Lakota union leaders respond to area billboard campaign

LIBERTY TWP. — Representatives of the Lakota Education Association say they hope voters will listen to facts given out by the school district rather than “rhetoric” from a group advertising in the area on bill boards.

The messages, sponsored by The Education Action Group, target items in teacher contracts, accuse public schools of wasting money and blame the Ohio Education Association and teacher contracts for contributing to a “black hole” of spending in education.

“It has become the trend during election campaigns for anti-levy and anti-public education groups like (Education Action Group) to surface, speaking out against public education, and then to retreat again once the elections are over,” according to a statement from the OEA.

It also points out that the EAG leader, Kyle Olson, says the organization is non-partisan, but the Michigan Education Association feels it is a front group for Republican Party activists who want to expand the use of tax-financed vouchers for private and religious schools.

“We think that, first of all, it’s an outside group that is anti-public schools and anti-union,” Rodney Bird, labor relations consultant for the OEA said. “We believe the voters in southwest Ohio and in Lakota are intelligent enough to make their decision on a local levy based on the facts given by the district.”

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Its anti-union opinion, he said, represents a small minority of people.

The LEA stands behind Lakota’s levy, he said, stressing Lakota’s excellent rating, quality teaching and positive reputation.

He said the EAG is misinformed, is using incorrect data and is not paying attention to facts.

But some residents say their opinion of unions lines up with the EAG.

Liberty Twp. resident Graeme George said taxes are too high, and asking for more money infuriates voters.

“Teachers salaries are high enough, but the benefits and union packages demanded are the problem with the need for levy increases,” he said. “Unions have caused taxes to rise too high and be too inappropriate to swallow.”

Lakota Local School District spokeswoman Laura Kursman said the levy is needed.

“Here at Lakota, we have worked to manage a system that is dictated to by the state through requirements, reduced funding and unfunded mandates,” she said. “This makes it a challenge to continue to do more with less. We recognize that this is a tough time for our economy and for our residents. That is why our levy is a lean request, and we know that even if we pass it, we will still need to remove dollars from our budget to stay solvent.”

LEA President Sharon Mays said many teachers took pay cuts with the latest contract agreement, because they will be paying for a more expensive health care plan and will be paying more for tuition.

“I think one thing that isn’t out there enough is how much education we have to maintain on our own just to keep up with out licenses.”

West Chester Twp. resident Jerry Taylor said he is against the levy, but he doesn’t blame the teachers, but rather administrators for the problem.

“My biggest problem ... is the ungodly salaries and the positions that they created and the perks,” he said.

“I wish we could pay teachers a million dollars a year, but we can’t do it,” he said. “I don’t think the starting salary should be any lower. They’re entitled to a raise just like everybody else. The school systems have just gone back to the voters time and time again; more money, more money.

We’re paying people too much money on the higher end.”

Contact this reporter at (513) 755-5067 or lhilty@coxohio.com.

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