The issue of school consolidation came up in the final weeks of the campaign as Kasich as the Strickland campaign raised the issue in rural and suburban districts. Kasich was, reportedly, incensed at the notion that he supported school district consolidation, not because the allegation was untrue, but because Kasich’s campaign knew that the idea was politically unpopular in rural and suburban areas that were key to Kasich’s victory.
So John Kasich threw a hissy. In fact, in order to try to bury any notion that Kasich was tied to school consolidation policies, Kasich continued to throw a hissy even after the election. Remember how Kasich demanded that the teachers’ unions take out a full-page apology ad for the “vicious smears" they told about him during the campaign? Well, that was mostly to do with the allegation that Kasich supported eliminating school districts through consolidation.
Here’s what the Plain Dealer reported Kasich’s response to allegations he supported school consolidation was before the election:
Kasich has denied that he told a group of education leaders in September that, if elected, he would pare down Ohio’s 613 public school districts by one-third, to about 400.
"John has never talked about consolidating schools. John has talked about sharing services," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told the Toledo Blade on Wednesday.
Kasich, at a campaign stop later that day, noted it was Halloween season and accused the Strickland campaign of making things up to "scare people."
The campaign repeated on Friday that Kasich never made such a claim.
Except one problem. Four individuals produced by the Strickland campaign said that in September, Kasich addressed them at a meeting of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and said:
"Congressman Kasich said he favored school consolidation as a way to reduce state spending," the statement reads. "Congressman Kasich’s claim that he does not support consolidation, just shared services, directly contradicts what we heard him say during the September meeting."
The statement was signed by Chris Mohr and Dolores Cramer, both past presidents of the OASBO, Cathy Johnson, South-Western City Schools board member, and Sharon Manson, Waverly City Schools board member.
The school officials said Kasich told them he was basing his plans on a Brookings Institution report that suggested consolidation as a means to trim costs.
But for the most part, the media dropped the story under the glaring heat of the election. It ended as a Kasich denies he supports consolidation even though four people who don’t seem to have an ax to grind claim he flat out told them otherwise. Interestingly enough, nobody else from that meeting was ever produced by the Kasich campaign to dispute the four members’ allegation, only Kasich denied it personally. But it pretty much ended as a he said/they said controversy.
Why am I bringing this up? Because during Kasich’s budget roll out to the media last week, the Akron Beach Journal reported the Governor made this comment in discussing his education funding plan in his budget:
”Do we really need six school districts in Hancock County?”
Kasich said he can only ”take so much on,” but he would like to have Democrats and Republicans do an analysis of local governments and possibly form a ”base-closing” type of commission. (emphasis added.)
Then yesterday, the Dispatch reported that Kasich’s education czar, Robert Sommers, testified to the House Finance Committee:
Sommers suggested that in a "blended learning environment" class sizes could go to a 50-to-1 ratio. "We have schools, both in the urban centers and in other settings, that have found how to get high-performance results, treat staff very well and do it for less than what we currently do."
50:1 student-to-teacher ratios! We should “thinking in terms of the creativity we already have in place across the country,” Sommers says. Then Kasich talks about there being too many school districts in Hancock County and how we need to have a “base closure” type commission on local governmental units, like, I dunno, school districts, perhaps?
“John has never talked about consolidating schools.”
After the campaign:
“Do we really need six school districts in Hancock County?”- Gov. Kasich