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Ed Voters Political Update

We are facing an exciting and dynamic election year, with predictions of low voter turnout, strong evidence of a discontented populace, serious economic woes, a few rather odd and outspoken Tea Party candidates, and a serious debate about how the American education system should work.

Education issues and education voters have a big role to play this year, and we need your help to succeed.

We’ve just posted our political analysis of how Education Voters of America is looking at the 2010 election and an overview of our plans to fight on behalf of Education Champions. , and see how education issues can play out over the coming weeks.

What are candidates saying about education?

Education Voters has staff and allies on the ground in several key districts in Ohio this election season.  But we can’t be everywhere… and that’s where you come in.

You’re our eyes and ears on the ground, and we need your help to make sure that candidates in this fall’s elections are talking about the issues that matter most.

Use our field report form to let us know when and where you saw, read, or heard your candidates talking about education.  What issues did they raise or address?  What were their positions?

Please help us by filling out a field report every time your candidates weigh in!

Ask candidates to take the Ed Voters Pledge

Education voters in Ohio have been making great strides to build a better future for our kids.

But the wrong candidate can put an end to that progress and make it harder for the next generation to achieve the American Dream.

Click here sign our petition, and let’s make sure the candidates pledge to talk seriously about their plans for providing our kids with a quality education.

Education Issues in Ohio

As an education voter, you know that one of the most important things a government can do is to provide a quality education for every child. That’s why we need to talk with candidates and voters about the big education issues that will come up during this election season.

Here in Ohio, the top education issues our candidates will have to discuss are:

  • Student and teacher assessments that accurately measure student academic achievement and help school leaders evaluate teacher performance.  Ohio needs to ensure that our children are learning what they need to know in order to be successful in the 21st century. We also need to know whether the strategies that our teachers are using to teach those skills are effective.
  • Identifying new sources of revenue to equitably fund our schools. All of Ohio’s schools deserve to have the necessary resources to properly educate every child, regardless of their zipcode. The current sources of school funding have proven to be insufficient to provide for this basic right.
  • Early childhood education. Studies of high quality early childhood programs conservatively peg the return to society at seven dollars for every dollar invested. Students that attend a high quality preschool are far more likely to graduate from high school and far less likely to enter the criminal justice system. Ohio’s K-12 system must be buttressed by a strong foundation of early learning that allows children to maximize their learning and development throughout their educational careers.
  • Charter school expansion and whether charter school management companies should take over failing public schools.  Ohio has had a troubled history with charter schools. New regulations have been imposed that should lead to better academic outcomes for students that attend charter schools. As some traditional public schools continue to fail, some are suggesting that the traditional schools should be turned over to charter school operators.  Where does your legislator stand on this issue?
  • Developing strategies to infuse creativity and innovation into the classroom. The current and future job market requires workers that have strong problem solving skills and well versed in the use of technology. We need to ensure that our students are exposed to teaching methods that encourage creativity so that they will be prepared for college and the new world of work.

But that’s not all. What else should Ed Voters look at when we evaluate candidates? What are the big issues in your community? What have you heard candidates say? You’re our eyes and ears on the ground, and we need your help to make sure we ask the right questions and find the right answers!

Charter Schools on “Watch List” for Closure

“Watch List” Suggests Many More Charters Could Close for Poor Performance
Nearly 8,000 students attend charter schools that could face state-mandated closure

As many as 26 Ohio charter schools could face mandatory closure next year, according to a “watch list” released today by the Forum for Education and Democracy and Education Voters of Ohio.

The “watch list” identifies charter schools that, depending on ratings this school year, may meet the state criteria for mandatory closure. The schools would be forced to shut down after the 2010-2011 school year. Performance data on the current school year is expected to be released in August.

Ohio’s robust charter school sector has had its share of problems. While there are examples of high quality schools, over 60 charters have closed due to financial mismanagement, under-enrollment, compliance or other problems over the past five years. In the last several years has the Ohio legislature has addressed the chronically low academic results in many charter schools. Through legislation in 2006 and 2009, strict academic performance criteria were set. Schools that do not meet these criteria must be permanently closed. The first two schools to close under these regulations were the Toledo Academy of Learning and the Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners. Both schools closed their doors in May of 2009. Last fall, the Ohio Department of Education announced 10 additional schools for mandatory closure. Those schools are being shut down this summer.

While the closure rules for academic failure appear rigid, the organizations that released today’s “watch list” note that over 50% of the charter schools in the state are not subject to the regulations this year, no matter how poor their performance.

“Though the increased oversight of charter performance is well-intentioned, there still seem to be a number of loopholes in the regulations. They need to be addressed,” said researcher Leigh Dingerson, who developed the “watch list” for the two organizations that released it today. Dingerson is the author of a study of Ohio’s charter school history. “Reclaiming the Education Charter: Ohio’s Experiment with Charter Schools” was released in February of last year by the Forum for Education and Democracy and Education Voters of Ohio.

Under state law, charter elementary and high schools must be closed if they are designated in “Academic Emergency” in three out of four consecutive years. Charter middle schools are judged both by their state academic performance designation, and by the academic growth shown by Ohio’s new “Value-Added” measurement for students in grades 4 through 8.

There are exceptions, however. Schools that serve a majority of students with special needs are exempt from mandatory closure under state law. In addition, schools that serve as “dropout recovery” schools may seek waivers from the state that exempt them from closure.

In addition, a school’s performance during its first two years of operation may not be used towards mandatory closure. Hypothetically, a charter elementary or high school would remain open—despite annual ratings of “Academic Emergency”—for seven years before meeting the criteria for closure, noted Dingerson.

