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Public Education Partners: Year in Review 2020

What a busy year for public education advocacy in the Buckeye State!

There’s an “Ouch” in Every Voucher: Early in 2020, Public Education Partners (PEP) led a series of actions to push back against continued school voucher expansion in Ohio, which allows parents to use tax dollars for private and parochial schools through the EdChoice Program. The pro-privatization contingent in the Ohio legislature had widened the definition of a low-performing school to the point of absurdity, expanding the list of districts with “under-performing” schools from 40 in the fall of 2018 to 139 in 2019 and around 400 — nearly two-thirds of all districts in the state — by 2020.

Celebrate Public Education: In late January, Public Education Partners and the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding requested that all Ohioans consider joining state, county, city, and school district leaders across the state in officially recognizing January 26 – February 1, 2020 as PUBLIC EDUCATION WEEK in Ohio with official proclamations. The 3rd annual “CELEBRATE PUBLIC EDUCATION” event was presented in the Statehouse Atrium – it was a wonderful experience with talented, hard-working students and teachers sharing their music, drama, literature, poetry and videos “LIVE!” from all around our state.

Teamwork is Dreamwork: Following the lead of our contacts at the Wisconsin Public Education Network, PEP worked with friends of public education Senator Teresa Fedor and Rep. Phil Robinson in the spring to organize a formal request of Ohio’s Congressional Delegation to get Congress to increase the Education Stabilization Fund investment by $100 billion for K-12 education. Forty-four members of the Democratic caucus of the Ohio Legislature signed a letter calling on their U.S. Congress counterparts to bring more funding to the state’s public school districts in the next appropriations bill related to COVID-19.

Respect Science: In mid-summer, PEP wrote a position paper and had an op-ed published in the Columbus Dispatch concerning schools during the pandemic. PEP urged Ohio to embrace a statewide commitment to remote learning until the pandemic was brought under control, adding that the return to school buildings for on-site teaching and learning should be reassessed quarterly following science-based evaluations of the containment of the virus.

Oppose School Privatization: PEP teamed up with edu-blogger Jan Resseger to create the “Four Education Goals for Political Candidates,” which we sent to the Biden campaign and the Trump campaign. The goals included advocating for adequate and equitable school funding, opposing school privatization, pushing for the elimination of high-stakes standardized testing, and heeding the advice of experienced certified public school teachers.

Vouchers Hurt Ohio: Ohio’s traditional public school systems have seen state lawmakers drain $20 billion from their budgets over the years to support charter and private schools, and PEP Board member William Phillis, executive director for the Coalition for Equity & Adequacy in School Funding, said in mid-December that public school districts hired a Cleveland law firm to sue the state. The basis would be that Ohio’s elected officials are failing to meet their constitutional duty to fund a “thorough and adequate” system of public schools. Instead of setting up a system based on inequitable property taxes, state lawmakers and governors have robbed public schools in the name of school choice.

Ohio Kids Can’t Wait: The rest of 2020 was devoted to getting the Fair School Funding Plan (SB 376/HB 305) passed. The comprehensive efforts involved in the formulation of SB 376/HB 305 gave many legislators confidence that future legislatures could build on its framework. The Ohio House of Representatives passed the proposed new plan (HB 305) by a huge margin early in December, but the Ohio Senate Finance Committee didn’t even hold open hearings on the Senate’s companion bill, introduced as Senate Bill 376. PEP and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers hosted an event in Columbus called “How the Grinch Stole the Fair School Funding Plan from Ohio Children.” Public education advocates met in front of the Ohio Statehouse to deliver stockings filled with coal, failed report cards, and some holiday songs to Statehouse “Grinches” – highlighting how Ohio’s children have once again been failed by legislators in the Statehouse. A petition, asking that the current Fair School Funding Plan be reintroduced and passed in January 2021, already has well over 500 signatures. Please sign and share!

Public Education Partners looks forward to continuing to lead Ohioans to effectively advocate for public education in 2021!

How the Grinch Stole the Fair School Funding Plan from Ohio Children

The Grinch stole the Fair School Funding Plan (HB305/SB376) from Ohio children, their families, and local property taxpayers. OHIO KIDS CAN’T WAIT any longer for Fair School Funding!

Sign the CHANGE petition asking that the current Fair School Funding Plan be reintroduced and passed in January 2021.

Watch on Facebook Live as Public Ed Advocates meet at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday, 12/22/20, at 2pm to deliver bags of coal and legislative grade cards.

You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus. You’re as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch! You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders. You’ve got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Grinch! I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

Senator Matt Huffman, furthermore known as the Grinch, paid a visit to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee to help Senator Matt Dolan steal the Fair School Funding Plan (HB305/SB376) from public school children, families, and local taxpayers.

