Education Matters

As the new school year gets underway, Ohio's educators are once again facing major challenges in our public schools. But there are also major reasons to celebrate, and to build on the momentum of those victories to create a better future for all of us. In the first episode of the new Education Matters season, Ohio Education President Scott DiMauro discusses a few of the big wins for public education in our state.

Show Notes

Celebrating Our Wins - Season 3, Episode 1
As the new school year gets underway, Ohio's educators are once again facing major challenges in our public schools. But there are also major reasons to celebrate, and to build on the momentum of those victories to create a better future for all of us. In the first episode of the new Education Matters season, Ohio Education President Scott DiMauro discusses a few of the big wins for public education in our state.
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Featured Education Matters guest: 
  • Scott DiMauro, Ohio Education Association President
    • A high school social studies teacher from Worthington, Scott DiMauro was elected President of the OEA in 2019 after having served as vice president for six years. Over his 30-year career as an educator, Scott has worked to provide students the critical thinking and decision-making skills they need to be successful citizens in our democratic society. He has likewise advocated for students, educators and strong public schools at all levels of his union.
    • Prior to becoming a full-time OEA officer, Scott served for nine years as President of Central OEA/NEA, and has experience as president of his local, as a member of his local bargaining team, chairperson of Central’s leadership and professional development programs, and political action coordinator. He also led the NEA Standing Committee on Legislation for three years.
    • As vice president, Scott served as co-chair of the Healthcare and Pension Advocates for STRS and represented OEA’s 122,000 members on a variety of coalition boards and steering committees. He chaired the OEA Legislative Committee and continues to work with OEA’s Government Relations staff to represent educators in the legislature and State Board of Education. He was proud to help lead efforts of the OEA Commission on Student Success to lay out a comprehensive vision for high-quality education for all students and lay the groundwork for positive implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act in Ohio. He also led an initiative to increase student access to breakfast in high-poverty districts and served as national spokesperson for the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.
    • Scott’s priorities as president include strengthening local affiliates, enhancing professional supports for members, and elevating the voice of educators in public policy issues to ensure all students are given access to a high-quality education that inspires their creativity, imagination, and desire to learn.

Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded on September 12, 2022.

What is Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.7 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000+ members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Education Matters? Email us at educationmatters@ohea.org

Intro 0:07
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us for the new season of Education Matters. I'm Katie Olmsted, part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association. And it is my sincere privilege to bring you these conversations every week on behalf of the 120,000 teachers, education support professionals, and higher ed faculty members represented by OEA across the state. Over the last two seasons here on this podcast, we've taken deep dives into some of the biggest issues facing Ohio's public schools, from the fights against educator burnout and unsafe working conditions to the fight for the right to provide an honest and accurate education in our classrooms. And believe me, those fights are far from over. But, Ohio's educators should have a lot of hope. And they should feel fueled for the fights ahead. We know we can accomplish big things together, because we have accomplished so much together so far. We wanted to talk about those victories, and where we go from here. So as we launch season three of Education Matters, we asked Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro, to share his thoughts.

Katie Olmsted 1:36
Scott, thank you so much for sitting down with us. I am so excited to launch the new season with this conversation, because there is so much to talk about. Obviously lots of legislative wins to talk about, but I want to start with the big labor wins. What are we hearing around the state right now?

Scott DiMauro 1:54
Well, as we record this, we're just about a week past Labor Day. And this is a time that we appreciate all the ways that organized labor really helps make lives better for working people in our country. And we are at a time where the support for labor unions as at the highest level that we've seen in over 50 years. But our labor wins, I think in a lot of ways are not just about what they meant for our members, but what they meant for our students. And I'll just start with Columbus, Columbus Education Association, the largest affiliate of OEA in the state with nearly 4500 members went out on a three day strike. And they were striking for the schools that their students in Columbus deserve: heating and air conditioning; you know, and the safe working conditions in their schools; reasonable class sizes; equitable access to art, music and physical education in every elementary classroom; more time for educators to plan so that they can provide quality individualized instruction for students; also, an initiative to expand Community Learning Center initiatives using support and a model from NEA and OEA in doing that. These are all things that were unresolved until they flexed their collective power. They, you know, called for that work stoppage. They had tremendous public support. And after those three days, they came back they got a settlement. That settlement was was ratified. It also included 4% raises each year of the three years of the contract, which are the highest salary increases that they've seen in a generation to really ensure that the Columbus schools and the students that they serve, are able to attract and retain caring, qualified committed educators in every classroom. So I was really proud of the effort in Columbus, especially proud of the kind of community support that they had in their fight for for quality schools for their kids.