“The continued problems with underperforming charter schools, schools that were to be freed from state regulation so they could lead the way on reform, is disappointing,” said George Wood, Executive Director of The Forum. “Too many of our children attend charter schools that manage to fly under the radar screen for academic performance. We have not yet found the balance between freedom, and accountability.”

The Ohio Department of Education’s Annual Report on Community Schools (as charters are called in the state) indicates that the state’s traditional public schools are performing marginally better than charter schools, on average, and within Ohio’s “big eight” urban school districts. Traditional public schools are not exempt from accountability: persistently low-performing schools face closure or dramatic interventions under both state and federal law.

Today’s “watch list” includes charter schools from across the state. Together, the schools enrolled 7,803 students, according to 2008-09 enrollment data published by the Ohio Department of Education. Ohio’s legislature first permitted charter schools—which are publicly funded but privately operated schools—in 1997. Over 300 schools are currently in operation in the state, and enroll over 89,000 students.

The organizations releasing the “watch list” expressed concern for students in the schools, as well as for the public school districts that will be expected to absorb them, should the charters be forced to close.

In “Reclaiming the Education Charter,” the organizations reported that instability in Ohio’s still-growing charter sector makes it difficult for traditional public school districts to adequately plan for facilities, staffing and resource needs for their students. These closures, as they continue, will no doubt make planning more difficult.

“Around the state and here in Cleveland, school districts have been forced to permanently close school buildings and lay-off teachers due to declining enrollments, in part due to students enrolling in charter schools. If every Cuyahoga County charter school on today’s “watch list” were closed in June of 2011, an additional 2,180 students may be knocking on the district’s doors. Will Cleveland have the space and the teachers to serve these children?” said Julian Rogers of Education Voters of Ohio.

Highlights from the Education Voters February Event

Highlights from the Education Voters February Event.

Ohio is leading the way

Ohio is leading the way

We want to share some very exciting news with you: Ohio has been named the recipient of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation by the Education Commission of the States!

This award is given in recognition of the success of our fight to reform our public education system. Governor Strickland deserves recognition for his bold leadership and you deserve recognition for standing up and letting the Governor, the House and the Senate know that you believe every Ohio child deserves an excellent education that prepares him or her to succeed in the 21st century.

As the Education Commission of the States press release states,

“Criteria for this award include policies that are bold, courageous and nonpartisan; include the potential for large-scale impact; show evidence of continued support; and are replicable and hold valuable lessons for other states.”

In other words, they’re saying that Ohio is leading the way for other states.

The bi-partisan Education Commission of the States is the leading organization that compares and analyzes education policies of the various states. Chaired by Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, the Education Commission of the States helps states develop effective policy and practice for public education by providing data, research, analysis and leadership; and by facilitating collaboration, the exchange of ideas among the states and long-range strategic thinking.

As a supporter of Education Voters of Ohio, you are a big part of why our state has been recognized as a leader in the fight to reform public education. At every turn, you insisted that state leaders listen to the concerns of parents, teachers, students, and community leaders. You provided valuable insights and feedback to legislators who were debating reforms and funding. You met up at Education Voters’ listening tours to put together recommendations for the governor and the General Assembly. You signed petitions, called your legislators, and helped fund a public-information campaign that mobilized communities all across the state.

And you made it clear that you wouldn’t settle for anything less than real, forward-looking reform.

Our work, along with the help and support of other reform-minded community organizations across Ohio, led to the successful passage of House Bill 1, which contained the reform package recognized by this award.

Education Voters is committed to ensuring that these reforms are properly implemented and fully funded over time. We will continue to monitor the administration, our elected officials and the State School Board and keep the residents Ohio informed on the progress and pace of reform.

Please consider a financial contribution so that we can remain a strong advocate for good schools and a high-quality education for every child.

You should all be extremely proud of the work we did together to make this a reality.

In their award announcement, ECS put your hard work into a larger context: “Ohio’s education reforms will transform Ohio classrooms and strengthen the teaching profession to prepare students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the jobs of the future. At a time when other states are dramatically reducing education funding, Ohio’s governor and legislature made an unmatched commitment to education.”

Congratulations to Ohio!

Join Us February 19

Join Us February 19

Please join us in Cleveland on Friday, February 19 as we celebrate Ohio’s commitment to providing a quality education for every child!

Our special guest for the evening will be Governor Ted Strickland.

Click here to RSVP.

The Crisis in State Funding of Education

The Crisis in State Funding of Education

The Ohio General Assembly passed and Governor Strickland signed a two-year budget in July 2009 that included a plan to place Video Lottery Terminals (slot machines) at 7 racetracks across Ohio. It was expected that these VLT’s would raise up to $933 million over the two-year budget. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that citizens could challenge this budget item by collecting enough official signatures to let the voters decide whether they supported the VLT’s. By allowing a vote that would not take place until November 2010 the state cannot earn funds from the VLT’s. This means that there is a gap of $933 million in the state budget.

Ohio Youth Voices has produced a guide to understanding how the state’s funding conflict impacts education in Ohio. 

Reclaiming the Education Charter

The idea of “chartered” schools emerged in the 1990s. In the nearly two decades since then, charter schooling has become an ideological battleground for reformers from the left to the right. Ohio—with one of the most prolific charter school sectors in the country—is a key arena in that fight. A new report — “Reclaiming the Education Charter: Ohio’s Experiment with Charter Schooling” — reviews Ohio’s experience with charter schooling.

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