The Grinch hated public education! In all the 4 seasons!
Now, please don’t ask why. But we know the reasons

“State Sen. Matt Huffman, who is slated to become Ohio’s next Senate President, said Ohio won’t pass school funding reform this month. Instead, he expects the next legislature to tackle the problem in its first six months. While specifics of his own funding proposal have yet to be released, a sticking point may be changes to the state’s educational choice programs. As a long-time advocate of EdChoice vouchers, Huffman supports state dollars being made available for private schools, which he argues can be operated more cheaply because they lack union restrictions and state mandates.” (Josh Ellerbrock, Lima News)

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right

“HB 305 is the result of years of work and negotiations in the public education community. Sen. Matt Dolan, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the components of HB 305 need to be in the next state budget bill, which will be passed next year. ‘I remain hesitant to pass this,’ Dolan said. ‘There are still studies that need to be done.’ Sen. Dolan said that the years of work that people have devoted to improving upon the bill couldn’t be vetted by the Senate in a matter of weeks.” (Laura Hancock, Cleveland.com)

But we think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small

“The Ohio Senate is refusing even to consider a new school funding plan, developed over a period of several years to replace the old school funding system that has become progressively unworkable over the past decade. The Ohio House of Representatives passed the proposed new plan by a huge margin: 87-9. But the Ohio Senate Finance Committee has not even chosen to hold open hearings on its own companion bill, Senate Bill 376. The current biennial legislative session will end on December 31, and without consideration by the Ohio Senate and passage by that date, the Fair School Funding Plan will die.” (Jan Resseger, Education researcher/blogger)

The Grinch slid down the chimney, a rather tight pinch,
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch

All the kids’ stockings were hung in a row.
“These stockings,” he shouts, “are the next things to go!”
“Equity, Adequacy, and Residual Budgeting!
Formulas! Resources! ALL GONE!” he sings

“23 years ago the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the elementary and secondary schools of Ohio were neither thorough nor efficient and ordered a complete overhaul of the school funding system. Three years ago Representatives Cupp and Patterson, with the assistance of school superintendents, treasurers and other legislators, crafted a plan to actually respond to the March 24, 1997 court order. After extensive hearing, bill redrafting and more hearings, the Ohio House of Representatives passed the measure by an overwhelming majority. Now, a couple senators in key positions have a convenient response: ‘They are skeptical.’ This response is unconscionable.” (William L. Phillis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding)

As the Grinch took away SB 376 and then started to leave,
He felt a small tug at the end of his sleeve.
The child stared at the Grinch saying, “Santy Claus, why,
Why steal the Fair School Funding Plan? Why?

“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santa did chime,
“I’m doing this to give us more studies and more time.
Either you want us to get funding right or you don’t.
I can’t let you have it both ways. No, I won’t.

Denying the passage of Senate Bill 376 had nothing to do with giving the Senate “more time to study the Fair School Funding Plan.” That explanation was used to manipulate Ohioans into accepting this despicable action promoted by school privatization zealots.

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch. You’re a nasty-wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks. Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch! The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
“Stink, stank, stunk!” 

THANKS to Sen. Bob Cupp and Rep. John Patterson who convened local superintendents and treasurers to develop this fair school funding plan (HB305/SB376) from the ground up using feedback from other frontline educators!

Again, please sign the CHANGE petition asking that the current Fair School Funding Plan be reintroduced in January 2021.

Watch public education advocates on Facebook Live as they join together at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday, 12/22/20, at 2pm to give the Grinches bags of coal and legislative grade cards.



Written Testimony on Cupp/Patterson Fair School Funding Bill

Chairman Oelslager and members of the House Finance Committee, my name is William L. Phillis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of SB 376/HB 305. As a former teacher, principal, superintendent, assistant superintendent of public instruction and currently executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, I come before this panel in full support of the passage of the Cupp/Patterson Fair School Funding Plan before the end of this year. After it is implemented, it is probable that adjustments will be needed. In future years, changing needs will demand adjustments that could be substantial. The creation of the School Funding Oversight Commission inherent in the current version of the bill is an essential component as a means of recommending needed adjustments and upgrades to the legislature.

Simply stated, a school funding plan must be premised on the actual costs of the educational needs of students and societal expectations of students; hence, the actual cost of high quality educational opportunities, programs and services must be determined. Cupp/Patterson accomplishes these principles.

For far too long, school districts have been forced to provide as much educational programming as possible within the limits of a politically-established amount of school funds available. The Cupp/Patterson funding plan begins with a listing of the components of a quality education; hence, the program drives the level of funding. Historically, there has been a disconnect between the school funding level and the educational programming students need.

The ideal school funding plan would ensure that educational opportunities are quite similar in school districts across the state. While some variations in opportunities would exist due to size, typology and demographics of districts, students should be able to transfer from one district to another without a “shock” in education environment and rigor. Cupp/Patterson is destined to move the system in that direction.

Among the beneficial features of SB 376/HB 305 are:
· The components of a quality education are identified.
· The funding level is based on the cost of components identified.
· A rational basis for determining districts’ capacity to fund a quality education is inherent in the Plan.
· Removal of the two percent property tax millage floor for determining the local share is beneficial to low-wealth, low-income districts; thus a greater level of equity is created.
· Immediate increases in categorical aid for disadvantaged pupils to $422 per pupil is beneficial. Future studies will determine if that amount is sufficient.
· The School Funding Oversight Committee is an essential feature.
· Set aside for school bus purchase of $45 million annually is long overdue.
· Increased state support for the cost of student transportation is an asset.

