When 2011 began, I was “just a teacher.” I was new to Facebook, did not have a Twitter account, and had virtually no interest in the political scene. That changed swiftly with the introduction of Senate Bill 5 and I can now scarcely remember what my life was like before then. While today marks the 3rd year anniversary of the signing of that harmful, divisive law, the truth is that Senate Bill 5 has changed my life dramatically in ways that I would never have imagined and that I never want to forget.
“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” – John F. Kennedy
In my personal outrage over the bill, which I saw more as ignorant and uninformed, I began to research. Senate Bill 5 was the very first piece of actual legislation that I had ever seen and I was dumbfounded at what it was proposing, specifically with regard to teachers. I sat in the Statehouse atrium and listened to hour upon hour of testimony from supporters and opponents alike, including my friend, Phil Hayes, the current Vice President of the Columbus Education Association. I distinctly remember asking him after he testified how he was able to do so and he simply said, “you sign up for it.” At that point, I knew that I had to take the opportunity to “impart my wisdom” on the legislators so that they would be able to correct their errors.
I was so naive…
At the same time, I began using Facebook to post information about some of the absurdities of the law involving teacher licensure, evaluation, and compensation — areas in which I had personal expertise. I truly thought that this was merely an intellectual battle that could be won be reporting the true facts over uninformed opinions and raw emotion. I thoroughly research the bill and was able to get on the agenda to provide testimony to the House committee hearing the bill and delivered that on March 14, 2011. You can still find that testimony on my Facebook page if you want a trip down that dark memory lane.
But my strongest memory of that time, and the night that is seared into my memory forever, occurred nearly two weeks prior to delivering that testimony on March 2. On that cold Wednesday evening, I sat in the Statehouse and listened to a fiery debate over the bill on the floor of the Ohio Senate, where many of us had hoped the bill would die. I heard impassioned speeches full of raw emotion the like of which I had never heard in person. I sat there for hours as the debate raged on, only to hear the bill pass by the narrowest of margins — a single vote. As I walked to my car, all sorts of thoughts rolled through my head and I was in a mild state of shock. Like many of the others who were there, I was overcome with a confusing mix of emotions about what was happening to us all. On that walk, I began to think about how I would respond to the events of that night and what my role in this fight would be. Upon arriving home, I sat down at my computer and began to type. What follows is what I crafted that night and, for me, captures my strongest memories of that entire season of fighting Senate Bill 5. This, my friends, is what I want us to remember when November rolls around this year.
SB 5 is only a bill; it is not a law yet.
I feel defeated, sad, empty. I watched the Senate session today and witnessed amazing testimony against the bill. I saw the passionate address of Democratic Senator Nina Turner and the historical, logical, and systematic dismantling by Republican Senator Tim Grendell. I witnessed Democratic Senator Charleta Tavares explain the burden that these changes would transfer to local governments. And I witnessed our next Governor (I’m calling it now!), Joe Schiavoni, patiently explain how the simple process of moving this immensely complicated bill should be enough to vote no.
How could any rational human being not have some reasonable doubt about the bill? I knew going in that the Republicans were going to pass the bill, but I began to experience a glimmer of hope.
One vote. Stunned.
One vote. Crushed.
That’s the point, right? That’s how republicans want me to feel.
Republicans want me crushed.
Republicans want my Union crushed.
Republicans want my family crushed.
Republicans want my co-workers crushed.
Republicans want my spirit crushed.
But then an exciting thing happened. I’m not so stunned. And I’m not so crushed. And neither is my Union. And neither are you. Because it is not a law yet.
Tomorrow, I’ll continue to call and email the members of the House of Representatives. I don’t need to work on the whole bill, just a little. There are great people out there working in concert with me. I’ve seen them and heard them over the past few weeks. I’m honored to be learning about my country through their words. I’m a piece. They are a piece. YOU are a piece. We must work on this together — ALL of us.
I’m going to study the bill and ask questions. I’m going to find my niche and send emails and make phone calls. My family just got larger by 350,000. Those firefighters and medics? My brothers and sisters. Those officers? My brothers and sisters. The bus drivers, custodians, teachers, instructional assistants? My brothers and sisters.
My family. You’re supposed to be able to count on family, right? Well, they’re counting on me.
And I’m counting on you.
I’m still counting on you, my family, to remember Senate Bill 5 as election day approaches this November.
As many of you regular readers know now, I have continued to research and report on legislation that affects Ohio politics, mostly on the topic of education, and have written over 200 articles on Plunderbund in this three-year stretch. This is how I keep fighting the fight and I sincerely thank all of you who have joined me on this never-ending journey.
Friends, find your voice and be heard.