Campus expresses concerns about Senate Bill 5

By Glenn Battishill

Due to the passing of Senate Bill 5, which severely limits public employee’s collective bargaining rights, and the cut backs in the Ohio Public Education System, the College of Nursing and the College of Education fear that the most qualified graduates of their respective colleges will seek employment outside of Ohio.

The debate over Senate Bill 5 has been raging on cable news channels and on the street across the states of Ohio and Wisconsin for weeks. The bill proposes to cut the power of unions across the board, essentially removing unionized worker’s right to bargain for their wages or benefits.

While these changes would not affect private institutions like Ashland University, they have a large impact on their students.

“[SB5] will certainly not change the way that we teach,” said Dr. Mary Rycik, chair of the early childhood education department. “We have always and will always be committed to preparing great early childhood educators.

“I am concerned that because of the changes proposed in SB5 and the cutbacks in Ohio school systems, many of our most qualified students will leave the state and seek opportunities elsewhere.”

The College of Education held a meeting to discuss the future of education in Ohio; Patricia Edwards, an associate professor of education, led the meeting’s discussion.

“[SB5] has implications for the students we teach,” Edwards said. “Current students, future students and former students. In addition to teaching students to be excellent practitioners, I now have to add in how to be excellent negotiators.”

Senior intervention specialist major Christina Whitcomb is afraid that SB5 will have a negative impact on her future.

“I think it will definitely affect the potential jobs available after I graduate,” Whitcomb said. “In some aspects, it may open some jobs for people [because educators] who are at retirement age who do not want to deal with the effects of Bill 5 [may retire]. I also believe it will cause many people to lose their jobs as well.”

Dr. Jane Piirto, trustees’ distinguished professor of education, has noticed a decrease in student morale.

“I’m letting my students share with me,” Piirto said. “They’re shocked. They’re crying. Some students are regretting their decisions.”

Teachers are not alone in this struggle; public employees such as firefighters and police officers are also losing their unions’ bargaining rights. This also stretches to the medical field, as nurses’ unions will lose their collective bargaining rights.

Dr. Faye Grund, dean of the Dwight Schar College of Nursing, sees the situation in a different way.

“Senate Bill 5 provides nursing educators with an opportunity to explain the important role of advocacy for professional organizations to nursing students,” Grund said. “The College of Nursing faculty engage students in the process of learning how legislative issues direct health care and the practice of nursing.

“Senate Bill 5 will eliminate the ability of nurses to engage in collective bargaining. Nurses provide patient care, and safety of patients is of primary importance to our role. Collective bargaining has allowed nurses to bargain for employment issues critical to the provision of safe, quality care for patients.”

While SB5 will have a direct impact on public workers and medical practitioners, many people are concerned about the side effects and the impact on future generations.

Senior child and family studies major Katie Mock said she worries about the message this sends to public workers.

“Cutting down benefits and pay increases just seems like a way to make our education system worse,” Mock said. “It shows that we really don’t appreciate most of the public workers.”

Edwards expressed her concern that children were becoming less of the focus of legislators.

“I feel as if we’re heading down the road to child care, not the road to education,” Edwards said. “It’s fascinating because it’s unemotional. It makes clear why they chose this particular set of people or jobs.”

SB5 passed the Ohio Senate March 2 and headed to the Ohio House, where lawmakers are still discussing it.

Even if the bill passes, there is always the possibility of a referendum, which would place the issue on the November ballot. This would require a petition signed by over 231,000 Ohioans. A valid petition would keep the bill out of effect until it could be voted on by the general public.