Back to School Specials from Ohio’s Statehouse
by Maureen Reedy

Just in case you’ve missed this as you’ve been scouring the stores for school supplies, “Back to School Specials” are being delivered to the children and teachers in Ohio’s schools, straight from our Statehouse chambers.

As the sweltering heat wave subsides, our kids will barely have time to rush into their new classrooms, meet their teachers, make new friends and high five old ones, before the “Statehouse Back to School Specials” begin.

Statehouse Back to School Special # 1:  Third grade could last forever with the “One Size Fits All” Third Grade Reading Guarantee…

Newsflash!! Our legislators know better than experienced educators how to best assess and measure student growth.

The testing “heat” will be really be ramped up this year with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee for our youngest students in K – 3rd grades.  Data is the engine that will drive the school day as teachers are forced to teach test prep “curriculum”, from the second day of school on, to prepare students for one test, on one day of their 3rd grade year, that will determine if they move on to 4th grade or not. Just one point could be the barrier that keeps a child from moving on when perhaps he is not well cared for, undernourished, or is suffering from stress related trauma on testing day.

Gone are the multiple measures of academic growth that allow for developmental differences and different learning styles. Gone are teacher-developed assessments that are tailored to meaningful, developmentally appropriate curriculum and instruction that engage our students. Gone are the joy of discovery, and the gift of time for children to develop and build their academic skills with expert, authentic instruction and assessments from professional educators who know each child from the “inside/out.”

Research-based professional practices simply don’t matter anymore as our financially strapped school districts are mandated to spent hundreds of millions of dollars statewide to measure our children with untested, unfunded, developmentally inappropriate tests based on the new Common Core assessments which have yet to be field tested.  We only need to look at the recent first round of Common Core assessment results in New York to see what is in store for Ohio’s children; a drastic drop from 60% proficiency to 30% proficiency in just one year, with a growing movement of thousands of parents choosing the “opt out” alternative for their child, a formal refusal to participate in the testing.

Statehouse Back to School Special # 2:  Art, Music and Physical Education will be more fun than ever, now that standardized tests are on their way!

Yes, that’s right!  Another chunk of childhood, as we know it, is being bitten off by the frenzy for metrics in teacher evaluation. Soon to be gone for our children, are the creative, stress free outlets of drawing, singing, running, jumping and playing in art, music and physical education classes, which serve both as important curricular areas of study, and, as a release from the pressures of the school day.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that while some Ohio teachers face new job reviews based on their students’ standardized test scores, others will be graded this year in part on how well their students can clap a rhythm or how fast they can run a mile.

Teachers in Worthington schools are working on an elementary music test that likely will require students to read and clap a musical rhythm. For physical education, the state gives examples that include strength and aerobic tests at both ends of the year.

Mim Chenfeld, a Columbus resident, renowned arts educator, author, international key note speaker and the recipient of the 2012 Lifetime Legacy Award for the National Association for the Development of Young Children, reacted to these proposed tests in her recent letter to the Editor of the Columbus Dispatch…

“Our children, teachers and families already are at maximum stress levels over the existing testing that has caused widespread controversy, practically demolished opportunities for creative and joyful educational experiences and, incidentally, made millions and millions of dollars for test-writing companies.

We do not need more tests, especially in areas that have eluded effective tests. Music, art and physical education are three curriculum departments that have historically invited children into ways of learning and enjoying that, in numerous situations, provide joyful sanctuaries where students succeed and provide opportunities for lifelong engagement…

Please stop the testing already. Enough is enough.”

Statehouse Back to School Special # 3:  Parents, soon your child could have a new teacher with just 5 weeks of summer training as an educator!

That’s right, while thousands of college graduates are standing in line for jobs in Ohio’s schools, having devoted years of study to the field of education and student teaching in multiple educational settings over a two year period, Teach For America candidates, with degrees unrelated to education, no field experience and 5 weeks of training, have been invited by our legislators to begin teaching in Ohio’s schools.

