Governor John Kasich had no new school reforms in his State of the State address, except to say he was going to count on Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to lead the state on this issue. This is despite the promise of the country’s best school funding formula in last year’s State of the State.
As delineated in an editorial in yesterday’s Plain Dealer, there are two principle issues in the Jackson plan: it would steer local property taxes to charter schools and it would eliminate experience as a factor in teacher evaluation. Outside those, it’s pretty much out of the last decade’s education reform playbook: transforming failing schools by closing them and firing people. Not terribly innovative, unfortunately. Nor is there a ton of research out there showing this reform model actually turns around schools.
It is a hopeful sign, though, that Kasich is willing to work with successful charter schools, of which there are a few in Cleveland, and root out the bad ones, of which there are plenty in Cleveland. That’s a big first step to ending the charter school wars.
Kasich also noted that public school graduation rates are too low. Yet his actions don’t match his words, as he spoke last year at ECOT’s graduation, which only graduates 35% of its students. He also took credit for the state’s teacher evaluation system, which has been developed over the last two years in the Educator Standards Board. Wonder how they felt about that, especially given how hard they worked developing it?
Kasich again touted the expanded voucher program. Noting that 30,000 families can now access vouchers to escape failing schools. However, only about 13,000 families have done that, and this is the first year since the program’s inception where less money is being spent on vouchers than the prior year. Voucher receipts are down about 6% this year. Perhaps parents aren’t as willing to give up on the public schools as Kasich is. Next year, the voucher cap will be 60,000, which could mean as much as $312 million would be shifted from school districts to private schools if all slots are filled.
All in all, the Governor’s speech was light on education policy, unlike his fellow governors in Florida, New York and other states.