The work groups have helped craft the Plan. I will leave it to others to provide other specifics. I believe SB 376/HB 305 is a rational plan and is a reasoned approach to respond to the Ohio Supreme Court’s decisions in DeRolph. When fully funded, the Plan will serve Ohio’s school district students in a fiscally and educationally responsible manner.

SB 376/HB 305 will be a great asset to future legislatures. Article VI §2 of the Ohio Constitution requires the state to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state. §3 of Article VI requires the state to provide for the organization, administration and control of the public school system supported by public funds. The protracted, professional efforts involved in the formulation of SB 376/HB 305 should give current legislators confidence that future legislatures can build on the framework being set forth. The heavy lifting has been accomplished. The school Funding Oversight Committee will be in a position to inform the legislative process in the future.

Future legislatures will not have to reinvent the wheel regarding the tedious task of determining the cost of K-12 education. Time available during the budget process is insufficient to effectively determine the funding framework. It took the Cupp/Patterson team of legislators and practitioners three years to do so. Hence, SB 376/HB 305 gives framers of the FY 22/FY 23 state budgets a head start.

The Ohio Constitution requires the state to give priority to the common school system. The framework established by SB 376/HB 305 will provide each General Assembly the roadmap to meet constitutional responsibility.

Significant attempts have been made in the past to perfect an appropriate school funding system. The first school foundation program, enacted in 1935, had a very positive impact on the common school system. The funds provided by the state increased from four percent of school revenue to 50 percent, but by the 1960s the state support had dwindled to 30 percent of the total spent on K-12 education. The state income tax, enacted in the early 1970s, boosted state support to above 45% of the total.

In 1976, the Ohio legislature, after a substantial study by school finance experts engaged by the legislature, adopted the Equal Yield school funding formula. Funding was phased-in beginning with a 17% increase over the previous year’s amount. By the time the formula was fully funded, most of the districts were on the guarantee; hence, the Equal Yield formula was ineffective due to underfunding.

The Equal Yield formula was not premised on the actual cost of a high quality education. It was not premised on the components of a quality education. It was based on a politically-arbitrary per student funding level. Cupp/Patterson is an entirely different approach. It is premised on the components of a quality education. It gives future legislatures a viable framework to meet the constitutional responsibility to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools.

It is imperative that this legislation be enacted before the 133rd General Assembly adjourns sine die. The momentum for passage is in the present. It would take a decade to mount the same level of support for another plan.

Passage this year is imperative.

~William L. Phillis
Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding

PEP Position: Reopening Ohio K-12 School Districts

 We are public education experts.

Public Education Partners (PEP) is a statewide, grassroots public education advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, protect, and strengthen Ohio’s public schools. Public Education Partners is an integral part of education policy deliberations through legislative consultation, Statehouse testimony, and community forums, among other actions. Over 90% of Ohio’s children attend public schools, and Ohio’s public-school system is the largest employer in the state.

The PEP Board is an entirely volunteer group comprised of: 

  • active and retired educators and administrators with a collective total of over 350 years of teaching experience in Ohio’s public schools’ urban, suburban and rural districts
  • public school board members
  • city council members
  • parents and grandparents of Ohio Public School students

PEP is a nonprofit organization that does not endorse political candidates. Public Education Partners has no paid members.

We believe district-sourced remote learning is warranted for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year across Ohio.

PEP believes that opening the school year with full-time remote learning, sourced within school districts, is the best approach to keeping children, school staff and their families safe from the public health crisis of coronavirus infection and spread.

As much as we know teachers miss face-to-face teaching and students miss their school communities and activities, PEP urges Ohio to embrace a statewide commitment to remote learning until the pandemic is brought under control. Returning to school buildings for on-site teaching and learning should be reassessed quarterly following science-based evaluations of the containment of the virus.

The recent rise in coronavirus cases in Ohio is cause for extreme caution. Subsequent to the gradual reopening of Ohio’s economy beginning in mid-May, coronavirus cases dropped 40% until mid-June; after June 21 the number of cases in Ohio has more than doubled through Sunday, July 19.

During the past four weeks, Ohio has recorded twelve of the fourteen highest daily case totals of the entire pandemic, including a record 1,679 cases Friday July 17, another 1,542 cases Saturday July 18, the third-highest number reported since March, and an additional 1,110 cases Sunday July 19.

Currently, more than 60% of Ohioans are living in counties declared a Level 3 Public Emergency: very high exposure and spread. Governor DeWine’s state orders for Level 3 counties call for limiting activities outside the home as much as possible and wearing face coverings inside all public buildings.

A full 36% of total cases throughout the four months of the pandemic have come in the past twenty-five days. The total number of confirmed and probable cases as of Sunday July 19 is 74,932. A record 9,555 Ohioans have been hospitalized, and 3,174 Ohioans have died of COVID-19.

