Yesterday, Ohio Senate Bill 83 received a second hearing in the House Higher Education Committee. During this hearing, the committee formally adopted an 11th iteration of the legislation.
In what is a variation on the usual practice, bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), gave another round of sponsor testimony, defending this new version of the bill with support from Chair Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.), who specifically defended the retrenchment language in the bill.
Since we so rarely get to share positive news about the legislation, let’s start with the positive changes to the bill:
Here are the most concerning pieces that remain unchanged and therefore render the bill completely unacceptable from the AAUP perspective:
As you can glean, while the new bill draft makes a few steps in the right direction, it still is unyielding on threats to academic freedom, faculty job security, and union rights. The de facto elimination of tenure protections and job security makes bargaining over any other matters a much more hazardous proposition. Moreover, the de facto elimination of job security eliminates any meaningful academic freedom because it effectively removes meaningful standards for teaching and grading.
If you watch the hearing, you will see that Sen. Cirino struggles to answer important questions about many pieces of the bill. He resorts to claiming that his bill is well-intentioned and being misrepresented by his critics–and that he is relying on good administrators and trustees to do the right things. But, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia once said, “We are governed by laws, not by the intentions of legislators.”
Despite multiple attempts to communicate with Sen. Cirino and Rep. Young on this bill, they have failed to engage at all with OCAAUP or the other two major education unions in Ohio–the Ohio Federation of Teachers and Ohio Education Association. Sen. Cirino and Rep. Young are intent on hearing from only those within their echo chambers, and the small changes we have seen from each iteration of the bill to the next have been made begrudgingly because they knew they did not yet have the necessary votes in the House.
As of now, it is expected that the committee will meet again on November 15, which is also a session day for the House of Representatives. Rep. Young was reported to have said that the committee may allow for proponent and opponent testimony on that day. Conceivably, the committee could pass the bill and send it to the full House floor for a vote all in the same day. However, at this time, it is our understanding that the bill still does not have sufficient support from the requisite number of committee members or from House leadership. We will keep you posted as we obtain more information.
What actions can members and allies take?
1) Sign on to the We Are Ohio union coalition’s letter opposing SB 83. We are Ohio sent this letter–now signed by more than 100 Ohio unions–to State Representatives on September 11, but the sign-on version is an opportunity for individuals and other organizations to add their names and show even greater and more unified opposition. Feel free to share!
2) Focus calls and emails on Speaker Stephens and the Republican committee members who we believe are most open to hearing our objections to the bill:
Rep. Justin Pizzulli: 614-466-2124 or Rep90@OhioHouse.gov
Rep. Gail Pavliga: 614-466-2004 or Rep72@OhioHouse.gov
Rep. Gayle Manning: 614-644-5076 or Rep52@OhioHouse.gov
Rep. Nick Santucci: 614-466-5441 or Rep64@OhioHouse.gov
House Speaker Stephens: 614-466-1366 or Rep93@OhioHouse.gov
Let them know that the “dash 11” version of SB 83 is still unacceptable–that it would harm academic freedom, union rights, job protections, quality education, and the ability to attract and keep the best and brightest students and faculty. Feel free to share personal experiences about your teaching and your institution.
3) Talk to your colleagues, write op-eds, and show your opposition in any other manner that is personally meaningful and professional.
Thank you for your continued activism! It has undoubtedly made a difference!
Something that the late, great John McNay wrote to the Senate about SB 83 in May remains true today: “This bill can’t be salvaged, deserves to be killed, and we need to start over to make a genuine effort to address the real problems in higher education.”