Never mind that over 80% of Teach For America candidates leave the classroom after just 2 years of teaching, our children can serve as the first rung on their career ladder! Never mind that TFA program has grown so controversial within its own rank and file that former TFA recruits are currently launching a campaign against the TFA organization; our legislature has decided that experimental, untrained educators are ok for Ohio’s students.

Better yet, how about adopting the TFA model to create five-week crash courses for college graduates to become surgeons, dentists, and airline pilots?  This could be a great cost saver across the board, especially in low-income areas where the impoverished, needy patients and clients reside; Surgeons for America, Dentists for America and Pilots for America could give two years of their time while building their resumes to move on to more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Let’s try it!

Statehouse Back to School Special # 4:  When it comes to funding our public schools, graduation rates don’t matter, campaign contributions to our legislators do!

Why else would our legislature continue to vastly expand the voucher “give-away program” with each successive state budget, taking money and vital resources out of our higher performing public schools to fund the two-decade, seven billion dollar failed charter school experiment?

Why else would legislators look the other way and continue to pour money into the coffers of David Brennan’s failing White Hat Charter Schools when Ohio’s supreme court has issued a forced court order for White Hat to open their books for financial disclosure purposes?

Why else would legislators continue to deplete funding for our public schools who have an overall 81% graduation rate and vote for vouchers for ECOT Charter Schools when they have an abysmal 20 -30% graduation rate?

Could it be that our legislators have blinders on because David Brennan of White Hat, and William Lager of ECOT, are the largest donors to the GOP in the last decade, with well over five million dollars in the coffers at the statehouse?

Why else would legislators ignore the disruption to our kids, our schools and communities, and fund charters that open their doors, receive multiple violations, shut down for poor academic performance and are allowed to re-open with a different sponsor, a new name and a different staff the very next day?

Why else would Governor Kasich, who used to be against local school levies, flip-flop and support the proposed Columbus School levy… could it be he has had a change of heart?  Or could it be that the caveat for change is that local control has been removed by the legislature as the district is forced to share levy funding with charter schools?

Back to School Special # 5:  Enough is enough, is enough!

As parents, taxpayers, educators,  and concerned citizens it is time to find a forum to stand up together and push back against legislative loyalties driven by campaign contributions dictating educational policy in Ohio.

Our kids come first, not profits. Not one single person, management company or corporation should receive vital state education funding for advertising and profiteering purposes while building a profit margin for million dollar CEO and disproportionate administrative salaries.

Every hard earned tax dollar should be used, not to build a profit, but to re-invest in resources to help our children succeed in school; up to date technology, textbooks, and literature, professionally certified, high quality principals and career educators, full-time nurses, guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, intervention specialists, ESL teachers, paraprofessionals for our special needs students, gifted instructors, librarians, art, music and physical education teachers.

Perhaps Governor Kasich and our state legislators could put partisan politics and political contributions aside and gather together in the rotunda where President Abraham Lincoln lay in state over 150 years ago and apply his creed of “A House Divided, Cannot Stand,” to the schoolhouses of our state.

Draining our public schools of vital funds and resources by continuing to invest in underperforming charter schools is the opposite of proven education reform. Now is the time to stop experimenting with our children’s academic progress, sense of stability and connection to their community. Our state legislators need to join together in a courageous effort to re-invest in and strengthen our public schools, the bedrock of our local communities, which have proven to be the most effective over time.

Ohio’s schoolhouses divided cannot stand.

Let’s stand up, together, for our public schools, before it is too late.

— Maureen Reedy

  • Think.

    Contrary to regular back-to-school sales, the first four “specials” will not save Ohio taxpayers any money nor will they give educators the tools they need to help our children succeed in school.