While we all share the goal of returning to school buildings as soon as possible, experimenting with our children’s health and safety does not reflect a society where we put children first.

Given the rise in coronavirus cases, any full-time or “hybrid” plan to reopen school buildings for on-site teaching and learning puts the lives of Ohio’s children, teachers, administration, school staff, and their families at risk.

Our recommendations are rooted in Science.

School districts should reopen according to evidence-based research from scientists, public health experts, and educators. Because children’s welfare relies on schools’ decisions, neither political expediency nor profit motives should be given priority over science.

  • According to health experts, COVID-19 is a highly contagious, deadly disease and the role of children in the transmission of COVID-19 is currently unknown. Health experts fear it can cause potential lifelong damage in children and emphasize that the long-term consequences of coronavirus in children are unknown.
  • A troubling trend concerning children and the virus is the recent report that children in Florida are showing a 31.1 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 infections based on state testing data. Children in Florida are testing positive for the virus at a 20 percent higher rate than adults who have about an 11 percent positivity rate.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared that it was not confident that reopening schools in the middle of this public health crisis is the best option for children. This reversal of its earlier statement exemplifies the speed with which schools continue to receive vague and conflicting information from the medical and scientific communities.
  • This is a novel and evolving virus. There is emerging evidence that airborne transmission is a significant factor in the virus spread. Scientists continue to discover new symptoms, risk factors, and methods of virus transmission. The long-term effects of the disease to Covid-19 survivors are yet unknown.

Ohio is not ready to open schools.

PEP believes that in order for a county to safely reopen its school buildings, the coronavirus transmission rate needs to be scientifically demonstrated to be near zero. Our conviction is consistent with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and ongoing reports from Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) that the United States remains in the first of what will most likely be a series of viral waves.

In Ohio and most of the United States, there has been no flattening of the curve. The data cited above regarding these continuing spikes in infection rates in July is clear evidence the pandemic is not under control.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Vietnam, and Germany, have responsibly reopened schools but did so only after they flattened the curve and drastically reduced infection rates through rapid case identification, contact tracing, and isolation.

Our recommendations are rooted in our deep commitment to the role of public schools.

Always, our number one priority in public schools is to keep our school communities safe.

The reopening of schools must be primarily about the health and safety of the learning environment, for the sake of students, faculty, support staff, and their families.

Despite exhaustive efforts throughout the state and the country to safeguard a return to school,

  • there is currently no tenable plan for keeping children infection-free in our schools
  • there is currently no tenable plan for keeping adults infection-free in our schools

The realities of education budgets must be considered in any discussion about this pandemic.

State funding:

Ohio’s K-12 public school budget has been slashed by $330 million as an emergency measure to cope with Ohio’s collapsing economy. Financially strapped taxpayers are not able to make up the school funding shortfall with additional school levies bringing higher property taxes for homeowners. Schools would be challenged without a pandemic to make the reduced budget work—in the midst of this global pandemic, unprecedented help is needed.

Pandemic-related expenses:

Neither the state of Ohio nor the federal government has provided adequate resources for increased health and safety precautions in school buildings.

Similarly, increased technological needs necessitated by the pandemic and increased distance learning, such as internet infrastructure and personal computers for all students, have not been met.

School buildings with aging heating and cooling systems lack the filtration features that reduce viral transmissions, and windows that do not open properly to promote air circulation will further increase the chance of pandemic spread.

Following CDC recommendations of keeping schools clean and maintaining six-foot physical distances between people, even in makeshift fashion or reduced capacity, is unrealistic. However careful teachers are to facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, students are active social beings who are used to learning and playing close together.

Teacher and staff substitution potential:

Consider some basic facts about Ohio’s teaching workforce-

  • 25% of the teacher workforce is over the age of fifty, which by definition puts them at higher risk of suffering serious illness from Covid-19.
  • Most schools do not have full-time nurses in their buildings.
  • The anticipated medical exemptions for teachers who are immunocompromised or have high-risk health conditions will be significant in number.
  • A shortage of both long-term teachers and substitute teachers that pre-dates the pandemic will only make the infection rates and coverage of teacher absences more difficult for students.
  • Virus testing is neither universally reliable and timely, nor universally available in Ohio.
  • Already during the pandemic, mental health issues have escalated in a significant proportion of the population from anxiety and fear of exposure to the virus. The trauma associated with rapid unexpected change will be exacerbated by every known case of viral spread within schools.
  • The idea of quarantining entire groups of teachers and students upon the discovery of a confirmed case of Covid-19 is untenable, and such disruption compromises the effectiveness of on-site teaching and learning for everyone.

We categorically reject the idea that schools must reopen on behalf of the struggling economy.

PEP believes that federal mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States is the cause of the extreme economic upset that has ensued.  It is neither the schools’ responsibility, nor sound policy, to attempt to remedy the situation by reopening school buildings at high risk to the school communities. The health and safety of Ohio’s students, staff, and families must remain our top priority.


