How Politicians Get It Wrong on Public Education, and What We Can Do To Fix It

Recently, the two major party candidates for Governor released their education reform plans to reverse the downward trend in Ohio’s public education system. As could be expected, Democratic Party candidate Richard Cordray put forth a plan to throw more money into the system, without any specifics on how that money would be spent or exactly how it would help. Republican candidate Mike DeWine, of course, said all the right things about “accountability” and making “sure we’re getting our money’s worth” when it comes to educational spending…right before he promised to throw even more money at public schools, as well.

As we have recently pointed out, Ohio is spending more money than ever before on public education, yet continues to slide further and further down the state rankings. This would seem to indicate that “funding” itself doesn’t seem to be the issue. In fact, when you look at it objectively, it would seem that the only thing the politicians in Columbus have increased as much as overall funding is the amount of control the state and federal government have over public education.

In keeping with this trend, Cordray’s plan calls for abolishing all for-profit charter schools, regardless of the individual successes of the schools and their students. He does so, however, by completely ignoring the long history of private schooling in this country, acting as if there aren’t already countless examples proving that schools can not only survive, but thrive, without the heavy-hand of the government to guide them. He also proposes holding charter schools to the same standards as public schools, which sounds great on the surface. But rather than leveling the playing field by eliminating the 140 requirements placed on public schools that charter schools are exempt from, he instead proposes to eliminate the competition charter schools provide by holding them to the same cumbersome regulations that are hurting our public schools. Regulations that, in addition to stifling innovation in the classroom, rob school districts and educators of the incredible amount of funding required to sustain the bureaucracy that enforces them.

DeWine, for his part, talks a great game when it comes to dialing back at least some of these regulations. Indeed, occasionally it even looks like he reads our webpage, especially when he says things like, “We need less testing and more learning in our schools so that educators have the ability to teach our children to do more than multiple choice tests, and instead focus on problem solving, logic skills, and creativity that will help prepare them to be college ready or on a pathway to a career once they graduate.” Unfortunately for him, he has a congressional track record that doesn’t quite match his rhetoric, as his misguided support of No Child Left Behind helped bring to power the extremely influential “testing-industrial complex” that is having such a negative impact on our children today. By itself, one could be forgiving for thinking that perhaps he has learned his lesson. The ECOT scandal, however, seems to indicate a pattern of him putting political donors before students that cannot be ignored.

By any objective standard, it is easy to see that as state and federal control over public education has increased, both students and educators have suffered. So, what can we do about it? The answer is simple: we must begin the process of wrestling control over our children’s education back from the state and federal government and return it to the local communities where it belongs. No one cares more for the students of a school district than the parents and educators who make it up; it likewise stands to reason that no one would do a better job of both protecting their interests and seeing that they receive the education they need than the same.

Once thing is beyond dispute: they certainly can’t do worse than what we have now. If you agree, I’d be grateful for your support at the polls on November 6th.

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