Sunday, June 28, 2015

Send one email?

Yesterday I posted the lists of the legislators, their votes on HB70 (Youngstown), and contact info as put together by my wife. I suggested we contact them. You don't have to hassle them all. We're busy people. It's unhealthy to spend the whole day in a state of rage. So, can you write one of them? That's it, just one. I'll be honest, I've only contacted four so far. I got ahold of my Senator and Rep, the Manning's, to thank them for voting against it. I contacted Rep Brenner yesterday, as I said I would. And this morning I wrote Senator Peggy Lehner, head of the Senate Education Committee, vocal champion, and carrier of this piece of legislation. I hoped to point out what I saw as some inconsistency in her legislative process with regard to education (see below).

So, what do you think? One email? Let me know.

Here's Peggy...

Here's my email to Peggy...

Senator Lehner, 

I am a 16th year History Teacher at Elyria High School. I was hoping, as the head of the Senate Education Committee, you could clarify something for me. Upon being presented with a multitude of concerns regarding state assessments from hundreds, if not thousands, of parents, teachers, students, and other experts in the field, your response was to establish a commission to study the issue. In the meantime, Ohio's students were expected to grind through a season of unfair, wholly intrusive, damaging, and unnecessary assessments. As it stands, it remains unclear what the assessments will look like next year, despite the fact that teachers like myself are well into planning and strategizing the shape of our courses. 

However, when presented with the Youngstown Amendment, you opted for a rule of order that eliminated due process by not allowing opposition, or public input, thus making a mockery of our democratic process, not to mention your own prior record of "investigation" in the interest of proper decision making with regard to educational policy decisions. Then you had the audacity, in all of your moon-faced sincerity, to tell the public that this act was in the best interest of the children of Youngstown because something had to be done. 

How about, something has to be done about assessments, something has to be done about the albatross of an evaluation system, something has to be done about the mismanagement of funds in charter schools, or the fact that they are academic failures, or that Ohio is a national laughingstock because of our charter school policy. Senator, with all due respect, I do not expect that you will be able to satisfactorily justify your hypocrisy in this situation. I do, however, expect you to do something to actually benefit your youngest constituents, Ohio's schoolchildren, and to show some respect for the democratic process. 

Yours in education. 
Matthew Jablonski

Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Emotional Week.

So, this is the kind of week that could drive a person into the warm embrace of medication.

The degree to which, on a national level, the Supreme Court has the United States appearing to be something of a reasonable and rational nation is nothing short of miraculous. If I were a betting man, there is no way that I would have put money on either of those decisions, but here we are living in a nation that appears to be moving toward enlightenment, or at least a less frightening place.

In the state of Ohio, I have heard positive reports regarding the Senate's adaptation of HB 2, the bill to increase regulation of charter schools. I guess here in Ohio that means that we would begin to regulate charter schools. Don't worry, I'm not getting ahead of myself. The bill as it exists has yet to pass the House, and many of our Reps love charters like they love their mothers, their god, and their capitalism.

The Budget Bill isn't nearly as frightening as I had anticipated either. Once again, I haven't seen all of what is hidden in the bill, and the Governor has yet to bust out the line item veto, but as it stands public schools are still being funded (albeit in a manner that assures a significant measure of dollars to their local charters (see above)), and the bill also seeks to begin to remedy our overwhelming mess of assessments and evaluations.

However, despite all of this good feeling, I cannot escape the utter horror of the Youngstown Amendment. Submitted and passed in the space of a day, it clearly opens the door to the increasing control over, and eventual privatization of a major urban public school district. This sets a dangerous precedent for the future take-over and privatization of other major (or not so-major) districts in the state.

In her outrage over this issue, my wife compiled the lists below which delineate the Yeas, Nays, and those who abstained from the vote on HB 70 in both the House and Senate. Our plan is to praise those who defended public education with their Nay vote, and to shame those who have attacked public ed and the spirit of democracy with their Yea vote. We'll also contact Governor Kasich, who believes that this legislation is something of a gift to the children of Youngstown. I'd hate to see what he gives for birthdays.