Ohio’s K-12 public school district communities share in the suffering caused by this coronavirus pandemic. Lives have been turned upside down, and the uncertainty of this evolving global crisis causes loss, disequilibrium, and anxiety. PEP believes that moving into the upcoming school year with calm and resolve is the best way to maximize the effectiveness of Ohio’s system of public education.

Public Education Partners continues to be an educational resource for school districts and local communities across Ohio. PEP proposes pooling our collective community resources to keep our public schools safe. Shared responsibility in creating a risk-free school reopening plan will allow us to emerge stronger together in our commitment to public education and the children and families we serve.
















The Reality of Returning to School During the Pandemic

(Photo from Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education)

A strong message from a public school teacher is gaining some traction on social media about returning to school in the fall.

Dan Greenberg made a post on Facebook to help parents understand the realities of what school officials are feeling to as they make plans to return to school in August:

Parents and Community Members –

I want to share some realities with you about school this Fall, because we are trying the best we can in a situation where WE CANNOT WIN, where we don’t have a good solution. Our circumstances are changing rapidly. Our resources are limited. Whatever your school district is doing PLEASE GIVE THEM SOME GRACE. PLEASE STOP TEARING THEM DOWN. PLEASE STOP BASHING THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Know that, if they do a rapid “about face,” they are doing so because they are trying to adapt and do the best they can for children.

Here are four things I’d like you to consider as you think about school reopening:

1. There is no good plan for school this Fall. Every plan has a significant downside. Every plan has serious obstacles. If there was a perfect plan, every school would adopt it. This does not stop school districts from exploring every option possible to make their plans as strong as possible. School district leaders, including administration, Board members and teachers are spending countless hours drafting and re-drafting plans to open school.

2. Plans will change drastically by the time school starts. The plans that sound decent right now, could sound terrible in four weeks. In mid-June, I felt pretty confident about what school would look like in August. Now, I feel completely different about things. The spread of Covid. The politics. The sentiments of community members. They have all changed. I guarantee they will change just as much by mid-August.

3. If we do go back to school in-person every day, I am preparing to be teaching remotely by mid-September. Just look at what is happening at restaurants. One person tests positive and the restaurants shut down (per Health Department policy) for cleaning and for people to quarantine. In schools, it is going to be just like this, if not worse. If one student tests positive, half the people in that school will be connected to that student. And if that student has siblings at another school… That is just one student. It is highly probable that a handful of cases could shut a whole district And it’s highly probable we will quickly have a handful of students who test positive for Covid.

** This is the case at private schools too. I guarantee you, if public schools have to shut down, the private schools will be doing the same thing at the same time. **

4. Splitting classes and having students report every other day helps, but it just delays the inevitable. You know who will still be at school every day? The teachers and other staff members. If half the staff has to quarantine, who is instructing the students? Subs? We never function with half of our staff being absent. We don’t have enough subs for that.

Thanks for your consideration and for your support.

~Dan Greenberg, English teacher, Southview High School, Sylvania City School District

Greenberg is also the president of the Sylvania Education Association.

“We find ourselves, no matter which path we take, coming up with road blocks, significant impediments to one plan or another and things that are going to make it a less than perfect plan,” Greenberg said.

He said he made the Facebook post after feeling the impacts of parent’s frustration as schools begin releasing plans to reopen. He stressed that teachers and leaders are preparing everyday, but the reality is they don’t entirely know what to be prepared for.

He calls this a “no-win” situation. That’s because the circumstances are always changing and area schools have limited resources.

He said have patience, this is the first time they’ve had to create a reopening plan.

Commentary from a Teacher Regarding the Reopening of Schools

Thoughtful Twitter feed from an Ohio public school teacher… who also happens to be a city mayor:

A lot of back and forth has happened regarding opening schools, but I’m not sure people realize what a full reopening would actually look like at the High School level.

At the High School where I teach, we have an average class size of around 25 students. The classes are arranged so each student is sitting about 1.5 feet away from each other.

Over the course of a school day, each teacher instructs during 6 bells. 6 bells x 25 students = 150 students over the course of a day in a setting that is not socially distanced.

Good instruction and classroom management requires the teacher to circulate the classroom to help and provide feedback to each individual student.

Some claim that masks will help. Those people have clearly never had to enforce a school dress code.

I want to be back in the classroom as much as anyone else, and I absolutely want my own children back at school, but a full reopening is not safe for anyone involved.

School boards are being asked to weigh the mental health of students v the physical health of students, their families, and their staff.

This is an impossible task and I applaud the boards who are getting creative to find solutions that won’t make anyone happy.

What school boards, teachers, and most importantly STUDENTS don’t need right now is politicians who have never taught one minute in the classroom asserting their agendas into this already difficult situation.

Even worse is the business community valuing their bottom dollar over the health and safety of the children and staff of our schools.

My district tried to bring sports conditioning back and already had to shut that down because of an active case of Covid. Do these politicians not realize this will happen on day 1 of school this year?

We need to formulate plans assuming that Covid-positive students are going to walk in the door on the first day, many of them asymptomatic. We need reopening plans with less students in each classroom so that they will be socially distanced from each other and their teachers.

