The REAL state of school funding in Ohio

Monday, February 24, 2014 at 5:00pm, hundreds of Ohio workers gathered before Governor John Kasich’s State of the State address in Medina, Ohio to discuss the Real State of the State. Medina resident, 7th grade teacher, and President of the Medina City Teachers Association, John Leatherman, talked about the effects he’s seen in his own classroom as a result of Kasich’s drastic cuts to public education and the REAL state of school funding Ohio.

LeathermanMy name is John Leatherman. I am a resident of Medina County, a parent of two children who attend public schools, a veteran, a 7th grade history teacher, and the proud president of the Medina City Teachers Association. It is an honor to have this opportunity to speak before you today.

I see the familiar faces of dedicated teachers. I welcome our fellow policemen, firemen, nurses, steelworkers, AFL/CIO members — all labor groups. I welcome the Women’s Caucus, our local churches, and all community members who feel as I do today, concerned about the future of Ohio.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to care about families here in Medina County as well as the families all around the State of Ohio. Please give the person next to you a round of applause.

I am here today on behalf of educators. I am here today to talk about the real state of school funding here in Ohio.

In only four years, under Governor Kasich’s “careful planning,” ONE HALF OF ONE BILLION DOLLARS — that’s EIGHT zeros — have been taken from Ohio’s public schools. Our state has never seen these kinds of cuts. These cuts have drastically affected our children.

Across the state, school buildings have been shut down. Long-standing academic programs and courses, that prepare our children for tomorrow’s world, have been eliminated. Entire fleets of busses have been parked or scrapped.

What’s even scarier, these cuts have resulted in fewer school-counselors, the very counselors who are desperately attempting to reach every child in need. And now, because of decisions that are made in an office in Columbus, many good teachers have been let go, all while classroom sizes are skyrocketing.

When does common sense take hold?

When will our Governor realize that his political cuts will continue us on a path that has a very dark end?

In Medina alone, these cuts have taken the jobs of over 20% of our teaching force. Twenty percent! These job cuts, and this unrelenting assault on education, is all by a governor who claims to be a job creator and a champion of education. I know he heard, loud and clear, what happened when he attempted to force through SB5!

Recently Governor Kasich and State School Superintendent Dick Ross discussed plans to “rid the legal hoops in our public schools.” Since this Governor has taken office, he has done nothing but continue to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars from our public schools directly to his friends and campaign contributors in for-profit, low-performing charter schools.

Make no mistake, while families are struggling, and while our children’s education is being compromised, his friends are becoming very wealthy by the very dollars we work for day in and day out.

These charter schools and their investors don’t play by the same rules we do. These schools enjoy huge sums of public dollars with no real financial oversight. These charter schools continue to underperform and yet year after year they rake in the profits.

In 2012, Ohio had 326 charter schools, many of which operate under businesses like White Hat Management. White Hat Management was recently brought before the Ohio Supreme Court for refusing to open their books to the public. Once again, more money funneled and more money lost.

Last year, in Columbus alone, 17 of these for-profit charter schools failed. Those charter schools took our tax dollars, shut their doors on their students, and walked away. Our doors are open. We educate our children. We are here for them.

Not only that, in November of 2013, Ohio online charter schools were cited by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to serve students with disabilities. We serve all students. We are here for them.

Know this: our public school teachers

  • are highly qualified,
  • have graduated from respected colleges and universities across our state and nation,
  • are constantly improving on an ever-changing school curriculum,
  • and are, year in and year out, engaged in professional development — much of which is at our own expense.

I know I speak for my colleagues here and across our state. We are a highly professional, very impassioned, and sharply focused group of public school teachers with high expectations for our children.

When it comes to our public schools, I have to borrow a quote from our brothers and sisters at Ford: QUALITY IS JOB ONE!

Charter schools are a business, plain and simple. We’ve seen the business model in education. It doesn’t work!