The lists below include names, phone numbers, email addresses, and Twitter handles. So, lets get busy. I'm going to start with Representative Andy Brenner who yelled at me on the phone last fall because he, in his pomposity, assumed I knew very little about education. "Dearest Rep Brenner, thank you for violating the trust of the citizens of Ohio, for turning your back on the spirit of democracy, for taking part in railroading a shady piece of legislation to law, and for doing an utter disservice to the children of your state, especially those kids in impoverished urban areas. Thanks for voting for HB70, which is to say thanks for nothing."

Here's the links to the lists. Have your say...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We Are All Youngstown.

While perhaps a bit melodramatic, the title of this post sums up how frightened I have become regarding the Youngstown Amendment. I went to sleep last night believing there was time. I awoke this morning to discover that the House voted in favor of the bill last night. At this point, I would be surprised if the governor didn't sign it into law today.

I just expressed my feelings on this situation to my representative, Nathan Manning. This is hopefully the first of many actions I will take in solidarity with the citizens, students and teachers of Youngstown.


First, I want to thank you for voting against HB 70.

I apologize for contacting you at this address, but I am terribly troubled by the legislature's vote to essentially end public education in Youngstown. The so-called "Youngstown Amendment" was rushed through in clear violation of democratic principles and public input. I know that the Youngstown Schools are struggling terribly, but placing a CEO in charge without any public oversight is not the solution. This is an individual who, in dictatorial style, can make compensation, evaluation, and dismissal decisions alone, as well as turn any or all of the districts schools over to charter sponsors.

Charter schools have not been more successful than their public counterparts, and often less so. While perhaps unpopular, I also happen to believe that taking action to remedy Youngstown's poverty would have been a better course of action. Where high poverty exists, low scores on state measures of academic achievement exist.

What is also disturbing, is the fact that in less than a day there was an ability to take action in order to privatize a public district. However, when the legislature was presented with a flood of information from teachers, parents, and students on the detrimental impact of over-testing, further study was undertaken, and students were forced to grind through a season of atrocious, unnecessary and inappropriate assessments. So, when Senator Lehner carries on about doing what's right for students in Youngstown, you'll forgive me if I am highly skeptical.

The bottom line seems to be, and you'll forgive me if I sound paranoid, a roll out of terribly difficult assessments drives districts into academic distress, while legislation like HB 70's Youngstown Amendment provides the framework to move these publics into private hands. Is this that far off?

I know you do not represent Youngstown, nor do I live and teach there. However, I believe that this is a dangerous precedent, and you and I have not heard the last word on this issue. 

As always, thank you for your time, your efforts in the interest of your constituents, and once again for your vote against HB70.

Yours in education.
Matt Jablonski

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Youngstown Amendment

I am terribly disappointed to see the Senate's passage of the so-called Youngstown Amendment in HB 70. It was not given adequate time for debate as added a day before the vote, and sets a dangerous precedent in essentially turning an entire urban district into a charter, whose only oversight is at the hands of a CEO. The overall performance of charter schools in Ohio is abysmal, and while Youngstown's schools are struggling mightily, I do not believe that this is the answer. What is more to the point is that Youngstown's rate of poverty is one of the highest in the state. Where there is high poverty, there is poor school performance by state measures. This is not a coincidence.

How did your Senator vote? I just contacted mine to find out.

I know that most of us are not sitting in Youngstown, and that it's easy to lack concern if it's not you. The problem is that this could be any public district in Ohio. If this passes, the state has given an appointed CEO the right to peddle schools to charter sponsors, set salaries, evaluate and dismiss staff, and a host of other things without any public input.

What happens when it comes to your district?

