General Assembly gets in gear

The Statehouse is bustling with activity as the legislature ramps up for 2008. A slew of bills are being debated in the education committees. One proposes doing away with paddling, a longstanding tradition in some schools. Another bill would ban teacher strikes and a third would curtail some teacher collective-bargaining rights.

Picket signs outside of schools might become a thing of the past. The Senate education committee is debating the merits of S.B. 264 that would prohibit teachers from striking. The legislation would require binding arbitration to settle collective bargaining disputes. Teachers would be treated like police, firefighters, and EMS workers, all of whom are prohibited from striking because the services they provide are far too important to go without during a work stoppage. This bill deserves serious debate. While strikes are not terribly common in Ohio, when they do occur they are incredibly disruptive to students, parents, and the entire educational process (see here and here).

A bill (H.B. 423) proposed by Representative Arlene Setzer would no longer allow collective bargaining in policies surrounding paying teachers wage-rate differentials, the length of the school's instructional year, and the length of the school's instructional day - all essential freedoms that should be determined at the school level. If passed, these decisions would be left up to the school administration and/or the school board.

And, misbehaving students will no longer be subject to in-school paddling (ouch!) if State Representatives Brian Williams and Jon Peterson have their way. These two don't always see eye-to-eye on educational issues but they are cosponsoring a bill (H.B. 406) to ban corporal punishment in all Ohio schools. (In the past two years, 17 Ohio school districts reported using corporal punishment.) The co-sponsors note that corporal punishment is used disproportionately among poor and minority students and those with special needs or disabilities. Passing this bill would make Ohio the 30th state in the nation to end corporal punishment in schools. But if this bill does not become law, students should think about wearing extra pairs of underwear to school when they fear a paddling, just like Gadfly used to do.

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