LORAIN — Members of several unions rallied Saturday morning alongside the Lorain Schools teachers union against House Bill 70, a state law they said strips local control over the city’s schools and attempts to promote for-profit charter schooling at the expense of students and unions.
Those in attendance expressed support for Lorain Education Association membership, which has been vocal in opposition to the law and what it means for Lorain Schools.
Joined at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Oberlin Avenue by representatives of the AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and United Automobile Workers, Lorain Education Association President Jay Pickering said “any district with low income is at risk right now” due to HB 70.
Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy recently announced and then walked back a plan to have Lorain High School teachers reapply for their jobs next year. And while unions in the school district are affected by such decisions, Pickering said it isn’t all about the adults.
“Keep in mind, this is about kids … This is really messing up the schools,” with student and staff safety one the line, he said.
Pickering called it “a lie” that the “nefarious” HB 70 is an education bill. Rather, he said, it is focused on “union-busting and charter school promotion.”
Charter schools, he added, are for-profit schools funded by public money. Public schools in Ohio, he added, outperform charter schools in almost every metric.
Harry Williamson, president of the Lorain County AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said his group is “working very closely” with the Lorain Education Association “throughout this mess.”
Born and raised in Lorain and a product of the Lorain Schools, where his children also attended, Williamson said the state of the schools “affects unions, it affects families, the students, the community, businesses, the health and safety of those people working to try and educate our children.”
“We’re proud” of Lorain Schools and “we’re proud of what our teachers do,” Williamson said.
Sometimes called “The Youngstown Plan” because it first affected that district, HB 70 removes most of the local control from school boards and puts it into the hands of a CEO hired by a five-member Academic Distress Commission.
The bill — passed by the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate and signed by then-Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, in 2015 — has been criticized by unions, Democrats and proponents of public schools for the speedy and secretive way it made its way through the Ohio Legislature. Additionally, critics say it strips from the public the right to be represented by an elected school board, whose advice the CEO may ignore without repercussions.
As schools are underperforming, the state is “ripping off the taxpayers, and it has to stop,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Timothy Burga, who said he came from Columbus to lend his support to the teachers union.
In Lorain, “we want our local control,” Pickering said. “It’s important that we coordinate together moving forward.”
“If we all here don’t do something about this today, then no one is going to do it for us,” said Brian Baker, political/legislative department director for the IBEW. “It’s about the kids, it’s about the community, it’s about unionized workers.”
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