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Betting Against Education

a bad bet

The Springboro School board is making a very risky bet. It is a wager based on an insatiable need for unchecked power and complete control – one that only stands to pay out to them at the expense of our home prices, community spirit, and our schools’ and children’s future.

They have intentionally offered our teachers a shockingly unfair contract that lowers their take home pay, reduces their benefits, increases their hours, limits their input, impedes their ability to educate our children, and pushes them to leave our community. They have basically told our teachers, here is our offer, take it or go on strike. The bad news is they have the power to force our teachers to choose between a strike that will hurt them and the community or take a bad deal that will further destroy teacher morale, drive talent from our district, and punish them for a job well done.

The school board is betting that the people of Springboro will side with them – viewing them as noble, fiscally responsible public servants, and viewing the teachers as greedy union thugs who are unwilling to compromise, demand the world, and who can be easily replaced if need be. They are betting that the community will blame the teachers for the upcoming strike and that people will support the actions of the school board. They are telling the teachers that the community will fault the teachers, not the board, for the tremendous damage a strike will cause. They are betting that forcing a strike in the summer will cause pain to the teachers but not to the community so that by the time school starts again in the fall, the teachers will have been forced into submission. They are betting that pushing a strike will ultimately break the teachers union once and for all and then they can take their model to other communities.

The board is betting that winning this fight at all costs to the teachers and community will give them ultimate control over our schools, as teachers will be weakened by both the strike and the new contract, and the public will somehow have renewed trust in the board’s ability to govern.

They are betting that more control will allow them to equip teachers with guns. They are betting that more control will allow them to introduce religion into our science curriculum. They are betting that more control will allow them to reintroduce the idea of charter schools. They are betting that more control will allow them to teach our children about our country’s history solely from a narrow political perspective. They are betting that they can do what they want, how they want, without consequence because they have the votes. They are betting on the power of bullying. They are betting that their radical approach to governance will be viewed favorably by our community and that people ultimately view our teachers as greedy, replaceable, disposable, and irrelevant to the process of education. They are betting against an overwhelming amount of data that says our teachers have consistently delivered exceptional results at a value price to our community.

They are betting against what is best for our children.

They are betting against education.

This is a bad bet – bad for everyone involved.

What have our teachers done to deserve such treatment? They have gone for years without a pay increase, making them now among the lowest paid teachers in the county. They have consistently delivered excellent results, placing us among the top 3 school districts in the Dayton region according to data from the Ohio Department of Education, which was published in the Dayton Business Journal’s Book of Lists. We spend less on a student than any other district in the Dayton region and still excel academically. This is not an accident. This is the work of great teachers. Our teachers have accomplished great things and our school board is choosing to punish them to make a political point – at the expense of our children, our property values, and the spirit of our community. The teachers don’t want to strike, but they also don’t want to work in a district that clearly does not value them, nor is interested in creating a workplace where they can be successful in the future.

Who will pay when it comes time to cash in on this bet? Our children. Our families. Our schools. Our teachers. Our community.

Who stands to gain from this bet? No one. Not even the board, although they will view the teachers accepting a bad contract or a strike as a victory toward their goal of eliminating public education as we know it. If they push forward on the current course, they will have nothing left to govern but a district left in shambles. They will have a legacy of even more shame, politics, and destruction. They will be the leaders who failed us all. They will have a win on the scoreboard through the blatant disregard for the good of the community. They will be able to say they won, but it will be a hollow victory because it is our kids who will lose.

Is it only me who sees the sad irony of a group of elected officials who so vehemently and vocally protests the abuses of over-reaching, self-serving government power and then blatantly disregards the needs of our community so as to serve themselves. Sadly, it is no longer surprising to me or most in our town to witness this behavior. This hypocrisy is regularly on display for the people of Springboro to observe.

Is anyone else in this community tired of seeing our school in the news for everything but the great performance of our teachers and schools? Isn’t it time we stood up and said enough? Will you sit back and watch as this board abuses their power, ignores the needs of our children, and proceeds to destroy one of our community’s the strongest assets?

The school board has the power to stop this nonsense by simply acting in good faith, but thus far they are choosing to stick with their take it or leave it ideology, knowing full well that this will have a devastating impact on our community. They claim that they are merely looking out for the fiscal viability of the district. Well fiscal responsibility does not equate to a refusal to pay for the essential components in the educational system – the teachers. I could refuse to pay my mortgage in the name of saving money, which would accomplish that goal in the short term, but eventually render me homeless, destroy my credit, and crush my long term financial stability. Their approach is penny wise and pound foolish as this will cost us in legal fees, wasted time, diminished morale, a bad reputation, and a school system that will be a shell of its former self when all is said and done. All because our board believes it has a mandate and a mission to play politics.

This board is making is a bad bet in believing our community will turn against our teachers. We have the common sense to know that the teachers have very little power. They can’t be expected to willingly enter into a contract that punishes them severely. If nothing changes they will be forced to strike, find work in other districts, cross picket lines, or retire – none of these is good for our kids. No at the end of the day it is the board who has the power to stop this. Voltaire says it best, “With great power comes great responsibility. ” They can use it to punish our community for electing them or they can use it to stop this madness and get back to the business of education.

If they truly believe in putting Children First, they must change course, negotiate in good faith, and resolve this situation. No one wins if the board pushes our teachers into a bad contract. No one wins if our teachers are forced to strike. No one wins if our teachers leave for other districts. No one wins when our children lose.

If you agree with me, I encourage you to write letters, send email messages, make phone calls, and express your objection to our school board members. Urge them to act responsibly and in the best interest of our community. Ask them to put common sense and the common good before personal politics. and to support the people whose job it is to actually put our children first everyday – our teachers. Ask them not to bet against education. Ask them not to gamble with the future of our teachers or our children. The stakes are simply too high and the consequences too great.