School reformers across the nation are closely watching Ohio, where a statewide referendum next Tuesday will determine the fate of SB 5, the legislation that would greatly curtail collective bargaining privileges for teachers and other public employees.
This gutsy law, approved by the legislature and Gov. John Kasich, is similar to the very effective Act 10 in Wisconsin. It would allow cash-strapped school boards to cut labor costs, balance their budgets and put more focus on student instruction without interference from local unions.
Of course the teachers unions (and every other sort of union) hate this law, because it threatens their ability to dominate school budgets. They led a petition drive to challenge the law through popular referendum and are pouring cash into the campaign to kill it.
We Are Ohio, the coalition spearheading opposition to the law, received $19 million in donations during the last campaign financing reporting period, according to a recent story in the Columbus Dispatch. In contrast, Building a Better Ohio, which supports the law, reported contributions of nearly $7.6 million.
Of course, much of the money for We Are Ohio is coming from organized labor. Reports indicate that the Ohio Education Association contributed more than $4.75 million to the campaign in the most recent filing period.
It makes sense, since that union forced each of its members to contribute $54 toward the campaign. The National Education Association kicked in about $2 million and the Ohio Federation of Teachers added $750,000. Labor groups also spent more than $17 million in the prior filing period, blanketing the state with television ads, according to the newspaper report.
Not surprisingly, a recent poll indicates that voters currently favor repealing the law by a 25-point margin.
Money obviously talks in politics, and the unions certainly have a lot of it. It will be tragic if the best interests of school children are trumped by Big Labor and its very Big Wallet.