Public Education in Ohio speech at the City Club

On Friday, August 29th, we attended a program at the City Club of Greater Cleveland titled “Public Education in Ohio; Thorough, Efficient and World Class?” featuring Ohio State Senator Peggy Lehner from Ohio’s 6th Senate District representing portions of Montgomery County. Senator Lehner is Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education as well as Vice Chair of the Finance Sub-committee on Education.
Senator Lehner is genuinely committed to seeing that all children in Ohio are offered the same educational opportunities as her granddaughter who just started school. She reviewed statistics that show that a person’s success in life and career depended on the quality of education that he/she received particularly at an early age. She is a vociferous advocate of accessible quality pre-school for all children because the evidence indicates that whatever we spend on this will ultimately pay off 10 to 1. Subsequently, she said that how well a child was reading in the 3rd grade was a good predictor of how well he/she will do in high school.

Along these lines Senator Lehner was full of praise for Cleveland’s PRE4CLE plan which expands access to high quality pre-k to children in Cleveland. She also commended the Cleveland Transformation Alliance whose executive director, Ms. Megan O’Bryan was here at this presentation. Other things that Senator Lehner said needed to be done were “to make changes on how to recruit, train, and reward teachers”; be supportive of Community Learning Center; don’t be supportive of efforts to repeal Common Core standards which, according to Senator Lehner, “spell out what kids must know each year to be ready for college and career.” She said that these standards were reached by bipartisan consensus and that “it is disheartening to watch this circus in Columbus” created by those who wish to repeal them.

During the Q and A she voiced support for Career Technical Schools saying that they were good for “kids who already know what they want to do” but believed that Governor Kasich might be going too far with his support for them as a path for young people in the 7th and 8th grades. Even though Senator Lehner, herself, is a Republican who, by her own admission, is generally supportive of Governor Kasich she also criticized the governor’s advocacy of tax cuts over education spending when Ohio recently acquired a large surplus.

The topic of immigration did come up albeit indirectly, when Senator Lehner spoke of the perils of generational poverty. She said that, at one time, immigrants often came to this country in impoverished condtions with nothing except strong family values and family units and an appreciation for education but they were able to use these attributes, which the people trapped in the generational poverty cycle of today do not have, to work their way up the economic ladder.

Perhaps the most controversial thing that Senator Lehner said during her presentation concerned the Teach for America program in which its participants only undergo 5 weeks of training before they are assigned to a classroom to assist the students. Senator Lehner said that due to their passion and desire the participants of this program often out-perform the professional teachers. After the Senator’s presentation we spoke to several members of the Northeastern Ohio Education Association (NEOFA) including Mr. Bill Lavezzi, the executive director, who took exception to this and told us there was evidence available that would challenge what the Senator had to say on this point. Nevertheless, the NEOFA members liked what Senator Lehner had to say as a whole.

Among the people that we met at the City Club were Mr. Richard Javorek, candidate for Ohio House District 69 as well as being a retired teacher who gave us some more specifics on Common Core which he supports as does Mr. Gregory Ring, Superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Lorain County, with whom we shared a table.

We received “hellos” for Ms. Wong from Ms. Char Fowler from the Cleveland Playhouse who used to serve on the WSBN Board with Ms. Wong, and Ms. Melissa O’Leary from Voices for Ohio’s Children who remembers Ms. Wong from the Cleveland International Program Board some 15 years ago.

And on our way out to the parking lot, we met Mr. Brandon Agnew who is a coordinator for the PRE4CLEV program. Needless to say, we thanked him for devoting himself to a program that has such outstanding potential.