Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ohio's Spineless State School Board

Ohio’s State Board of Education voted today to remove the requirement that districts employ education specialists in order to “give local districts flexibility” from “unfunded mandates”.
Instead of taking a stand for the value of nurses, counselors, social workers and the arts in education and pushing back against the Kasich administration’s funding cuts and increased testing mandates, the School Board voted to eliminate the “5 of 8″ rule from Ohio Administrative Code, setting the stage for the further decimation of these services in our schools.
It is appalling that the majority of the current members of Ohio’s School Board don’t recognize the value of the positions in our schools.  Every single one of these highly-qualified and specially-trained professional positions are not only vital to the education of the whole child, but in many instances are crucial to the survival of children.  The notion that these positions should only be available to those children in communities that can afford them is akin to educational malpractice on the state level.
Instead of Ohio’s Board members shrugging their shoulders and throwing up their hands and blaming school funding, this was an opportunity for the State Board to say, “Enough is enough!”  At some point, the Board needs to stop taking direction from the General Assembly and act like the independent body they are supposed to be.
Today, the State School Board opted to lower the bar in order to accommodate Governor Kasich and the GOP majority in Ohio’s General Assembly who continue to under-fund schools while passing a seemingly endless stream of unfunded mandates like OTES, OPES, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, the Resident Educator Program, diagnostic testing in the primary grades, the new Kindergarten Assessment, and the latest and greatest version of standardized testing via PARCC that will soon require schools to have all the latest technology simply to administer more tests. Instead, Ohio’s School Board members could have taken this opportunity to draw a line in the sand and raise the bar on what a meaningful educational environment truly looks like for all of Ohio’s children.
They could have listened.  They plugged their ears.
They could have stood strong.  They cowered.
They could have held the line.  They retreated.
They could have fought for children.  They surrendered to politics.

At this point I need to admit something.  I (Greg) was wrong.  To be blunt, I royally [screwed] up.  In an article I wrote leading up to the elections, I recommended that you vote for School Board Candidate Ron Rudduck based on his extensive knowledge of Ohio’s messed up history of school funding.  I erroneously thought that such knowledge would ave benefited us all in circumstances exactly like this that are a direct result of that screwed up funding process.  I now wholeheartedly regret that recommendation and apologize to you, our readers.  Instead of using his knowledge and experience to push back against a legislature that isn’t meeting the needs of our students, Rudduck has been at the forefront of pushing the elimination of the “5 of 8″ rule with statements defending his action that simply make no sense.
Here’s one of Rudduck’s statements: “I’ll tell you the truth, a lot of the superintendents I talk to, especially the young ones, didn’t even know there was a rule called the 5 of 8.  So it leads you to believe it wasn’t involved in their decision making to begin with.”
Paraphrasing: “Some people in positions of highest authority are completely ignorant of the laws for which they are to be held accountable, so we can go ahead and get rid of them.”
The true story:  You can be damn sure that the teachers and the unions that represent them in negotiating contracts are aware of the requirements.
Here’s another Rudduck zinger: “It happens a lot when districts fail levies, unfortunately, the first positions that are cut are these education service personnel positions.”
Paraphrasing: “Since schools are overly reliant on local tax dollars due to the absence of an equitable public school funding model at the state level, I do expect that many of these specialist positions will end up getting cut.”
The true story: Since schools are overly reliant on local tax dollars due to the absence of an equitable public school funding model at the state level, I do expect that many of these specialist positions will end up getting cut.

Finally, if you sense that I’m a bit ticked off, it’s because the elimination of this requirement is personal.  My youngest son is:
  • Type-1 diabetic and insulin-dependent since 4th grade (a school nurse has never been optional)
  • Has played either strings or percussion since 4th grade, and is now in marching band & orchestra
  • Had an outstanding, licensed, professional art teacher in elementary school that fostered his love of the visual arts
  • Has had guidance counselors throughout his years of schooling who have been integral in coordinating intervention/enrichment services and will benefit from having guidance counselors at the high school level to assist him in looking at post-secondary education
And finally….
  • Despite being identified as gifted in every core subject area over the years (based on test scores, of course), he is tired of wasting school time on standardized tests, has told me he “hates Common Core” because it messed up his math classes, quickly adjusted to high school because of his previous musical experience and welcome acceptance into the marching band community, and has become increasingly independent at managing his diabetes with the daily encouragement of nurturing school nurses in elementary, middle, and now high school.
  • And personally, my senior year of high school consisted of six music courses (men’s glee, marching/concert band, senior choir, handbell choir, jazz band, and ensemble) and only three core subject courses.  And damn if I don’t use that ability to work collaboratively in a group while managing my independent responsibilities on a daily basis…
Don’t tell me these specialists should be optional.
Don’t tell me these specialists will only exist when a community can afford them.
Don’t tell me about living in the “right” Zip Code.
Don’t…just don’t.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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