Education is likely to be a key issue in this year’s campaign for governor. And as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, there’s already plenty in that topic for the two leading candidates to argue over.
The two major-party candidates for governor disagree strongly on several issues related to public education – starting with the state’s funding of it. First, here’s Gov. John Kasich.
“We had the most significant increase in K-12 funding that we’ve seen in a decade," Kasich said.
And now here’s his Democratic opponent this fall, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
“The education policy as we’ve seen it up until the present time from Gov. Kasich has really consisted of over half a billion-dollar net reductions to public education since he came into office," FitzGerald said.
This is a familiar argument for both sides, and voters can expect to hear it throughout this election year.
Republicans say Kasich’s second two year budget put $717 million more into public schools, which is an increase of more than 10 percent. But Democrats say it doesn’t make up for the millions of dollars in cuts that Kasich’s first budget delivered, with most of that money being federal stimulus dollars that expired and weren’t replaced by the state.
But Gov. John Kasich said something fairly new – and more than a little vague – when talking about K-12 education before the Ohio Newspaper Association, saying he and state school superintendent Dick Ross want to come up with a way to avoid what Kasich called “all these legal hoops in our local schools."
“I’ve talked to Dick Ross about the need to bring about some deregulation," Kasich said. "If we have deregulation in some ways of rules that are connected to business, we can figure out how we can bring more common sense to the rules and more trust to people who are in our local communities running our schools.”
Kasich didn’t elaborate on what he meant by that other than to say he wasn’t talking about year-round school. But FitzGerald says when he reads between the lines, he lands on for-profit charter schools, which FitzGerald says have been the only big winners with Kasich.
“What I think is really disturbing about that is not only are many of them failing our students," Fitzgerald said, "but there’s a political connection here too, because many of the CEOs and the leadership of those for-profit charter school companies have also been the ones that are funding his campaign.”
Kasich didn’t say whether deregulation could be translated to a benefit for charter schools. But he did reiterate that Ross should have more authority to deal with charters, and that those that aren’t serving students should be shut down. But then Kasich said those who blast charter schools for poor performance should be ready to apply the same standard to public schools.
“I’m for choice because I think it improves competition," Kasich said. "But I also believe that you just can’t abandon the traditional system because it isn’t going to go away. So we need to improve it.”
FitzGerald says if Kasich wants to improve public schools, he needs to give schools and teachers the resources they need.
“He’s been siphoning money out of public schools, and into private for charter schools that are not performing," FitzGerald said.
Kasich didn’t say if his deregulation plans would be a part of the mini-budget he calls his mid-biennium review, but he said he would likely have a proposal to deal with the high school dropout rate. In 2010 the dropout rate statewide was nearly 48 percent for community schools and 4 percent for all public schools, though the dropout numbers are much higher for urban public schools.