CEA recognized for leading OEA in collecting signatures against SB5

Members of Woodcrest ES wore red on a Thursday during the 2010-2011 school year because Thursday was the day the Ohio Governor signed SB5 into law.

Since Senate Bill 5 was first introduced in February, the Columbus Education Association (CEA) has aggressively fought the legislation to curtail collective bargaining rights for Ohio school employees and other public employee union workers through member activism. Organization, communication and member outreach to colleagues, neighbors, district alumni and friends have been key to the local’s successful work on the referendum to repeal the dangerous law.

CEA President Rhonda Johnson says the local association was organized long before SB 5 and that its infrastructure was crucial in supporting CEA efforts to make sure members attended rallies and participated in circulating and signing petitions.

“We took advantage of this crisis to become even more mobilized and motivated,” she says. Rhonda notes that effective communication—through email, cell phone and text messages, the CEA blog and newsletter and Facebook—has been invaluable.

“We’re doing what OEA taught us to do—communicate seven times in seven different ways,” she explains. “And we’re always looking for the eighth way.”

Of CEA’s success, their leader says, “Our members understand the importance of repealing SB 5 and the importance of collective bargaining in promoting not only the rights of public employees, but also social justice in making sure our students are successful and have the benefit of an excellent education.”

Entering the final week of signature collecting for the SB 5 referendum, 1,547 CEA members have signed a petition that’s been returned to OEA. Leading the way in terms of signatures turned in to CEA and OEA are Courtney Johnson (442 signatures), Tracey Johnson (402 signatures) and Paula Garfield (384 signatures). These three members are 2nd, 3rd and 4th statewide in terms of overall signatures turned in to OEA.

Courtney Johnson, a teacher at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, found success collecting member signatures at the OEA, signatures of colleagues after school and even those of Columbus City School alumni. She covered her polling place on Election Day evening, canvassed her neighborhood and joined firefighters for signing events as well.

Courtney’s greatest success came from her efforts in her home county, Lawrence, where she collected more than half of her signatures.

“My mother and I staged two impromptu signings at local graduation ceremonies where we also registered 25 new voters,” Courtney says. “I also helped the Shawnee Labor Council at its drive-thru Signing on Memorial Day.”

As she continues working with the goal of reaching 500 signatures this weekend at the Pride Festival, Courtney is thankful to everyone who volunteered as a circulator and to everyone who signed. “We can win this fight only by standing together against these attacks,” she says.

Tracey Johnson, a 20-year elementary and middle school teaching veteran currently working on behalf of CEA members as a staff consultant for her local, says that as an advocate for public education and the rights of all public employees, becoming a petition circulator “was simply the right thing to do.”

She reached out to fellow parishioners, and her pastor agreed to let her use the church as an avenue for getting signatures. “My pastor signed the petition in the pulpit one Sunday, and in between services I had a large table with several petitions laid out for people to sign. I collected approximately 270 signatures that Sunday,” Tracey says. She encourages others belonging to a church, sorority/fraternity or civic organization to utilize these avenues to collect signatures.

Tracey also volunteered to go to schools throughout Columbus after work hours to collect member signatures. At large events like CEA’s Legislative Assemblies and its recent middle school conference she made sure petitions were available. She carried petitions to meetings and used Facebook as a means to communicate about SB 5.

“I had my son complete his voter registration and sign the petition on his 18th birthday and posted pics on Facebook so people could see how important this was to me,” she says.

Tracey notes that being personable is key. “I asked with a smile and I graciously thanked them for their support…these are potential voters,” she says. Her best tip: “Be out there—signers will not come to you. Go to them.”

Report: Nation's high school graduation rate increases, Ohio's graduation rate declines

Diplomas Count: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate, a report produced in conjunction with Education Week and Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) was released today. The intensive study measures high school graduation rates across the nation. The class of 2008 is the most recent graduating cohort to be profiled by the annual report.

According to the study, the nation’s high school graduation rate improved by 2.9 percent from 68.8 percent in 2007 to 71.7 percent in 2008, but Ohio’s graduation rate suffered a slight decline. A total of 74.3 percent of Ohio high school students from the class of 2008 graduated, down three tenths of a percent from the state’s previous year’s graduation rate of 74.6. Ohio’s high school graduation rate still outperforms the nation’s graduation rate of 71.7 percent.

Diplomas Count states that Ohio’s high school graduation rate has increased by seven percent over the past ten years. Ohio’s ten-year graduation rate increase was slightly higher than the nation’s increase of 6.1 percent over the same time period.

The report forecasts that more than 1.15 million students from the class of 2011 will fail to graduate. In 2010, Diplomas Count predicted that more than 1.29 million students would fail to graduate. This year’s projected non-graduate count is approximately 140,000 fewer than the 2010 edition of the EPE report which predicted that 1.29 million students from the class of 2010 would fail to graduate with their peers. Ohio’s share of projected non-graduates for this school year amounted to slightly more than three percent of the nation’s projected non-graduates.

Diplomas Count predicted that 39,336 Ohio students would fail to graduate with their peers, up slightly from 39,202 students the year before—an increase of less than one half of one percent. This number, divided by 180 days of school represents an average of slightly more than 218 students per day.—an average of 217 students per day, three percent of the nation’s total non-graduates.

To calculate the graduation rates, EPE used the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI), multiplying the four grade to grade promotion rates (including those that actually graduated). This information was found in the Common Core Data maintained annually by the U.S. Department of Education.

Ohio does not use the CPI to calculate its graduation rate, relying instead on the Leaver Rate. This formula defines the state’s graduation rate as the percentage of students who leave high school with a diploma when compared to the number of other students who leave with alternative credentials or drop out.

According to the Leaver Rate, Ohio posted an 83.4 percent graduation rate for the class of 2008. When the CPI was used in Diplomas Count, Ohio’s graduation rate was found to be 74.3 percent.

Click for a larger version of this image. Data Sources: Ohio Department of Education, Diplomas Count

Regardless of which formula is used to calculate Ohio’s graduation rate, serious achievement gaps exist in Ohio that are exemplified by the class of 2008. According to Diplomas Count, White and Asian students graduated at a much higher rate (80 and 75.5 percent, respectively) when compared with Black (46.7 percent), Hispanic (43.2 percent) or American Indian (61.4 percent) students. Additionally, female students’ average graduation rate was seven percent higher than male students’ graduation rate. No data was included in the study for Special Education students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).