Katie Olmsted 4:05
No one wants to strike. It is the last resort. But to see the power when they stood together, when they were pushed beyond the breaking point, and they said, No, that's not good enough for our kids. That's the real win here.

Scott DiMauro 4:20
It is. And the only reason that they went on strike was because management walked away from the bargaining table twice before getting a settlement, and they have 94% of their members voted to take that step. Incredible show of solidarity. But But yeah, and the other, the other big win that that just stands out recently didn't involve going on strike close.

Katie Olmsted 4:47
It was close.

Scott DiMauro 4:48
It was close. The Niles Education Association, up in the Mahoning Valley in Northeast Ohio, had issued a 10 day strike notice. They had a deadline of getting an agreement by midnight on September 1, and I think it was about 10:30 that night that they had agreement on a contract, once again, that included all kinds of great provisions to help them - which by the way, the Niles teachers were among the lowest paid in Trumbull County, in their area, they knew that that they had absolutely solid community support, they had rock solid unity among their membership - and they were able to get really strong fair contracts for their members, which again, allow them to do the important work that their students so need and deserve in their community.

Katie Olmsted 5:45
And the reason I think that we are able to make these gains in our locals is because there's a lot of support among local members for their Local. We are seeing people really buying into what their local can do for them. This is I'm sure something you've been seeing as you've been meeting new members.

Scott DiMauro 6:04
Oh, that's, that's, that's completely true. In fact, the other OEA officers, Jeff Wensing, Mark Hill, and I made a point of trying to get to as many locals as they were doing their back to school membership drives, new employee orientation, new member meetings, convocations, and we were in all districts around the state. I think between us we hit something like 25 locals. And all of us were so impressed by the stories that our experienced members were sharing with their new colleagues, success stories, about things that they have been able to accomplish through collective bargaining, the things that they've been able to accomplish through political action at the local level getting, for example, I visited Washington local schools where Jen gent just does an incredible job with the teachers association there. And as they were highlighting the value of union membership, this is a school district that this year is opening multiple brand new buildings that wouldn't have been possible without Association leadership and getting a bond issue passed, so that their students would be able to learn in modern and safe learning conditions. So the power of our union has never been stronger. And the fact that we have already seen so early in this year, hundreds and hundreds of new people eagerly making that choice to belong and be active members and OEA and their locals, really is very inspiring for me. And it means that the potential that we have to use that collective power to get even more wins for students and educators really is limitless.

Katie Olmsted 7:55
And that's one of the big things, one of the big values of union membership is that collective power on the local level, but also at the state level. And we have seen some really big wins in the statehouse that have benefited our students. We're talking right now, it is September 12. This episode will come out September 15, which happens to be the same day as the new state report cards, the first set of state report cards since some major state report card reforms, led in part by our advocacy. What can you tell me?

Scott DiMauro 8:29
Well, there's a number of things that are going to be different about this your state report cards. Number one, for the first time, you're not going to see aggregate report cards that attach a letter grade that so often is a punitive label put on every school district and every school building that is driven primarily based on their test scores. Instead, we advocated successfully for a system that is based on stars as opposed to letters, but also based on really breaking down and looking at different aspects, not just of student performance as measured by standardized tests, but looking at growth, looking at how we're doing and preparing our students for graduation, and then and then success and future careers, that kind of support that we're providing students in their early literacy, development. All of those things are key. And because of the pandemic, you didn't see aggregate grades over the last couple of years of any kind. And that's because there was a suspension of statewide testing that we advocated for successfully. I think there was recognition that during these very turbulent times, it was inappropriate to just take even more time away from teaching and learning in order to spend on standardized testing. There will certainly be a lot of conversation about what those test scores reveal. But based on some of the early indications that I've seen, I think we're going to have a lot to be proud of, in really overcoming some tremendously disruptive conditions. What we saw coming out of the 1920 and 2021 school years, this past year, I think, I think we're going to see some real progress and improvement. And again, that's testimony to the hard work of our members across the state. A couple other things that I'm going to be looking for very carefully is to see how our local public schools are doing in comparison with charter schools. And it would be nice to be able to compare how they're doing in comparison to private schools that receive voucher support. A lot of those schools don't get the same kinds of ratings, unfortunately, but but if this year is similar to what we've seen in past years, we know that public schools far far outperform in terms of quality when comparison when compared to charter schools around the state.

