Column: How Gov. DeWine should truly thank teachers
Posted Mar 12, 2019 at 4:15 AM
After eight years of, at best, benign neglect, it was a pleasure to hear the governor of Ohio speak kindly of teachers. In his first State of the State address, Gov. Mike DeWine paused in his prepared remarks “to thank all the teachers of Ohio.” The line even garnered applause from legislators who seem not to have noticed who does all the heavy lifting when it comes to the education of our state’s children.
Since actions speak louder than words, here are some suggestions on what DeWine could do now.
As the governor’s party holds all statewide offices, both houses of the legislature and a majority on the Ohio Supreme Court, he could help the General Assembly carry out its constitutional duty to fund a “thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.”
The team of Reps. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, has come forward with a bipartisan proposal for a new way of funding our schools. While not perfect, it provides a starting point for getting at the core issues of equity, funding tied to genuine programming needs and reducing the reliance on property tax. DeWine should work with them to push this proposal into law.
The next item to take on is the over-testing of our children. Again and again it has been pointed out that these tests have never been linked to anything — not success in college, success on the job or even the ability to write a letter to the editor. But we keep on giving them and measuring the success of schools based on the results.
In his campaign, the governor called for reducing the number of tests. Ohio students take nearly two dozen more than are required in federal law.
Virtually all of them could be eliminated. A state Board of Education task force is calling for reducing high-school tests and replacing them with performance standards such as major projects and portfolios. DeWine needs to be a champion of these reforms.
Social and emotional learning received a shout-out in the State of the State speech. This refers to helping students develop the skills that make them successful in life in general — skills such as reflective thinking, teamwork, public engagement and often simply doing the right thing.
For decades, employers have been calling for such a focus on what are often called “soft skills,” knowing they make all the difference in the workplace. If the governor means what he says when he calls for “a much-needed focus on social-emotional learning,” his budget should reflect increased funding for such programs in public schools. That includes adequate counseling and guidance services for all school children.
Finally, the governor talked about the value of home-visitation programs for Ohio’s youngest residents — those from birth through age 5. In my school district, we agree. In fact, utilizing our own funds for the past seven years, we have carried out exactly such a program. An outreach teacher goes to the homes of preschool children, taking books, educational games, parent information and school-themed gifts (love those Federal Hocking Lancer onesies!) to families.
On their birthdays, children get a visit from the outreach worker with more learning materials and resources. Between visits we keep in touch with families about resources and opportunities via text and email. During the summer our mobile food bus, a free grocery-shopping experience with fresh produce and shelf-stable foods, heads out to these, and all district families, to provide an oft-needed supplement to their food budget.
We do this on our own, without help from the state, because we know it improves the chances of children in our community to live healthy, productive lives and come to school ready to learn. There is no need for the state to invent new programs here. Rather, the governor should direct funding to programs like ours and incentivize other school districts to start similar home-visit programs.
Saying thanks is nice; in fact, it was more than nice to be recognized.
I hope the governor follows up that thank you note with some action.
By the way, Gov. DeWine: You’re welcome.
George Wood is the superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools in Stewart, Ohio.