Change Collective Bargaining? Ohio Survey Says Yes

By Sean Cavanagh — March 03, 2011 2 min read
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Many of Ohio’s school superintendents believe that collective bargaining puts them at a disadvantage in negotiations with teachers’ unions, and they would like to the see the process changed, a new survey concludes.

Overall, 65 percent of local school chiefs in the state say collective bargaining needs a fundamental overhaul, according to the survey, commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Fordham is a Washington-based group that is often critical of unions. The survey, conducted by the Farkas Duffett Research Group, was taken of 246 Ohio superintendents, from both traditional public schools and charter schools. The margin of error was plus/minus 7 percentage points.

A strong majority of local Ohio school chiefs, 93 percent, said that state law is too lax in permitting district-labor negotations that they believe shouldn’t be on the table.

The survey results were released as Ohio lawmakers are considering a controversial measure that would reduce teachers’ collective bargaining power, and pay them on the basis of performance, among other steps. That proposal, pushed by Republican lawmakers and supported by Gov. John Kasich, was approved by Ohio’s state Senate by a 17-16 vote yesterday and now moves to the state’s House of Representatives. The survey was completed just before the Ohio proposal was introduced, Fordham officials say.

Strong majorities of superintendents indicated they wanted to see state laws changed to do away with mandatory increases in teacher salaries (73 percent) and the requirement that teacher layoffs be handled on a last-in, first-out, basis (66 percent).

And perhaps not surprisingly, 72 percent of Ohio superintendents surveyed said they believed increasing managerial authority would improve student acheivement.

They also want more flexibility on how to spend money in their districts. Fifty-two percent said the biggest problem in school finance is “how and where the money is spent,” compared with 37 percent saying there’s not enough money.

Of course, when asked about their own districts, those numbers were reversed, with just 39 percent said the problem was how and where money was spent—and 50 percent saying the problem was too little cash.

“Undoing mandates related to personnel policy is key to changing the academic trajectory of its students,” Fordham’s report argues.

For a different take, check out the arguments put forward by Innovation Ohio, a think tank led by a one-time aide to the state’s former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland. The organization recently released a paper that contends that collective bargaining changes aren’t likely to save taxpayers money.

Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Innovation Ohio concludes that states that limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights have seen some of the largest teacher salaries increases. (Fordham isn’t buying it.)

“Eliminating or effectively crippling the state’s collective bargaining system” Innovation Ohio’s document says, “will be as likely to add to state and local budget woes as cure them.”

Where do you come down on making changes to collective bargaining? Necessary or not?

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.