If politicians want to help, then they need to be securing public spaces such as libraries, community centers, churches, etc., that can house classes so that students can spread out.

They also need to secure funding to hire paraprofessionals to help monitor students in these auxiliary classrooms as they complete virtual assignments.

Until then, I don’t want to hear another politician or business leader tell the schools to reopen.

I’m in the unique position of being a Mayor and teacher. I’m sure I won’t be 100% happy with the decision my employer makes but I won’t use my political bully pulpit to attack them.

I’m extremely disappointed in my fellow electeds who are making the situation worse.

~James Wolf, Social Studies Teacher at Mt. Healthy High School and Mayor of Mount Healthy, Ohio

Ask Congress to Increase Education Funding

THREE CHEERS for the Wisconsin senators and representatives who sent a letter to their Congressional Delegation asking them to support and approve new funding for local school systems in the next COVID-19 supplemental appropriations bill.

Wisconsin State Representative Sondy Pope, the ranking member of the Assembly Committee on Education, stated, “While the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to so many facets of our lives, we cannot waver in our commitment to providing quality public education to our citizens. If approved, these federal funds will alleviate some of the hardships local school districts are likely to endure. The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated, the sooner we take steps to address the projected revenue shortfalls, the better equipped district administrators will be to provide the education that our students deserve. Thank you to all the legislators who signed on to support a substantial investment in the academic and economic future of our state and country.”

In May, Ohio edu-blogger Jan Resseger sent Public Education Partners a copy of that letter and suggested that PEP should help facilitate something like it in Ohio. William Phillis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, agreed that it would be very meaningful if Ohio legislators would make a similar request to its Congressional delegates.

Resseger originally received the letter in an email from Wisconsin Public Education Network, and WPEN’s executive director Heather DuBois Bournenane provided detailed background information about the letter. Bournenane mentioned that her public education network hopes that many other states will follow suit.

Avid friend of public education Senator Teresa Fedor decided to help organize a similar formal request of Ohio’s Congressional Delegation. Sen. Fedor moved the initiative forward in the Ohio Senate and Representative Phil Robinson reinforced the effort with the Ohio House, and 44 members of the Democratic caucus of the Ohio Legislature signed a letter calling on their U.S. Congress counterparts to bring more funding to the state’s public school districts in the next appropriations bill related to COVID-19.

According to the Ohio Capital Journal, the state legislators mentioned the $775 million budget cuts Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said were required to compensate for coronavirus losses, which included $300 million in public schools, $55 million in line item cuts, and $110 million coming from colleges and universities. $76 million of that cut comes from an across-the-board 3.8% cut to the state share of instruction.

The letter asked that Congress increase the Education Stabilization Fund investment by $100 billion for K-12 education. In March, $2 trillion in federal CARES Act funding was signed into law, with $30.75 billion for the stabilization fund.

“These funds need to be accountable, but as flexible as possible, so each district and community can fill budget holes, continue to provide services, and expand them based on their unique needs during these challenging times,” the legislators wrote in the letter.

Comprehensive services will be needed as in-person learning becomes a possibility in the state, as well, legislators said. With that in mind, additional funds are needed for Title I and students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for summer school and after-school programs.

Jan Resseger posted a column on her education blog thanking the members of the Democratic Caucus of the Ohio Legislature for reaching out to members of the Ohio Congressional delegation on behalf of urgently needed additional federal COVID-19 relief funding for our state’s public schools.

Public Education Partners joins Wisconsin Public Education Network to strongly encourage other state legislatures to consider sending letters to Congress with the same message.

Our nation’s public school districts will continue to experience a tremendous loss in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there will likely be massive funding freezes in the second year of the fiscal biennium. These shortfalls will be devastating to public schools without appropriate federal aid.

Community Learning Centers Will Help Ohio School Districts

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine announced $355 million in budget cuts for K-12 education for the last two months of this fiscal year. While these cuts are mitigated by federal funds under the CARES Act, the majority of Ohio school districts will lose funding overall. The public education community is bracing ourselves for even deeper cuts next year, with no guarantee of further federal support. School districts may be forced to cut spending on teachers, staff, equipment, and other needs.

At the same time, our students’ academic, emotional, and physical needs are greater than ever due to the challenges of remote learning and remote delivery of services that were previously received at school. Our students are dealing with increased stress, trauma, and grief due to the pandemic. And because our communities have a disparate level of access to technology, some of our students are struggling more and receiving less support than their peers elsewhere in the state.

Our schools will need to leverage all resources that are available to them — from within their district, from local, state, and federal government, and from community partners — to meet the needs of our students and effectively do more with less.

There is already a proven model for doing this: Community Learning Centers. The Community Learning Center model is built on the principle that public schools are natural neighborhood hubs of educational, cultural, and health resources. Each Community Learning Center is both a place, and a set of partnerships and relationships that provide resources and services based on the assets and needs of each school community.

We don’t have to travel far to find a great example of this model. Cincinnati Public Schools have been better prepared to deal with the COVID-19 public health emergency and school closures because of the Community Learning Center model within their school district.

