Innovation Ohio Says Cleveland School Plan Needs Work

For Immediate Release: March 8, 2012
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Innovation Ohio Says Cleveland School Plan Needs Work

Think Tank Both Praises and Criticizes Reform Plan

Columbus: Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, today released an analysis of the education reform plan recently put forward by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.  Governor Kasich has indicated the plan might serve as a model for his own education reform effort, which presumably will include the new school funding formula he promised but so far has failed to deliver.  The analysis is available at www.innovationohio.org.

IO said an analysis of the “Cleveland Plan” is important given Ohio’s history of expanding Cleveland education experiments, such as private school vouchers, state-wide.  “If Governor Kasich is intent on using the Cleveland Plan as a model for other Ohio school districts, then it’s critical that we get it right,” said IO President Janetta King.

The analysis found a number of “things to like” about the Cleveland Plan, including:

  • Innovations such as a Global Language Academy, an Environmental Science School, Early Childhood Education Academies in every neighborhood, and an English Immersion School for all children for whom English is a second language;
  • A focus on high-quality preschool education, as well as on college and workforce readiness; and
  • A series of proposed changes to state law that would, for example, give the Cleveland Metropolitan School District flexibility to manage its fiscal assets and close loopholes in existing law that allow poorly-performing Charter Schools to continue operating.

IO said other ideas, like adoption of a year-round school calendar, support for high-quality Charter Schools, and the aggressive pursuit of talented teachers, “have potential, but need more work and further fleshing-out.”

But Innovation Ohio said several Cleveland Plan ideas are fatally flawed as currently written and should either be modified substantially or jettisoned entirely. Among these are:

  • A proposal to allow the transfer of local property tax revenue to Charter schools;
  • The transfer of school oversight and other functions from the Cleveland School Board (accountable to the Mayor) to an unelected and less accountable “Cleveland Transformation Alliance”;
  • A weighted per pupil funding formula with “money following the child” that,  in IO’s view, would inevitably end up short-changing either students or schools;
  • Several proposals relating to teacher compensation, collective bargaining and accountability, which IO says are exact replicas of provisions in last year’s Senate Bill 5, which Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected with 61% of the vote in November.

Said IO President Janetta King:

“IO congratulates the authors of the Cleveland Plan for thinking outside the box and being willing to go big. Nothing is more important to Ohio’s future than our schools and our kids.  That’s why education reform is so important, and it’s why all of us who truly care about our state, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives, liberals and moderates alike–must be willing to embrace change and challenge the status quo.

“But our goal cannot be change for the sake of change, or change that can’t work and will only make things worse. So Innovation Ohio has tried to be constructive in our analysis. Where we’ve been critical of the Cleveland Plan, we’ve offered alternative ideas and proposals that we believe are more likely to achieve the desired goals.

“But we recognize that we don’t have all the answers. Frankly, neither do the people who put the Cleveland Plan together. And that is why we believe any serious school reform discussion should and must include the voices of professional educators, parents, and other members of the community. We hope their exclusion will be rectified in the weeks and months ahead.

“So what is Innovation Ohio’s bottom-line take on the Cleveland Plan? We believe the Plan as written is a reasonable place to start, but would be a terrible place to end up. It needs work and  IO stands ready to help any way we can.”

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