Where Ohio Went Wrong In Education And How We Start A Turnaround
Guest Column From State Representative Andy Thompson
December 11, 2015
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Common Core: It’s on the lips of parents, politicians, school board members, teachers. We hear lots of jargon in the education realm about "standards, testing, and local control (or lack thereof)" not to mention the urgency of "college and career readiness." We have seen parents revolting against excessive testing, nonsensical, non-benchmarked crazy math that befuddles the most accomplished engineers and accountants, and large numbers of teachers retiring early rather than having to endure the new mandates, testing, and curriculum.  Threats have been issued from Washington, DC warning that if parents and teachers don't conform, then our districts may lose federal funding. One doesn’t need a PhD to see that more than 50 years of increasing federal involvement (via the influx of federal dollars) have left Ohioans more frustrated, fearful, and confused than ever.

An endless array of progressive education fads has had its way with America’s children for decades: Outcome-based education and its increased focus on testing, Goals 2000, Schools to Work, America 2000, and No Child Left Behind to name a few. The most recent and insidious program is the “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” which was flown into the states via the federal funding Trojan horse “Race to the Top.” Deceitfully billed as a "state-led" reform, the roots of this nationalized approach, in fact, originated from a special interest group’s ploy to marry corporate money (and eventually returns) with federal dollars in order to bribe and coerce states into participating.  Doing so, cash-strapped states were told, would not only make students "college and career ready," but would also yield federal “prize” money. 

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts…

One of the architects of this effort was/is Bill Gates, who has funneled money to a multitude of non-profits, state education bureaucrats, chambers of commerce, and politicians to implement the Common Core System. So much so that wherever you find a Common Core supporter or organization, you will undoubtedly find a revenue stream from Gates or one of the other progressive groups helping him fund the effort.  And his corporate partners are raking it in: Companies from Pearson to Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify have made millions selling “new Common Core-aligned” products to schools (many of whom had to dispose of recently-purchased materials, at the expense of taxpayers), but that’s just the money part. Many more constitutional, fiscal, political, academic, and moral issues with Common Core have been extensively documented at the links below, not by those who merely echo talking points, but by those who have actually read the documentation, and/or were involved at the outset, but left due to the obvious cronyism and corruption. 

Thanks to Gates and his allies, we have an education "system" that has zero interest in local control, parental involvement, academic excellence, or innovation from the grassroots. “What about the children?” you may ask.  Kids are merely “human capital” according to Battelle for Kids, an Ohio-based think tank that received more than $25 million dollars from Gates to help "train" teachers in implementing Common Core. In its wake, this top-down, one-size-fits-all takeover of education has left students, parents, teachers and administrators overwhelmed by what amounts to a grand experiment on our kids.

How did we get here, and how do we find our way out of this swamp?

We must begin the process of restoring more control of education back to our local school districts, local superintendents and school boards. Ohio House Bill 212 is designed to do just that. Nicknamed “LARA” (Local Authority Restoration Act), the bill removes the burdensome bureaucratic requirements that strangle local districts such as the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, the Ohio Principal Evaluation System, and the Resident Educator Summative Assessment.  In fact, HB 212 gives local districts the option to keep Common Core or to opt out and instead select standards that have been [truly] proven as superior to the Common Core. Additionally, districts are given the option to utilize the Iowa norm-referenced (non-Common Core) Test or a new assessment aligned to the revised standards without penalty to parents, children, teachers, or schools. HB212 represents the best hope we have of reclaiming education from crony capitalists and bully bureaucrats at the state and federal level. If we can accomplish that, then parents stand a greater chance of seeing their values and priorities reflected in our schools. Many school districts have passed resolutions of support for HB212 (LARA) and the Ohio Farm Bureau just endorsed the bill’s goals. We encourage you to visit Ohioansforlocalcontrol.com and ohioansagainstcommoncore.com to learn more.

As we await the passage of HB212, we encourage you to opt your children out of the AIR tests that will be administered this fall. AIR replaced the PARCC tests that were eliminated by the recently passed biennial budget bill signed by Governor Kasich in early July. Ohio's testing problem has not been solved, but rather rebranded, and will only get worse under the guidance of AIR.

Recent state moves to take over the failing Youngstown schools and to doctor charter school evaluations have undermined any shred of credibility the Ohio Department of Education had. Reclaiming our power as parents and citizens is more urgent than ever. We encourage you to read and support Ohio House Bill 212, and to call upon your local school board, your state representative, and state senator to support it as well.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” ~Thomas Paine

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