I recently had the opportunity to visit and tour Malabar Intermediate School in Mansfield.  I appreciated having the chance to talk with Principal Andrew Moyer and Assistant Principal Tom Hager.

The experience was both educational and eye-opening for all parties. As was covered by this newspaper earlier, our conversation centered primarily on how school administrators can respond to kids with challenging home lives and how to prepare them for success. No two schools or families are the same, but through an open and continued dialogue, I believe effective solutions can be found that will make a lasting difference for these children.

Following my visit to Malabar, and the corresponding news story which covered it, I have received
questions from constituents asking about my takeaways and for further clarification. A letter to the editor submitted by Paul Robinson alluded to some comments I made about the direction our state is going in the Medicaid program.

To be clear, I do not want these children or their families to not have health insurance or to suddenly be uncovered. In fact, earlier this year I made the recommendation to keep the Bureau of Children with Medical Handicaps within the Ohio Department of Health to ensure that children and families facing severe health conditions and steep medical costs would continue to be covered.

For many families, Medicaid is the only source of coverage. But our state’s Medicaid program has done nothing but grow ever since its creation decades ago, and, today, more than three million Ohioans are on the program. At some point, this trend must be reversed in order for Medicaid to remain solvent. Additionally, merely putting someone into a government program like Medicaid and expecting that to be the solution is not a direction that will yield positive results in the long run.

Instead, families, elected officials and school administrators should continually seek to give these parents and children a pathway to get up and off of assistance. A significant component of this is to combat our state’s crippling opioid and heroin addiction epidemic, a problem that has effected every community around the state. As I learned during my visit to Malabar, for example, a fourth grader went home after school one day and found her mother overdosing on heroin.

Just imagine the terror and feelings of helplessness that a fourth grader would feel upon experiencing such a sight. The drug problem must be solved. This month, I voted to invest nearly $171 million in combating drug abuse in the House’s budget bill, with a substantial portion of it going to the local level.

Finally, we also discussed the topic of school vouchers. I have long been supportive of the school voucher system because it significantly expands educational options for families and students. Because some students find it difficult to learn in the traditional school setting, vouchers allow parents the freedom to explore other options. Just like having an abundance of choices is beneficial in the marketplace for goods and services, so, too, can it be when it comes to education.

Again, I sincerely want to thank Principal Moyer and Assistant Principal Hager for welcoming me into their school. I also want to thank the constituents who have reached out to me and offered their ideas and questions. None of these issues have simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. Therefore, it is critical that all ideas have the opportunity to be heard and discussed.

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