  • We don’t make a product. We create opportunities for future generations.
  • We don’t produce widgets. We create community leaders.
  • We’re not an assembly line. We create life-long experiences.

In the New York Harbor, it’s scripted on The Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. … I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This speaks directly to the best of our public schools. We don’t refuse any students, rather we embrace them and educate them.

You see, public schools are a melting pot! It’s that dream on which our forefathers founded this country. Yes, that’s us, the public schools.

Governor Kasich’s policies are punishing Ohio’s economy, punishing our families, and punishing our communities. Most importantly, to me, his policies are punishing our students, our children.

His policies have forced us to constantly return to our voters for more and more levy dollars. He put the strain of educating our children squarely on our families.

As the proud president of our association, I have watched many great teachers lose their jobs. We’ve been forced to cut effective programs from all schools, at all levels. Here in Medina, we’ve suffered deep cuts in the areas of Media Specialists, Gifted Teachers, Reading Intervention Teachers, and Guidance Counselors. These devastating cuts are occurring across the state.

In Medina County, we have one school in state financial receivership and another school nearly had to drop to a state minimum of 5-hour, school day. That’s not what schools should be concerned about. Ever.

In a recent story by Stephen Dyer on Jan. 30th, he stated that children in Medina County schools will have 13.7 million dollars less in state revenue in the next two years, that is, as compared to the two years prior to Kasich taking office. Medina City Schools alone saw its funding cut by 4.4 million dollars. That figure grows throughout the state.

The numbers get more staggering. All of this was taken from our county while charter school funding increased! In fact, every Medina County dollar that funded a charter school went to one that performed worse on both the performance index and the state report card.

Statewide, the story is the same. Schools are losing great teachers, programs are being cut, and our kids are getting the short end of the stick. In fact, in Ohio next year, charter schools are slated to receive a 23% increase, which is up $150 million dollars from last year. That totals $887 million dollars — close to ONE BILLION of your tax dollars!

This Governor caters to a very select group in the State of Ohio. He is very much okay with separating the “haves” and “have-nots.” What’s worse, the “have-nots” are increasing at an alarming rate. 31,000 more Ohioans are out of work as compared to last year. In fact, during his first three years, Ohio’s economic recovery has come to a grinding halt. Not only are more Ohioan’s out of work, but they are also making less money under his watch.

This governor went after educators with a nasty piece of legislation called SB-5. You all remember SB-5! Well, when SB-5 arose, so did the citizens of Ohio. Speaking out at rallies like this and taking it to the voters in Ohio is what defeated his landmark start to governing our state. A 20-point loss is not just a loss, it’s a horrific flameout.

So, what we’re doing today is a great, great thing. It’s our constitutional right. Be proud to say you were here. Give yourself a round of applause.

One last thing: for me, it’s about the kids. It always has been about the kids. I didn’t get into teaching to get rich. I became a teacher because I love working with kids. I speak for the 3rd grade teacher who, day in and day out, loves a classroom of 8 and 9 year olds. I speak for the middle school teacher who deals with a special group of children at a bizarre age. I speak for the high school teacher who prepares teenagers for adulthood. It’s what we do; it’s our passion. We just want to provide our young students’ the opportunities they deserve, those opportunities are fast being lost under this Governor’s watch.

This evening I will attend this State of the State address in our public school auditorium. It was a tough decision, one that I didn’t make until just last week. I want to be the person in the audience who represents you. I want to be the person in the audience that when Governor Kasich looks out and sees me, he sees you and thinks of our children. I want to be the person who reminds all of our public officials that we are not silent.

I respect the office of the governor. I respect the offices of our public officials. I learned that from a teacher of mine a long time ago. Respect the office and don’t be afraid to be a voice. It’s the same message that I teach my students. I can only hope that our governor will learn by our example. Give public education, our teachers, and most importantly, our students the very same respect.

Thanks. You have been a great audience.

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