When I first came to Ohio, the state’s higher education was ranked 37th among the 50 states, and that was under the Democratic administration of Dick Celeste. Under Voinovich, and now Taft, state aid to higher education has fallen – depending on who’s counting – between 44th and 46th. This makes Ohio the Mississippi of the Midwest. Even more dangerous in the new plan by J. Kenneth Blackwell to impose his “bumper sticker” solution to K-12 education in Ohio.
Instead of calling for the end of the war in Iraq or raising the taxes on the top 1% of the population in Ohio – don’t worry, this doesn’t include you – thus bringing more money into the Ohio school systems, Blackwell simply wants to reshuffle the deck with his so-called “65% solution.” This would end control by local school board who understand their districts, and instead require the boards to spend 65 cents on every dollar on classroom instruction.
This allows Blackwell to continue cutting taxes on Ohio’s wealthiest citizens while pretending to put more money into education. I have a book of writings on education in Ohio, particularly Columbus, entitled “A Schoolhouse Divided.” The problem with Ohio schools is that most of the central city schools are victims of race and class apartheid, where lily white suburban schools co-exist next to majority minority school districts like the Columbus Public Schools. In Columbus, with few exceptions, there’s been an agreement from both political parties to pretty much loot the system and steer contracts to political donors.
What’s needed more than ever is real school choice run by professional unionized teachers without crushing bureaucratic oversight. Every public school should be a school of choice. Every public school should have its own democratically and locally elected school board. A marketplace of economic techniques should flourish in the central cities. Large school buildings could easily be divided up by floor into two, three or four schools. Publish the results and let the parents choose.
Blackwell’s 65% solution is no solution. It’s a bumper sticker for children who can’t calculate 65%.