Imagine for a minute the media coverage that would have resulted if Governor Kasich proposed cutting the state funding for students with disabilities. School districts would be required to identify students with Deafness, Visual Impairments, Orthopedic Impairments, Specific Learning Disabilities, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and more, but any district spending requirements would be eliminated.
Or imagine the number of national media outlets that would have descended upon Columbus if Governor Kasich announced the slashing of funding for students identified as Black, stating that these 281,445 students across the state would only receive educational opportunities through one of the state’s Educational Service Centers (if their district partnered in this capacity). Forget the occasional mention on MSNBC, images of Ohio would dominate NBC, ABC, CNN, CBS, and even FOX News.
So when the Governor announced and the House confirmed the obliteration of state funds for a special needs population that is just as large (278,747 students, 16%), where was the outcry?
Ohio students identified as gifted are often categorized as being rich, white children in wealthy suburbs whose parents can afford to send them to private schools. Even if that were true (I’ll explain why it’s not), it should have absolutely no bearing on the implementation and funding of a public school program. A public school program in Ohio should mean equal opportunities for all students, black or white, rich or poor, with or without special needs.
As far as those gifted students being wealthy? Nearly twenty percent (54,323) are also identified as economically disadvantaged, and nearly 23,000 are enrolled in the Ohio 8 districts, the eight largest urban districts in the state.
In Kasich’s Budget Book, right as he is eliminating over 61 million dollars annually, the Governor has the audacity to describe some of the complexities involved in gifted education.
Gifted education focuses on identifying and serving students who perform, or show potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment compared to others of their age, experience, or environment. Services include resource rooms, self-contained classrooms, and accelerated coursework. Instruction is based on the identified needs of students and a written education plan. Gifted education requires modifications, such as a differentiated curriculum, more open-ended and abstract tasks, an emphasis on analytical thought and problem solving, and increased emphasis on multidisciplinary and research-focused studies.
Gifted education requires as much specialization as do the other two categories of “Learners With Special Needs and Talents” identified by the Ohio Department of Education: Students With Disabilities and Limited English Proficient Students. I’ll ask again, would the GOP-led House have passed a Budget that discarded support for either of these populations? Why should Ohio’s children be penalized for showing “potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment compared to others of their age?”
One has to wonder if Lt. Governor Mary Taylor spoke without Kasich’s permission when she addressed a school choice rally by stating:
School choice is not about doing away with public schools, it’s about making them better. … Ohio’s future depends on our children being the best and the brightest in the world.
And what better way to cultivate Ohio’s “best and brightest” children than to dispense with any state funding for their services? Perhaps she just read her Kasich talking points incorrectly. Does the Governor really care about the “best and brightest” in Ohio? From his state of the state address:
Young people, you know, our kids and our grandkids are leaving this state for better opportunities. One-third of Ohio college graduates are leaving this state within three years of graduating. Our best and our brightest, our seed corn, have decided that they need to go somewhere else to realize their hopes and dreams. That’s a terrible situation.
Hmm . . . that’s actually more confusing than helpful. What else you got, John?
[Other states] all come inside the boundaries of Ohio and they try to lure away our best and brightest.
We need the resources to compete with these other states that are in here trying to take the best and the brightest of what we have.
Ahh . . . that Governor’s a sneaky one. By cutting funding and required services for our best and brightest K-12 students, John Kasich can prevent other states from luring them away. By suppressing their academic growth, our students will fall behind those in other states and be less attractive to outside recruiters. I honestly never saw that one coming. I do have concerns, though, about the long-term effect of this on Ohio’s own access to the best and brightest. Governor Kasich, what’s the plan when Ohio’s kids and grandkids fall behind others academically?
I’m always going to search for the best and the brightest, and those that share my philosophy. We haven’t seen the end of efforts inside of our administration to find quality people who share my philosophy who bring more diversity.
We have to jump through hoops and cross T’s and dot I’s while the best and the brightest are available to teach in other parts of America? Oh, Teach for America is coming to Ohio. I promise you that.
Again, not an outcome I would have predicted, though I should have seen that coming. The Governor cuts funding to the “best and brightest” in Ohio, reducing state funding to schools, creating a scenario where Ohio’s students either suffer academically or leave the state, enabling the Governor to go out of state in order to find the “best and brightest” to fill his jobs.
I truly could not have imagined these events when I read Kasich’s Reform Book:
Education is the key to personal prosperity, and our state‘s long-term success. Education does not operate in a vacuum and must respond to an ever-changing world that includes the following:
- A globally competitive marketplace. Our children will compete globally for jobs and economic prosperity.
- Rising expectations for knowledge and skills. Advanced learning is the new normal for today‘s jobs. A good high school education is not sufficient to prepare young people for competitive jobs in today‘s economy. Blue collar jobs require knowledge and skills that exceed our traditional expectations for entering college.
- Urgency for all students to succeed. If Ohio is to become competitive nationally and internationally, we must greatly increase the number of students who succeed.
I read that to mean that the Governor wouldn’t be cutting 61 million dollars per year to school districts that must:
In addition to defining who is considered gifted in Ohio, the rule and/or law provides that:
- Districts must have an identification plan and local board policy approved by ODE;
- Districts must have regular opportunities for assessment for giftedness based on referrals from teachers, parents or other children;
- Children who are culturally and linguistically diverse, from low socio-economic status, with disabilities and/or who are limited English proficient must be included in the identification process;
- Parents must be notified of assessment results;
- Parents have an opportunity to appeal;
- Districts must accept assessments given outside the district by trained personnel;
- Districts must distribute their gifted identification policy to parents.
I also read that to mean that Ohio would be working to improve the quality of education for all students, to challenge all children to excel at the highest level possible, to provide the opportunities for every student, including those identified as the “best and brightest” in order to prepare them for competitive jobs in today’s ever-changing world.
I’m again left pondering Kasich’s introductory line from his Reform Book, Education section:
Budgets are about more than money. Budgets express an administration‘s priorities.