Hamilton school leader: What Kasich fails to recognize about education

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr. GREG LYNCH / STAFF FILE PHOTO

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Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr. GREG LYNCH / STAFF FILE PHOTO

While I appreciate that there is much debate that will occur in regards to Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal, and while I do not doubt his desire to improve education, the points outlined from his budget indicate that the Governor is not focusing or does not recognize the true problem with education in Ohio, which is the overreaching and misguided powers of the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education.

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If implemented, Gov. Kasich’s ideas will further clutter our educational system that is already bogged down by bureaucratic, unfunded mandates. The ongoing mandates imposed by the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education are ominous reminders of the “taxation without representation is tyranny” slogan used by colonists before the American Revolution. Each time these groups issue a decision that affects schools, taxpayers and communities bear the burden of the costs associated with them without input or approval. While children have been forced to embrace the Common Core; we need to return to a level of Common Sense in education whereby decisions that affect the education of our children are not mandated by those who know little to nothing about our local communities.

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In order to correct this taxation without representation mentality, our 612 local Boards of Education throughout Ohio, of which all members are elected by their respective local voters, must be given local control. This means that before any more unfunded mandates are issued by the State Board of Education or the Ohio Department of Education, two-thirds of the 612 local Boards of Education must approve any changes affecting their school districts. We need a system that is deregulated where teachers can actually teach, where students can learn, and where local Boards of Education can lead based upon what is best for children in their respective communities.

In the article “Proposal targets business, school ties” (Journal-News, Jan. 31, Page A6), reporter Jeremy Kelley outlines four points contained within Gov. Kasich’s budget proposal, including for local school superintendents to appoint three, non-voting ex-officio business people to each local school board. The budget document says the goal is to “ensure that businesses and educators have a better understanding of the skills needed for local in-demand jobs,” Kelley reports.

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If implemented, this would be redundant. Current Ohio Revised Code 3313.82, includes that “The board of education of each school district and the governing board of each educational service center shall appoint a business advisory council. The council shall advise and provide recommendations to the board on matters specified by the board including, but not necessarily limited to, the delineation of employment skills and the development of curriculum to instill these skills; changes in the economy and in the job market, and the types of employment in which future jobs are most likely to be available; and suggestions for developing a working relationship among businesses, labor organizations, and educational personnel.”

Therefore, I am unsure how this replication would further improve education in Ohio. Members of Hamilton City Schools’ Business Advisory Council have repeatedly shared that they believe that state testing and the high stakes graduation requirements are disconnected from what businesses need as we seek to prepare students for workforce development, but yet their voices go unheard at the state level.

The budget calls for Ohio teachers to engage in externships with businesses as part of their state licensure renewal and professional development plans.

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Ohio schools are currently experiencing a shortage in teacher candidates. Fewer and fewer potential college students are entering the profession. One can speculate this shortage has been caused by the marginalization of teachers. Teachers leaving college must complete four to five years of college, successfully pass state teacher licensure examinations, and complete a four year Resident Educator program once hired by a district. Even after teachers complete all of these state regulated requirements, they still must regularly participate in professional development and/or college classes to maintain their license to teach.

Setting aside the logistical nightmare of how teachers would partner with businesses, I am unsure how Gov. Kasich, the State Board of Education, or the Ohio Department of Education believe that having teachers partner with businesses in order to maintain their teaching credentials will be beneficial to the teacher who is responsible for children passing state tests that are not aligned to the needs of businesses’ workforce development. I am curious to see what this would look like for teachers teaching American history, American government, preschool and kindergarten, art and music just to name a few. Communities would be asked to once again pay for another mandate. On one hand, Gov. Kasich wants to cut income taxes, while on the other hand he will have community members pay those dollars elsewhere. This shell game is another example where the state needs to deregulate education, allowing the local Boards of Education to be the decision makers for education in their communities.

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The third point the article mentions from Kasich’s budget reads as follows: “Building on K-12 and higher education collaboration, the governor’s budget calls for “transition classes” for high school students needing remediation, to ensure that more students are prepared for post-secondary education and training. Schools would also be required to give high school credit for career exploration through work-based learning programs.”

The idea of school districts offering transitional or remedial classes is a concept already implemented in districts across Ohio based upon a student’s performance on state mandated testing. This is a redundancy. However, given that ACT, SAT and PISA scores have not increased since the inception of state testing some 23 years ago, and given that colleges, universities, businesses, and even the military do not consider state testing scores as criteria for their respective institutions, it appears that a more effective focus would be to limit state testing and graduation requirements to the standards permitted by the Every Student Succeeds Act. By doing so, the Governor would better serve all Ohio children and communities. By freeing up valuable instructional time lost to over testing, local Boards of Education would be free to make decisions on the creative development of classes that better prepare students for local workforce development and college.

The final point taken from Kasich’s budget involves “increasing pathways to employment. The governor’s budget would align pre-apprenticeship programs with Ohio’s College Credit Plus program so pre-apprentice students still in high school could earn college credit.”

This idea is sound and appears to be a recognition of the problem with the current graduation system created by the State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education in regards to career technical education. The state created pathways to graduation that are actually pathways to nowhere, preventing students from graduating. These “so-called” industry credentials that students can supposedly earn to graduate can only be earned in most cases after students turn 18.

I applaud the idea of revamping this failed system with input and approval from local Boards of Education who best know the businesses in their local communities. Time will tell what happens with Gov. Kasich’s budget ideas and the effect they will have on local communities who have no say.

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