Through school-based health centers and tele-health services, online early childhood instruction, food pantries filled with donations from community and business partnerships, free Wi-Fi hot spots, legal aid, and more, the Community Learning Center model has given CPS students and families the resources they need to get through this crisis together.

Roberts Academy, a pre-K through 8th grade school in Cincinnati, educates more than 800 students, the majority of whom are immigrants or refugees. Their school building may be closed but the Community Learning Center team is working seven days a week. Tracy Power, a Resource Coordinator with the Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI), organizes Roberts’ many public and non-profit partnerships that make up their community learning center. Power leads a team of partners, volunteers, and teachers that has called each of the school’s families to check in, identify needs, and connect kids and families with services and programming.

At Roberts’ school-based health center, which serves the community in addition to the school, Nicole DeGreg from the Cincinnati Health Department is providing medical care on-site and offering tele-medicine services. Early childhood learning continues remotely, led by Maria Rivera from Learning Grove, a non-profit partner, as does enrichment, led by Kerissa Hicks from CLCI. Attorney Julie Leftwich, who heads the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center at Roberts, is still providing services to the school’s families. Welcome Center director Antonio Fernandez from CLCI works closely with Carlos Guzman, community coordinator with CPS, to stay engaged with families, identify needs, and connect people with needed services.

Despite working for different organizations, this group meets weekly and operates as one team, united by the Community Learning Center model.

Though they don’t all provide the same services, Roberts is just one of dozens of community learning centers in Cincinnati, and their health center is just one of 25 school-based health centers throughout the city. Even as school buildings have closed, some school-based health centers have remained open, moving many services to tele-health.

Community Learning Centers are not for crises only. They are how we should structure education even in the best of times. This model deals with the everyday, real life that is in our schools. Because Cincinnati already has the structure and relationships in place, they were able to quickly respond in an emergency situation.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers has been supporting the growth of the Community Learning Center model across Ohio, because we know that a long-term commitment to community learning centers boosts student achievement, closes racial and economic achievement gaps, and leads to better attendance and disciplinary outcomes. In partnership with the Ohio School Boards Association and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, we are building a statewide learning network of school districts and communities across the state exploring and implementing the CLC model.

School districts need to be able to make the investment in the Community Learning Center model to be able to form these partnerships and provide benefits to students and their families.

A starting point for expanding community learning centers would be to provide funding for a community engagement process in every district, and resource coordinators at every school, who would build and maintain partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits.

Harnessing those resources can help our schools and our communities weather this storm. And maintaining those partnerships, even when not in crisis, will help students overcome barriers to learning.

Now more than ever, we need to break down the walls between organizations and sectors, and work collaboratively to take care of one another and solve problems together. The pandemic has brought people together, and collaboration and cooperation in this moment can build the foundation for the CLC model in the future.

This article by Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), was first published by the Ohio Capital Journal, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to connecting Ohioans to their state government and its impact on their lives.

Community learning centers will help school districts cope with COVID-19 disruption

Actions Against EdChoice School Voucher Expansion

Ohio’s school voucher expansion language was quietly slipped into the budget bill this past summer and signed into law, and according to the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio legislature widened the definition of a low-performing school to the point of absurdity, expanding the list of districts with “under-performing” schools from 40 in the fall of 2018 to 139 in 2019 and around 400 — nearly two-thirds of all districts in the state — by 2020.

Tom Dunn, a retired school superintendent, posted a newspaper column entitled “Lies, Lies, and More Lies:” Ohio politicians continue to expand school choice options to allow parents to use tax dollars to attend private schools. This has been done through the Education Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program.

The Ohio Department of Education web  site claims that EdChoice “provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools.”

The problem with this justification is that it isn’t true. The criteria for “underperforming” is written in such a way that even the highest performing public schools can be defined as such. In other words, the law allows parents to use tax dollars to fund their children’s private school education while “escaping” very high performing schools. 

Dunn went on to point out that when their scam was exposed, our elected leaders followed the normal, hypocritical political script by demonstrating faux consternation and surprise. Many of them proclaimed that it is “crazy” that high performing schools are being “dinged” by the very law they passed.

It appears that consensus is building in Columbus to find a “fix” for Ohio’s massive increase in tax-funded tuition vouchers for parochial and private schools, and one senator, who is a leading supporter of vouchers, says he has a few proposals to “probably resolve most of the current angst.”

We cannot trust that any “quick fix” to this extreme school voucher policy will result in anything other than a slightly less extreme school voucher policy.

The EdChoice application process opens on February 1st, so public education advocates only have a few weeks to share concerns with Ohio leaders who allowed this extreme legislation to move forward.

Some ideas found below are meant to inspire and/or guide advocacy efforts.

SHARE photos and other posts on all social media platforms. Tag your state rep, senator, the governor, education organization, etc. Tag PEP @OhioPEP (Twitter & Facebook), so PEP can amplify your efforts. Suggested Hashtags: #RejectSchoolVouchers #OUCHineveryVOUCHER

SPREAD THE WORD. Use the energy and momentum of this month to educate others in your school district. Plan an informal get-together to encourage people to participate in these actions. Use this report and this article for background information, and then empower citizens and community leaders to push back against school voucher policies that benefit a small number of families at the expense of the majority of Ohio families that choose our public school districts.