  • carrieee4

    The Repubs goal when it comes to school is quit simple make it so difficult for the public school systems that parents pull the kids out and put them in for profit schools. The money will not go to the kids it will go in the pockets of the investors at for profit schools. The students left in the public schools will be the ones that those for profit schools kick out or will not take because they will not service them. Leaving the public schools with those who have IEP’s. special medical needs, emotional needs. and the students who are extremely difficult in the classrooms. This way they can take over and finally get their hands on teachers retirements, get rid of the unions who protect teachers and to cut the wages back to the pitiful pay they got back in the 60’s and 70’s. They worry to much about the teachers who are no good and do nothing to keep those who are good. It is not about what is good for the students or our country. Our schools unfortunately have become political pawns, a way for those to have to have more and make sure those who have not stay that way. Do not be fooled. Behind all this is an agenda and it is not the improvement of our schools. They are still being illegally funded. Those should be working on the reforms are not having an actual voice or input. Those who can profit monetarily from these reforms are the ones who have a voice. Like I said there is an agenda and it is not to improve the schools or help the students.. I feel it is about time that Ohio public teachers.educators, those who work in the schools with students, and those from the educational departments in Ohio’s colleges and Universities stand up and start to fight those in Columbus who “think” they know. Remember that right now with those in charge their goal is to end public education. Put the money in their own pockets.

  • Natalie

    What can we do? Our legislators will not listen to us or represent us.

  • carrieee4

    We need to take over. We need to say enough is enough and stop this crap. We need to educate the general public in a way that they will understand what is going on. We need to rebel against this insanity and not be afraid to do it. We need to use our voices and not be afraid to because of repercussions, We need to Stand up and Speak up!

  • Natasha

    Ms. Reedy’s and “carriee4” issued a prescient warning that is reiterated today by a Delaware County moron-legislator (State Rep) in the Delaware Gazette:

    State Rep Brenner and his wife a member of Powell Ohio city council are low-functioning tea-bagger-bircher-republican morons whose biggest success in the world is beating the IRS out of more than $70,000 in payroll taxes withheld from their employees’ paychecks and not paid to the IRS (They have IRS liens on file against their business). In addition, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is after their business for unpaid premiums – BWC has liens and judgments against the business too.

    Nevertheless these jackwads love to spout conservative crapola about how government should manage money, taxation and spending. Ironic isn’t it?

    Brenner- who never had an original thought reside in his brain bucket, pumps out ALEC propaganda like it’s his job – well as a republican moron-stooge it is. He hates – HATES – public education, teachers, labor unions , union workers and is unashamed to vent his vitriol when he gets a chance. He’s a good little GOP-boy who actually believes he will be President someday soon!

    According to Brenner: public schools should be abolished in favor of charter schools – “Bren­ner said, “I’ve intro­duced bills to do just that (such as) a bud­get amend­ment which would have wiped out the entire
    edu­ca­tion sys­tem as we knew it. It would have money cen­tral­ized so you would elim­i­nate all local levies.” I guess Brenner never studied fascism or totalitarian communism in the Hee-Haw Delaware County high school he attended.

    Brenner is against Medicaid expansion (Wonder how Kasuck feels about that) regardless of the economic facts about it. Somehow he thinks nurses are connected to schools, “you can incen­tivize peo­ple to do the right things, allow­ing advanced prac­tice reg­is­tered nurses to do more things. We’ve got a bill that we’re work­ing on – private-public part­ner­ships for school districts.”

    Brenner loves dirty coal, and fracking pollution because opined that, “… delays for approval by the Ohio Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency may cause clo­sure of coal mines. He was also con­cerned about Ohio’s frack­ing indus­try being shut down before it got started due to sev­er­ance taxes.”

