Not A Joke: Ohio Legislators Could Let Amusement Parks Set Education Policy

by Stephanie Harig – Cleveland, Ohio

Education seems to be popping up as a hot topic everywhere in Ohio. After Governor Kasich pushed through his radical agenda last year, including Senate Bill 5 which attacked our teachers, Ohioans have every reason to support education reform while being wary of proposals that deal with “education reform” – that is, policies that are sold as “reforms” when in fact they simply cater to corporate interests.

That wariness is definitely warranted with House Bill 191, which would shorten the school year. I will let that sink in for a second.

Okay. Yes, the legislation actually “prohibit[s] public schools from being open for instruction prior to Labor Day or after Memorial Day.” That could be about five weeks less than schools are currently open.

Who is behind this proposal? Hint: It’s not teachers! It’s actually corporate lobbyists – specifically for the amusement parks and tourism industry. They are more concerned with inexpensive child labor and their bottom line than with children getting a decent, adequate education.

Think this is a joke? I don’t blame you. There is general disbelief among the Ohioans we talk to at the doors that this bill could actually be a serious proposal (which it is), and that it would have enough support in the General Assembly to pass (which it does). But we can’t be fooled into thinking it won’t actually happen, because our Governor and legislature have shown they will stop at nothing to further a pro-corporate agenda at the expense of working families.

Fortunately, Working America members in the Greater Cleveland area recognize how detrimental HB 191 would be for our children and the future of our state, and they’re refusing to accept that this proposal is a done deal. We’ve collected hundreds of letters to State Representatives on the Education Committee, so they’re aware that their constituents are aghast at the idea that amusement parks would be allowed to set education policy. Our members are also writing letters to the editor to raise awareness about the bill and point out why this is bad education and labor policy.

On Wednesday, members from Lake County gathered in the home of Nancy Bihary and got down to business to mobilize against HB 191. We brainstormed all the myriad reasons this legislation is a bad idea, and began drafting individual letters to the editor on the issue. Nancy said:

“If anything our legislators should pass laws to improve education, not sabotage it. Three people like me took time out of our day to meet and plan a response to HB 191 to protect education in Ohio. Surely we represent the feelings of most of Ohioans, so our elected officials should take note.”

The seriousness of the proposal is best underscored through the story of Working America member April Sabol. Her work history is full of low-paying, dead-end jobs and periodic lay-offs, interspersed with attempts to improve her career prospects through education. She emphasized that she just wants her children to have a better future and that she believes education is the way to do that. (Incidentally, she also pointed out that even if her children’s summer vacation was longer, she couldn’t afford to take them to Cedar Point anyway.)

April’s story highlights the importance of a strong educational foundation in life, and that more time in the classroom – not less – is the beginning of a successful future.

House Bill 191 seems laughable, but if it passes it will be no laughing matter for working families trying to give their kids a better life, or for any Ohioan concerned about the economic future of our state.

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