  • Help host public-information sessions in your school district about the negative local impact of the upcoming expansion to Ohio’s Educational Choice (EdChoice) Scholarship. Local BOE/union collaboration on this event would be powerful. Contact your community newspaper and news stations, and invite them to cover the event. Here’s a great example.
  • Call and/or send an email message to your elected state leaders, and ask them to reject the expansion of EdChoice school vouchers that passed without public scrutiny.  Use OSBA “Talking Points for Legislators” found here.
  • Call the governor often (614-466-3555) and tell him to repeal, not “fix,” Ohio’s school voucher expansion that was covertly added to the recent state budget.
  • Email Gov. DeWine and remind him that allowing the egregious school voucher expansion to diminish school district funding and resources is wrong. If the Ohio legislature wants to expand the EdChoice voucher program, its members must use separate state funds to pay for it.
  • Make signs/banners to use for photos. (There’s an OUCH in every vOUCHer, Repeal EdChoice Expansion, School Vouchers Hurt Families that Choose Public School Districts, etc.) Have your children make signs as well – get kids involved. Their voices matter!
  • Holding your sign, take a selfie at home or at some interesting landmark: district legislator’s office, local school, school board office, library, park, community center, sporting event… the possibilities are endless. Have fun, invite others to join you, and post on social media.
  • Take action here and here against the extreme expansion of EdChoice vouchers.
  • Using the OSBA Talking Points for Community, write a letter to the editor or an op-ed for your local paper sharing some reasons why you are against school vouchers being funded through our public school districts.
  • Encourage your city council members and business community leaders to research the impact of school vouchers on the community. Encourage them to call the governor at 614-466-3555 to remind him to respect local control by not approving education legislation before it’s been properly vetted by both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly according to the rules established by the Ohio Constitution. Destructive school privatization policies are BAD for families and BAD for local businesses and communities.
  • Encourage your local school board to pass a formal resolution rejecting the school voucher expansion in the biennial budget – signed resolutions should be forwarded to Gov. DeWine, the Ohio General Assembly, and the media. Post on social media as well. Template can be found here.
  • Talk with area realtors, and give them an overview of how using our flawed report card to facilitate school voucher expansion is a form of redlining that negatively affects real estate sales. Ask them to share that information with your district’s state leaders.

We are many. There is power in our numbers. Together we will save PUBLIC EDUCATION.
~Diane Ravitch

Oppose the Expansion of EDCHOICE VOUCHERS

Ohio School District Board Members: PLEASE pass RESOLUTIONS opposing the expansion of EDCHOICE VOUCHERS by the Ohio General Assembly, and then publicize them extensively in the media. Signed resolutions should be forwarded to Gov. DeWine, the Ohio General Assembly education leaders, and local reporters and news directors.

Model language provided below:

WHEREAS, with no testimony, no prior notice, and little explanation, the Ohio General Assembly added last-minute amendments regarding the expansion of EdChoice Vouchers before approving HB 166, the State’s biennium budget; and

WHEREAS, EdChoice Vouchers are now available to every K-12 student in Ohio, regardless of grade level and whether the child has ever attended a public school; and

WHEREAS, eighteen months ago, 30 Ohio districts had schools designated for EdChoice, five percent of the total number of districts across the state, but now, 70 percent of districts in Ohio have schools designated for EdChoice; and

WHEREAS, much of the data used to make the new EdChoice determination is five or six years old and comes from assessments the state no longer uses or is considering changing; and

WHEREAS, elected officials in Columbus froze public school budgets in the new budget bill and, at the same time, took money away from public schools by significantly and substantially increasing the numbers of students eligible to receive EdChoice vouchers, placing many school districts on the brink of financial emergency and uncertainty; and

WHEREAS, EdChoice imposes unfair burdens on local taxpayers who should not have to carry the millstone of the state’s efforts to subsidize private and parochial schools; and

WHEREAS, the legislative machinations used to pass the EdChoice expansion suggest a deliberate choice to undermine public schools and to shut out the voices of local communities;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we demand immediate financial relief be provided to districts disproportionately impacted by EdChoice vouchers; that the state not deduct EdChoice Scholarship payments from school district funds and should directly pay for some or all of the new vouchers added to the program this year; that a cap be placed on the amount of money that can be deducted from a district in any given year; and that the EdChoice program be reined in so that it makes more sense for students, families, and taxpayers, without decimating public school districts;

THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the (public school district) Board of Education urges all lawmakers in the State of Ohio to refrain from approving any new legislation, or attaching any version thereof, before the original legislation has been properly vetted and heard by both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly, according to rules established by the Ohio Constitution.

Check out the Westerville City Schools Board of Education’s Resolution opposing EdChoice Vouchers. District officials will also hold a public information session to explain the negative impact of EdChoice expansion at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 6, 2020, at the district’s Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Dr., Westerville.