Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Geauga Dems Hold Hot Topics Public Education Talk
April 3, 2014 by Gwen Cooper | No Comments

Public education was a hot topic at a recent gathering of the Geauga Democratic Party with State Rep. John Patterson and State Board of Education…

Public education was a hot topic at a recent gathering of the Geauga Democratic Party with State Rep. John Patterson and State Board of Education candidate Michael Charney, both giving their viewpoints.

Patterson, a former teacher, described himself as a teacher cleverly disguised as a state legislator. He sits on the education committee in the State House.

House Bill 216 is a school district debt forgiveness bill tailor-made for Ledgemont School District, he said. The bill was passed out of the committee, but is languishing. He said debt forgiveness would be the cleanest way out of the situation, rather than what he termed a “hostile takeover.”

“There comes a point in poker when you fold them,” he said making an analogy to the school. “How much taxes do you want, 12 to 14 mills?”

A proposal to shift inside millege is not the best way to help the district, he said.

“If we used inside millage to bail out the school, it will just bring them back to zero. What we want to do is move the children forward in the 21st century,” Patterson said.

Ledgemont Schools could consolidate with any contiguous school, including one in Lake County.

“We haven’t consolidated a district in about 30 years,” he explained. “The unions are going to have to be flexible. I’m saying that, and I’m a pro-union guy.”

Of greater concern in the state, according to Patterson, is a statistic from a study by Ohio State University showing 45 percent of public school students are living in poverty and receive free and reduced lunches.

“Our people have fallen behind,” Patterson said. “We have not created jobs … with a living wage. Where are the real jobs? Children from poverty-stricken homes cost us all more to educate.”

In the Geneva school district English is a second language for many students, so that district hired a Spanish-speaking translator for kindergarten students, he said.

“Will they make it through the new third grade reading test?” Patterson asked. “We all want excellent-rated schools, but excellence comes (with) a price tag.”

He questioned cuts to funding that resulted in several school districts closing their libraries.

“We have whole populations being deprived of basic stuff such as a school library,” he said.

The emphasis has been on college preparedness, but plans should also include skills, Patterson said.

Patterson linked Ohio’s falling public school enrollment to Ohio’s economy and weak job market, adding that employment opportunities are better out of state.

“We need to support our schools and build a better quality of life here,” he said. “What would you pay to have your children move back into the state? What would you pay to have your grandchildren here instead of traveling to see them?”

Charney voiced his concerns about charter schools.

“They started out as a not bad idea to educate children … with involvement by parents and the community,” he said. “But they aren’t doing that. Charter schools are undermining public schools and we are sending millions of dollars to wealthy businessmen who own them.”

He said the private schools use public money without operating in a transparent way. Online charter schools K-12 and ECOT use public funds to pay for advertising to attract students, Charney said. The businesses that run them receive public tax dollars without having to provide buildings, transportation and materials.

“You get a computer,” he said. “One online teacher may monitor 150 students. Some students never turn on the computer, and only 30 to 35 percent of them graduate. That’s not the way (charter schools) were originally intended to operate.”

The school rating system based on test scores is flawed, Charney said, and it has caused increased privatization of schools, especially in poor districts, and increased open enrollment.

“Kids are being denied a full education under the guise of the accountability of test scores,” he said. “Teachers are also being evaluated on test scores to determine who gets laid off. The real learning doesn’t come with a test score. It’s the relationship between the students and teachers. I remember my teachers, I don’t remember the answers on my school tests. Tests aren’t what prepares students for careers.”

Charney said during his campaign he hopes to “shine a light on education to have more teachers’ voices heard and to shine a light on charter schools.”

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