Katie Olmsted 11:06
And in the past, these report card grades, the punitive A through F grades, have been used to expand voucher use, to to hurt school districts with the Academic Distress Commissions. One of the big reforms we've seen is a pathway out of those state takeover takeovers, again, thanks to OEA's advocacy.

Scott DiMauro 11:28
We were successful in the last budget bill, in getting language that provided all of those districts East Cleveland, Youngstown and Lorain, a path to freedom and independence, and really local control, which is what our state constitution requires. And recognition that rather than being punished and labeled, and have resources taken away in the form of more charter schools and more vouchers, that there needs to be targeted assistance. And we have been working very closely in all of those communities to help make sure that the voice of educators are at the table as as improvement plans are being made, and students are really given the support that they need. One of the other things about the report card that kind of relates to all this, and we're not going to see it in this year's report card, but but a year from now, we'll see a student opportunity profile included in the report card that our members advocated for, rather than, you know, everything being boiled down to some kind of grade or rating. Let's look at what are those inputs? What are those things that school districts are providing to students to help them with their success, access to nutrition access to a to a well rounded curriculum, ensuring that their educators are fully qualified and trained. All of those kinds of things are going to be reported next year, not in a punitive way, not in a judgmental way. But as a really important tool of giving parents the kind of information that they've been asking for to know what is it that my child's school is doing for her or for him in order to set them up for success?

Katie Olmsted 13:16
Now, speaking of setting students up for success for a long time, there has been a law on the books that is saying that if you cannot successfully read at grade level by third grade, you're going to be staying in third grade based on your results on one very specific test. It's been administered twice a year. And it it has resulted in a lot of kids getting held back in the third grade. It's a third grade reading guarantee there. We have been advocating for some major changes to that as well. And we've seen a bill passed in the House already that should address some of those problems.

Scott DiMauro 13:55
Yeah. House Bill 497, passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives would eliminate mandatory retention of third grade students who fail a state reading test. We have long had major concerns about the so called third grade reading guarantee, not because we don't agree that focusing on early literacy is important, not because we don't agree that the third grade is a critical point in a student's development. All that is true. But what we need to have is respect for the professional judgment of our educators and that collaborative, collaborative relationship that needs to exist between a teacher, a parent, principal and others, people in the school community, really looking at the whole picture of how our children are doing and what it is they need in order to be successful. There are times where a team may decide that it is in the best interest of a child to retain them or to provide extra support. But that shouldn't be dictated from Columbus by state legislators who don't know our kids who are making those decisions solely on one factor. And that is a single test score that is taken on a single day. That's just simply unfair. It's counterproductive, we've been working with some research partners to kind of show what the negative impact on mandatory student retention is. We now are at a point where we got to convince the Ohio Senate to follow the lead of the State House of Representatives. And again, this has nothing to do with partisanship. We have tremendous bipartisan support in the House, we need legislators from both parties in the Senate to follow suit. And again, respect the professional judgment of our educators, and really give us the freedom and flexibility to do what we know is best for our kids.

Katie Olmsted 16:01
And there's that collaborative partnership that you were talking about. You were also talking about people who aren't educators, not necessarily making the education decisions. It really does remind me - I know we're talking about wins, but I just have to dip my toes into the fight ahead - it reminds me of a conversation, we've been having a lot about some other stuff happening in the statehouse. Namely, when it comes to honesty in education, with educators not being trusted to do the jobs they were trained to do with certain politicians trying to manufacture controversy to point fingers and drive a wedge between parents and educators. All of it just just nonsense, because we are working together. It's not reflective of how parents actually feel in Ohio.

