What we want to hear in Governor Kasich’s State of the State address

This week leaders from all areas of the state will convene for the 76th Ohio Federation of Teachers State Convention. We have a long and proud history of being a solution-driven union that represents the professional voice of people working in the field to educate our children and provide other services that prepare our children to learn. We know that the strength of Ohio lies in having strong communities and that the promise of strong communities is found in our neighborhood schools. More and more though, this promise is being stolen from the families who live in these neighborhoods and from the professionals who have dedicated their lives to giving children paths to success. This promise is being stolen by those who wish to privatize education, building a competitive system that dilutes resources and creates winners and losers instead of focusing resources on meeting the needs of every child even in our most troubled neighborhoods. Even more problematic is the overemphasis on testing as a reliable measure of accountability and the continued narrative that tears down and wears down educators instead of respecting their voices and using their expertise to shape a system that meets the changing needs of our students. With the creation of policy that focuses on rankings and ratings instead of on listening, learning and growing, Ohio is losing the promise of what an education system can be – a path for every learner to meet his or her potential. We, at the Ohio Federation of Teachers, are determined to Reclaim the Promise of Ohio by working with students, parents, community groups, organizations and policymakers in reclaiming the promise of public education, early childhood care and education, higher education, and quality public services.

On Monday Feb. 24, Gov. Kasich will give his State of the State address. In this speech, he will have the opportunity to share his vision for children in Ohio, their opportunities for education and assistance that will help them thrive and grow. Will he allow Ohio to continue to go down the road of corporate reform policies that lead to the privatization of education or will he make a commitment to work with us on Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education by making sure that every child has a safe neighborhood public school with well-prepared and supported teachers, a full engaging curriculum, and access to wraparound services?

He will have an opportunity to tell us on Monday.  Here are some thoughts we would like to see  him express as well as some actions we want to hear him say he will do:

  • Education is a public good not a competition. All children deserve to have neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning. Competition dilutes resources and creates winners and losers. Instead, Ohio should be ensuring that schools are responsive to the needs of their neighborhoods and are including teacher, parent, student and community voices in providing a quality education system for all learners.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do: 

Stop the expansion of vouchers programs in Ohio. For schools that must choose a turnaround model, require a model that must include parents, teachers, students and community members in the design of the school.

  • All schools should be expected to provide a quality education for all learners and should be held to the same standards of academic accountability, fiscal accountability, and transparency. Education should be about helping children learn, not about making a profit. 

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Reform charter school laws.  Eliminate the statutory exemptions for charter schools in the areas of academic accountability and fiscal accountability. Require transparency in record keeping and public records. Permanently shut down for-profit schools and set stricter requirements for the sponsors of charters.

  • Poverty matters. While it must never be used as an excuse for children not succeeding, it also must never be ignored. Our students living in poverty often have greater needs with fewer resources to meet those needs. Children with greater needs require more supports to meet those needs such as smaller class sizes and targeted intervention help. In addition, all children deserve to have access to a full, engaging curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning , not testing, and one that includes art, music and the sciences. While educators are being held accountable for closing existing achievement gaps, the governor and the legislature must be held responsible for closing existing opportunity gaps.                                                                                                                      What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Work with schools across the state to identify the needs of students in different areas and develop a funding system that allows those needs to be met.  Fully fund traditional public schools and stop diluting resources by funding vouchers and poor-performing charters. 

  • The needs of the child are best met when education is viewed as more than a test score. In order for children to be prepared to learn, they need to have their basic needs met. These needs include social, emotional, physical and mental needs. Ohio must look at ways to efficiently and effectively use public and private resources to meet all these needs of students so they are able to achieve at their highest potential. Student cannot be expected to read at grade level if they are not given all the supports they need to help them learn. This is NOT just a teacher or school responsibility. This is a state responsibility.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Study and replicate effective Community Learning Centers programs such as the Cincinnati Public Schools model.  Keep parents, teachers and students involved in determining the needs of the students and how best to meet those needs.

  • Teachers are professionals. Their voices need and should be heard in shaping policy. Educators should be respected for the work they do. Instead of continuing to focus on an accountability structure that forces teachers to defend their work and hope for perfect testing conditions in order to justify their employment, Ohio should be pouring resources into supporting continued professional growth, creating good teaching and learning environments (including structuring the day so that teachers have time to plan engaging lessons, build relationships with students, and collaborate with peers), and sharing and celebrating best practices.                                                   What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Eliminate requirements that only add work to the day without adding value to the learning experience. Work with teacher unions and other educator groups in setting policy that focuses on developing quality teaching and learning environments that allow for more time for teachers to prepare high-quality, engaging lessons and for students to engage in meaningful learning experiences and less time on testing.

  • Ohio teachers do an extraordinary job of educating our students. Over the years, the state has set higher standards for success. Our educators continue to rise to the challenge. We know that education must constantly evolve to reflect the changing needs of learners and of our society. We are now entering into a new era of the Common Core Standards. These standards allow us to teach content in a much deeper way but require shifts in how teachers teach and learners learn. In order to get the results that are intended by the Common Core, students, educators and schools need time to adjust to new methods of teaching and learning. In addition, schools need time and resources to make sure they have the proper learning tools and technology. Caution and an emphasis on implementation are required so that the desired results can be achieved.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Delay high stakes decisions attached to testing.  Put emphasis on teaching and learning. Make sure teachers have proper professional development and schools have sufficient resources. 

  • Quality early childhood education is critical to getting children started on a successful learning path. All young children should have opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate programs that foster their social and emotional development. Early childhood care providers and educators should be well-prepared and supported.                                                                                                                           What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Ensure that all preschool age children have access to high-quality early childhood education programs. 

  • Higher education should be affordable and accessible to all. The faculty and staff within these institutions should be professionally supported and have a voice in academic decisions.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Make higher education affordable. Respect the voice of the professionals in setting policy that affects higher education.

  • Our state is only as strong as the sum of our communities. Each community in every corner of Ohio is only as strong and vital as the families and individuals who reside in them. In order to build and foster strong communities, Ohio must preserve state revenue to fund needed services and supports for families. In strengthening our communities, Ohio must maintain and expand high-quality public services that support and keep communities safe, healthy and vibrant. Tax changes since 2005 are already costing Ohio $3.5 billion per year – this is money that should be invested in the programs and services that make our communities stronger. These changes have been made with promises of more jobs and more economic growth that quite simply have not materialized. The governor continues to state his desire to eliminate the income tax entirely, and right now slowly but surely we’re draining the state of needed revenue and making our system more regressive in the process. Policies such as these weaken Ohio.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Preserve state revenue. Focus on job creation. Invest in communities.

  • The voice of Ohio’s workers must be preserved. Collective bargaining states have higher wages which lead to more money to put into the economy – everyone benefits from a strong labor voice in Ohio. On the other hand, six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates are right-to-work states, proving that right to work is wrong. States with right-to-work laws also have lower rates of health insurance coverage, higher rates of poverty and infant mortality and lower spending per student on basic education with worse scores on reading and math tests. Right to work is wrong. These laws create problems for states, communities and families.

What we want Governor Kasich to say he will do:

Declare opposition to these laws (or any other efforts to diminish labor voice) because right to work is wrong. 

The Ohio Federation of Teachers will continue to be a solution-driven union that champions the social and economic well-being of our members, children, families, and communities. We welcome your voice in calling upon the governor to help us Reclaim the Promise of Ohio by reclaiming the promise of public education, early childhood education, higher education, and quality public services for strong communities. These are just some of our many ideas for strengthening Ohio. We welcome your input to this conversation.  Comment below, visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/OhioFedofTeachers and Tweet with the hashtag #RealOhio.

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