Ohio Vote on Issue 2 Wake up Call for Ed Reformers

As Issue 2 was repealed in Ohio last week, Steve Gunn at EAG Communications believes that there are two important lessons to be learned. One, that it’s unwise to make major changes to longtime state policy without first “educating the public”. And two, once you’ve riled up the big money leadership of Big Labor, you shouldn’t “spend weeks yawning and stretching before preparing to fight back.”

Issue 2 would have upheld Senate Bill and limited collective bargaining privileges for public employee labor unions. However, sixty-three percent of voters opposed the public union reform law.

That means Ohioans can probably expect a major push-back from labor in the coming months, which will be bad news for many school districts, writes Gunn, who is from the Education Action Group.

“Local teachers unions will feel like they have a mandate from the public to demand even higher wages and more lucrative benefits, at a time when schools can least afford them.”

In the end, labor opponents of Issue 2 raised about $30 million, while supporters raised about $9 million. The Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, led the way by charging individual members an extra $54 to put toward the campaign. That alone raised about $5.5 million.

Supporters of the legislation, like officials from the state chamber of commerce, could be accused of dithering, as they told reporters they still hadn’t decided how much they would spend to defend the new law.

In advance of his visit to Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented regarding the decision by Ohio voters to repeal restrictions on collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state:

“The voters of Ohio sent a clear signal that they support collective bargaining rights and they want to work together to rebuild their economy, strengthen the middle class and improve public education.  I salute the unions and their allies for their successful effort to support workers rights, and I look forward to working with all of the people of Ohio to meet our common goals.”

Governor Kasich and his supporters have indicated in recent days that a major defeat would not stop them from bringing back the various provisions of Issue 2 in separate bills.

“I’m not a guy who goes and hides,” Kasich was quoted as saying, regarding his determination to fight back. “That’s not the way I was raised.”

With Republicans in control of both chambers of the legislature this strategy might be successful.