Stand up for Public Schools. Speak out for Youngstown. Contact your House Rep. Tell them to vote NO.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Diplomatic Response on the Budget Proposal from Senator Manning.

In my last post on this blog I suggested some issues with the Senate Budget Proposal and encouraged you to check it out, and contact your Senator. I recently heard back from Senator Gayle Manning regarding the problems that I articulated in an email. While I am not entirely satisfied with the explanation, it is thoughtful and diplomatic, and in a sense illustrates the manner in which the good Senator is attempting to serve all of her constituents. This is commendable.

She fails, however, to satisfactorily address my concerns about charter school funding. She does not address the increases in per pupil funding with specifics, and takes a very cautious route in mentioning a "Task Force" to investigate the issue. The fact that she has proposed an amendment in the interest of remedying the problem is admirable. The reality here in Ohio suggests that this will likely turn into a task force of charter school supporters, (read politicians elected with the help of charter money) and nothing will happen. If I try to spend a moment steeped in optimism, which is difficult for me, I do see that the blind support of charters has become less popular. 

Perhaps, (now in a moment of blind optimism) the Task Force that Senator Manning is suggesting is exactly what some legislators need in order to convince them to take meaningful action. After all, the Senate Committee on Assessments spent time and money on a formal study which finally convinced many legislators to believe what public school teachers, students, and parents had been telling them all along about standardized tests.

I can't wait to see how both of these issues turn out. Don't worry, I've got time.

If you're interested in Senator Manning's reply to my query on the budget, here it is... My thanks to her, as always, for her diligence to her work, and willingness to communicate with me regarding my incessant concerns.

Dear Mr. Jablonski,

Thank you for contacting my office with your thoughts on school funding in H.B. 64.

I certainly understand the point that you are making, however, as the State Senator for Lorain and Huron County, I represent a total of 21 school districts. Under the Governor's introduced version of the budget, 10 out of 21 school districts I represent would lose money over the next biennium. No formula plan is perfect, however, under the Senate version, no school districts lose money. 

The Senate version of HB 64 has many factors we addressed to end up with the funding plan we proposed. The funding formula builds off the budget formula enacted 2 years ago and increases the per pupil formula, special education, career-technical education, and K-3 literacy amounts as recommended by the Executive and the House. 

Charter school funding is a problem in the State of Ohio that we need to address immediately. I have proposed an amendment to the budget bill to create a Task Force to review direct state funding for charter schools.

Thank you again for contacting me with your thoughts on this important subject. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact my office at  ###  or my home at  ###.


Gayle L. Manning
State Senator 
13th Ohio Senate 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Trouble with the Senate budget proposal? It sure looks that way.

Please check out the Senate's proposed education funding here...

Then write your Senator to voice your concern, here...

This is the note I sent to my Senator, Gayle Manning.

Senator Manning, 

According to the Senate's proposed budget, funding for the Elyria Schools is set to increase by $1.5 million over the next two years. Under the Governor's proposed budget Elyria was set to gain $3.7 million. Neither of the budget proposals factored in the consistent $6+ million Elyria loses to unregulated charter schools annually, nor the proposed increases in payments to charters. 

While the Senate leadership has indicated that no Ohio school districts will be losing funding, I believe that this is a bit disingenuous without being forthcoming about charters. Can you provide any clarification of these issues? 

Our district has been forced to close buildings as well as eliminate programs, teachers and support staff under Governor Kasich's tenure. My son had no meaningful access to a library at his school the last two years because of cuts, while the state instituted new assessments, in part over concerns about reading scores. We built a brand new high school here with state assistance and then had to eliminate a media program in a state of the art building. These are but two examples. We have cut, and cut, and cut again. Please protect our successful public schools. 

Thank you, in advance, for a response. 
Matt Jablonski 
History Teacher 
Elyria High School

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Still Life With Textbook Repair.

According to an article in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Senate version of the Ohio budget allocates $73 million a year in each of the next two years for standardized tests.