Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Engage them in the process.

Engage them in the process.

Perhaps not as fun as the phrase "engage them in fisticuffs," for obvious reasons (not violence, just the use of the word fisticuffs), it is time to engage our elected officials once again in the process of democracy.

If you're anything like me, then you've spent the time since the passage of charter school reform in Ohio caught somewhere between tears and laughter. To be honest, I've also been watching the skies for it to start raining frogs, for incoming plagues of locusts, and other such signs of the end-times.

I know, HB 2 and its reforms aren't that good. While I'm at it, the testing reforms were half assed as well. I'm starting to think our legislators are only doing just enough to shut us up.

Well, I'm not done. Ohio's education system is plagued with charter corruption and mismanagement, bogged down by a pointless system of standardized tests, funded through a long since labeled unconstitutional system, and riddled with regulations that are unequal and anti-democratic (read Youngstown).

I just finished sending the letter below to ALL members of the House and Senate Education Committees. I think you should contact them as well. Copy and past my letter, tweak it to your liking, or write your own persuasive argument. It doesn't matter much to me, as long as you engage them in the process. If we don't, nothing changes.

Representative/Senator so and so and the House/Senate Education Committee,

Congratulations on the recent passage of HB 2, the first attempt to regulate Ohio's atrocious charter school system. However, this bill should be viewed as a beginning. The legislation itself actually contains elements that benefit charters, and their attempts to profit at the expense of Ohio's taxpayers and children. Our system is still structured in such a way as to benefit charters at the expense of public schools that are often more effective.

I look forward to seeing continued progress in the legislature regarding this and the many other issues that plague education in Ohio. The committee might consider legislation that has charters rated in exactly the same way as public schools, thus truly leveling the field. Another possible avenue is to limit the per pupil deduction for charters to the amount allocated by the state. Any additional money would need to be budgeted separately.

If further charter regulation isn't in your plans, then perhaps you might consider the fact that you have been in violation of the Ohio Constitution every time schools are funded in the current manner. Fix this system that was declared unconstitutional more than a decade ago. At a minimum, you should consider restoring the Tangible Personal Property payments for 2017, and continue with the “offset concept.” Ohio's students, most of which remain in public schools, deserve equal access to educational opportunities.

Let us also not forget that our state assessment system is still broken. The single testing window was a nice step, but a minimalist change for a sizable problem. Tests are shortened, but assessments of 3 plus hours, even split into two sessions, are still far too long at any level. The data created is negligible and has little, if any, impact on instruction except to fuel an overemphasis on test prep, thus dangerously narrowing the curriculum. High stakes consequences for graduation, teacher evaluation, and especially the 3rd grade reading guarantee are completely inappropriate. Eliminate these and move to federal minimums of testing.

The Youngstown Amendment is anti-democratic. The legislation is clearly only a path toward a citywide charter school system. Charters are not “community schools” regardless of what you call them. They are private entities often manipulating the system for profit. Public schools with boards of education from the community, elected by the community, hiring members of the community to serve students are “community schools.” The state was already running Youngstown and failed to make an impact. Fix the mess, and while you're promoting democracy pass a law that requires all state school board members to be elected. This way, when there are suspected issues within the ODE like those with Mr. Hansen and Superintendent Ross, a true investigation can be undertaken.

As I said at the start of my letter, congratulations. Now, let's get to work on the rest of this mess.

Yours in education.
Matt Jablonski

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