rep. Foley is doing what Jackson should have done from the beginning -- ask for additional state property tax relief to pay for this plan. As it stands, all additional revenue to pay for the plan will be generated by what appears to be a massive levy in the fall. Just to make up for the first year's deficit would cost the owner of a $100,000 home between $300-$400 a year, which would be asked of folks in a district whose median income is a little more than $22,000. And that doesn't include what's necesary to bridge an additional, large second-year deficit.
Without additional state property tax relief, it is extremely difficult to envision how the Cleveland Plan's really strong, admirable commitments to things like early childhood academies in every neighborhood and universal pre-school for 3 and 4 year olds will ever happen.
It will be interesting to see if state legislators and leaders, who are so keen to fast-track the Cleveland Plan, would feel similarly inclined to fast-track the legislation if they had to make even a small fraction of the financial sacrifice local property taxpayers will be asked to make this fall.