The Post, 8/9/2011

A large part of my job as a legislator is to ensure that whatever action we take at the Statehouse translates into a better future for the people of Ohio. Helping to get our state's economy moving again has been a main focus in this regard, and I have always held the view that to help the economy at its earliest stages, we have to invest in the education of our young people.

In Medina County, we are blessed to have some excellent schools, but the truth is that many schools throughout Ohio are in need of assistance. That's why the Ohio House has been finding ways to help our schools since the start of this General Assembly.

We began by relieving the schools of some of the unfunded or underfunded mandates that were placed on them by the previous General Assembly. Believing that it's unfair to force additional financial burdens on them at a time when they can least afford it, we relieved schools of the heavy-handed mandates while recognizing they should strive to implement reforms that will help the students. Requiring all-day, every-day kindergarten is a terrific example of this. It is a great idea that is encouraged in districts that can afford it, but we also recognize that it is not feasible for all districts.

The same goes for calamity days, where we were able to restore the original five days allowed for school districts with hazardous weather conditions from the three days that the previous General Assembly had dropped it down to. This legislation empowers those closest to home to make decisions on behalf of their community. Meanwhile, those in low-income communities, especially with urban and rural public schools, can benefit from the Teach For America program that the Ohio House voted to allow in our state for the first time. This means recent college graduates who were at the top of their class can come in to these schools and find new, innovative ways of connecting with the students.

Teaching is one of the most important professions in the 21st century, which highlights the fact that our schools need financial support in order for the students to be successful. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring that teachers are not being measured by their longevity alone, but on the quality of their instruction as well. By re-working the relationship between government unions and their employers through Senate Bill 5, this General Assembly is helping to ensure that vital taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently, helping school districts to avoid the mass layoffs and reductions in services that they would see without such reforms.

We further pushed to help education as we crafted the state operating budget for the next two fiscal years. This meant ensuring that all school districts would receive at least what they received in state aid last year. While this is a difficult area because of the lack of federal one-time money that the previous General Assembly relied on for ongoing expenses, we made every effort to increase funding at the state level and succeeded. Meanwhile, we've allowed for more flexibility and more school choice for Ohioans.

Our actions in the budget regarding education further stretch into areas such as making sure teachers are paid according to their performance and even capping annual college tuition increases at 3.5 percent. But what's important is that the Ohio House is responding to the needs of the constituents it represents. One by one, we are passing pieces of legislation that will put Ohio's children in a better position to be successful and contribute to the economic well-being of our state down the road.


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