Scott DiMauro 16:44
It's not and, you know, the legislature has been on a very, very long break. And sometimes that's good news for us. Because if they're not meeting, you know, the good news is that they're not passing legislation that's bad for kids and bad for public education in Ohio. So we haven't seen any movement on these attacks on honesty in education, the censorship bills that that ban this the teaching of you know, what, some are deeming divisive concepts, and that's good. But it's also, I think, important to note that teachers do, in fact, have overwhelming support from parents here in the state of Ohio, the Children's Defense Fund, a great partner of ours, conducted a very deep, well researched study, in collaboration with Baldwin Wallace University. And they checked in with parents all across the state, Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, wealthy, middle class, working class, urban, suburban, rural, all across the state. They found over 90% of parents in Ohio trust their child's teacher to be a good role model and to provide age appropriate content. It really shows that these attacks on honesty in education and attacks on the teaching profession are unfounded. And I think the more that we are able to engage in collaborative dialogue with parents and show that united front that we're really focused on kids and the needs of kids, and making sure that that our students have the resources that they need to be successful, we're going to defeat these bad bills, we're going to defeat these book bans at the local level and other kinds of attacks that really are there just to provide distractions from what our students really need.

Katie Olmsted 18:42
And we will, of course, get a lot more into that survey and those results in next week's episode. So make sure you all tune in for that. When we're talking about the resources students need, one of the huge victories I think we need to talk about is for the first time in Oh, who even knows how long? I've lost track. We had a constitutional school funding system put in place in the last budget, sort of. What happened?

Scott DiMauro 19:12
Well, I mean, we were successful in getting the formula that came out of the Cupp-Patterson working group. Bob Cupp, the Speaker of the House, a Republican, John Patterson, former Democratic member of the House, a Democrat, who also happens to be a retired OEA member, a career educator from Ashtabula County, who worked with a team of experts from across the education spectrum to identify what are the actual costs of providing a high quality education to every student. What does that mean on a per pupil basis? And let's work that number into the state budget. They did that. Unfortunately, they didn't provide the dollars that went along with that funding formula. They only funded it at about a third of the increase that was needed for the last budget. We would hope that that means that's a downpayment and we'll get the other two thirds and this budget, in the next budget, but there was no long term commitment. And so we're going to hold legislators accountable. We first need to make sure that we elect people to the House and the Senate, to the governorship, to the State Board, who are committed to a fair school funding plan that fully and fairly funds students, regardless of their background across the state, and then we need to hold them accountable in the next budget. And then if they aren't willing to do what we are demanding, then we have to be ready to go directly to the people of Ohio, potentially with a constitutional amendment to make sure that we finally fully and fairly fund our schools.

Katie Olmsted 20:47
That's a that's a big step. How confident are you, though, that we can achieve that based on what we've achieved so far?

Scott DiMauro 20:55
One step at a time. I you know, it's it is big, it is ambitious. We're taking this one step at a time. But I'm very confident, I think, given the power that we have as a union that we were talking about earlier, our unity, our strength, given the focus that we have on student success, and the fact that parents across the state are supportive of educators, we just need to help get the word out. We need to make sure that our members are voting. We need to make sure that we're communicating who those pro-public education candidates from both parties are. And then, again, we need to continue to stay united and strong as we advocate in the legislature. And then we continue to tell our stories about what our students need with members of the public.

Katie Olmsted 21:41
Scott DiMauro, Ohio Education Association President, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

Scott DiMauro 21:47
Hey, good to be with you.

Katie Olmsted 21:51
Now, this conversation is truly just the tip of the iceberg. We have so much to talk about when it comes to the big issues facing our schools. And we are so looking forward to getting into all of them in this new season of Education Matters. If you have thoughts on the podcast or ideas for future episodes, please email me at educationmatters@ohea.org or connect with OEA on social media. We're @OhioOEA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And while you're online, make sure you subscribe to Education Matters wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every Thursday. Until next time, stay well.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai