Sixteen superintendents from Lorain County, Ohio, have stepped up to speak out for public education in Ohio.
Lorain County is a short hop west of Cleveland, right on the lake. It has given the world Toni Morrison and Tom Batiuk. My first teaching job was at Lorain High School, one of the three public high schools in the city. That was 1979-- the city was a bit over 80K in population, and solidly blue-collar, with steel, auto, and shipping industries firmly in place. The bottom soon dropped out. I was RIFfed at the end of my first year; a year later Lorain was on the news as part of a feature on the collapsing industrial economy. Today the high school where I taught is a vacant lot. So I have a soft spot for Lorain County.
As reported by Michael Sangiacomo on Cleveland.com, the sixteen superintendents of Lorain County have come together to call for big changes, particularly targeting "excessive student testing, overly strict teacher evaluations, loss of state funding to charter and online schools, and other cuts in funding."
Funding formulas are a special kind of bizarre in Ohio. According to the superintendents, the state actually pays more to send students to charters and cybers than to send them to public school. They offered some specific examples but the overall average is striking by itself-- the state average per pupil payment to traditional public schools is $3,540 per student, but the average payment to an Ohio charter is $7,189.
The superintendents have a website-- restorelocalcontrol.org-- that at the moment offers just a few pieces of information.
One is the summary of the survey that the superintendents conducted in January of 2015. The summary of what they heard from Lorain County residents is short but sweet
* their school districts are doing an excellent or good job,
* high quality teachers are the most important indicator of a high quality education
* earning high marks on the state report card isn't that important
* increased state testing has not helped students
* decisions are best made at the local level,
* preschool education– especially for those students from poverty-- should be expanded (and they said they would increase their taxes to support it)
* school finance is the biggest challenge facing our schools,
* and their local tax dollars should not be going to support private schools and for-profit and online charter schools
The superintendents offer their response as well. They note that the vast majority of citizens are unaware of what's coming out of Columbus and DC. They have some specific concerns about some Ohio reforms, but their overriding concern is " the loss of local control of our public schools." And this, which I found interesting:
We are much to blame for not standing up to these ill-fated education reforms.
There are some other interesting chunks of information on the site, including a link to the site about How Ohio Charter Schools Are Performing, which features a chance to plug in a charter and compare it to your own school results and a bank of news that provides information about how the charter fight is going. This site comes from the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project, which is a joint venture of the Ohio Education Association and Innovation Ohio.
Ohio has been hammered hard by the reformsters, and the political leaders of the state have made no secret of their love for charters and privatization. It's nice to see an entire county's worth of school leaders standing up to fight back for public education.