    On unions and unionized workers: “When asked about Ohio Work­place Free­dom, Bren­ner said, “I’m co-sponsor on three bills, and I’m told I’m on a wanted poster in one of the union halls. There’s right-to-work for pri­vate, pub­lic and a res­o­lu­tion to put it on the bal­lot. I don’t think any of them are going any­where. We were told not to even bring them up, because next year is an elec­tion year for the gov­er­nor. This may come up if he’s re-elected. If he’s not re-elected, it won’t come up because we won’t get it through (Demo­c­ra­tic can­di­date) Ed FitzGerald.” (Cops, teachers, firefighters and union workers better take note of the GOP plans Brenner revealed)

    Brenner’s opinion of workers in general is pretty low declaring that minimum wage workers only alternative to a minimum wage job is welfare. Actually Brenner and his wife are proof that’s not true – any asshole who can dump GOP-ALEC tea-bagger-bircher bullshit can be an overpaid overweight Ohio tax-cheating legislator like Brenner. Congressman Tiberi will fund, like he did for Brenner, a sure-win campaign in a gerrymandered district.

  • dmoore2222

    Ohio will continue to get more and more of this until voters say no to the radical “race-to-the-bottom” republican agenda. It’s as simple as that.

  • Telchar Bladesmith

    Good, well written article. Actually Kasich is applying his creed of “a house divided, cannot stand”. That’s his point. He is deliberately setting up public schools to fail by using division. He WANTS public schools to fail so he can turn ALL of our educational system over to the profiteers. That is his goal. Never forget what he said at the Ashtabula Teapublican Party meeting. “We will break the backs of the teachers unions in our schools”. Plunderbund reported on it.

    My only issue with the article is quoting Breibart as a source for anything other that fiction.

  • Telchar Bladesmith

    And don’t forget Walker in Wisconsin saying he was going to use “divide and conquer” to bust unions either. That is the TeabaggerALEC aka John Birch Society model. Divide and Conquer

  • Retrofuturistic

    Hopefully, the elections will be honest enough for them to be able to say no….

  • Retrofuturistic

    Follow the money. There aren’t that many big chunks of money left in this country for the Christian GOP to exploit, but public schools (and teacher retirement) are two of them. This is about putting public education money into private hands. And they used Christianity and fear of desegregation to accomplish it. Jerry Falwell: “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!” And by the way, privatization was a favored economic policy of the Third Reich, which also used the same religion to justify everything it was doing….

  • Katietoo

    This article is spot on and it’s a travesty. Why is the public not outraged? This is the recipe for deform courtesy of ALEC, Gates, Broad, et al. It is happening in other states. Ohio public education is going backwards. We must stop Kasich and the state assembly from continuing this travesty. Please, please, please Plunderbund and Maureen Reedy – keep spreading the word!!! There is a group of teachers that formed on FB in June to fight this – the Badass Teachers Association. Join us!! There is also an Ohio group that is small but growing OhioBats. Join us on FB and Twitter. Parents, students and teachers are welcome (I am a teacher and mom of 2 public school high schoolers). Our kids are depending on us.

  • Kelly Braun

    GREAT ARTICLE!! Am standing up with 27,000 other teachers who are saying no to all of this Education Deform….the Ohio division of that national group, known as the Badasss Teachers Association,is called OhioBATS ……

    It is beyond frightening to me, to see other State’s in such complete crazy messes, and Ohio right, right behind them! We are weekly doing actions, (calling Representatives, Senators, and yess, arghhhh, Gov. Kasich….to push for support of the REPEAL BILL (HB #237) but find a voice that needs to get much, much LOUDER in Ohio! Thank you, for your VOICE, loud and clear, on a message which obviously needs to be said!! We here at the broader base in education do not have gabillions of dollars—-OUR STRENGTH WILL LIE IN NUMBERS!!!I particularly thought the paragraph that focuses on what we have lost….Gone…gone..gone packed a power punch……..and I am grateful that you see the whole picture and do not just focus on one aspect such as CC$$ —it is truly the whole corrupt coporate control machines driving this —–but they have gone far too far…….and the push back will happen, unlike none they have ever known before…their accountants’ advise will not be able to thwart the level of accountability to which they are all about to be held as Ohio Oath Takers…… my gratitude again… ~Kelly

  • teeky2

    Ohio education IS going backwards. That’s sad.

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