Ohio’s school system is in a decline compared to schools nationwide according to the Democratic candidate for governor. Richard Cordray’s plan to fix that includes more accountability and support for student services.
Cordray says he wants to expand wraparound services for Ohio’s schools. This creates a range of support for students, from mental health services to dental care. He says today’s students need to be connected to a network of care that he says will make them healthier and better equipped to learn.
“It means that the services will be provided right there at the school where we know the students are going to be, day in and day out, as opposed to the families bearing all the burdens of the logistics and the organization and the transportation and all to get those kinds of services," Cordray said. "What often happens is the services falls through the cracks and the kids don’t get served.”
Cordray says Ohio is starting to lag behind the nation when it comes to education and something needs to change. The national report card from Education Week, an education news organization, once ranked Ohio as 5th in the nation. But its latest evaluation put the state at 21.
“We owe this decline in part to state lawmakers funneling resources away from our public schools, weakening our public schools," Cordray said. "And overregulating the classroom in ways that make it harder for teachers to teach students in the ways they were trained to do.”
Cordray, who's a former Ohio Attorney General, has made charter school accountability a top issue in his campaign. He’s consistently hit his Republican opponent Mike DeWine for his record on ECOT, the now-closed online charter school. ECOT overbilled the state for students it didn’t have, owing the state more than $80 million in return.
Cordray says DeWine, Ohio’s current attorney general, could have done more to keep the e-school accountable years ago.
“We have been failed dismally over the past eight years by a lack of accountability over failing charter schools in Ohio," he said. "For profit charter schools were responsible for one of the worst scandals in our state’s history.
His plan is to ban any for-profit companies from operating schools.
“Our schools are not businesses and our children are not customers but those involved in the ECOT scandal put profit above our students’ needs,” Cordray said.
DeWine has defended his actions on ECOT, explaining he's helping the state recover money by appointing special counsel to the case. He’s also recently filed civil action against ECOT founder and prominent GOP donor Bill Lager. DeWine counters that Cordray had his chance to take on ECOT when his opponent was attorney general.
“I’m the only one who’s actually in fact taken action on behalf of the state department of education,” DeWine said.
Cordray’s plan also includes funding transparency, a reversal of Ohio’s school takeover laws and reduced standardized tests.
“For too long Ohio’s schools have been obsessively focused on test scores rather than real education. We are one of just 12 states, just 12 out of the 50 with high stakes testing requirements for high school graduation," he said. "Over-testing, together with inadequate funding have narrowed school curriculum and narrowed many other meaningful ways to engage students.”
DeWine rolled out his education plan last week. He included an accountability measure for the online charter schools, saying the state should change its funding to a pay-for-performance model.
“What we need to demand from the people who are running these schools is accountability and accountability means they don’t get paid until we find out what that child has learned,” DeWine said.
Aside from also wanting less standardized testing, DeWine’s plan includes an emphasis on vocational training and expanding access to technology.