Saturday, February 16, 2008

Editorial from Cleveland Plain Dealer

Editorial: Changes atop Ohio's K-12 education bureaucracy probably wouldn't hurt
Friday, February 15, 2008

Posted by the editors at post_riposte/ on 02/11/2008 at 5:15 p.m.

Gov. Ted Strickland didn't put it this bluntly in his State of the State speech, but it's clear he wants to junk the State Board of Education and the state superintendent.

That's fine with us - with a few caveats.

Strickland's plan would turn state Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman and the board into advisers. A K-12 education czar would report directly to Strickland, in an arrangement similar to the job held by Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of higher education.

Under the governor's proposal, decisions to reform K-12 education would ultimately be his responsibility - and everybody would know it.

Zelman isn't eager to take a back seat to a new Cabinet member. And her annual salary of $217,000 seems a little pricey for an adviser. If the legislature goes along with Strickland's plan, Zelman's position should be eliminated.

As for the state board, half the members already are appointed by the governor, and even the ones elected by the voters are just about anonymous.

Their lack of accountability has been evident from the board's stumbling on several key educational issues. Members have been slow, for instance, to make the Department of Education divulge information about teachers who abuse youngsters - something that is of great concern, especially to parents.

But if all of Ohio's education decisions were left to this governor, parents might find they have new concerns.

In an effort to appease supporters in organized labor, Strickland has adopted inflexible and wrongheaded positions on charter schools and school vouchers. He wants a moratorium on new charters, a ban on for-profit charters and restrictions established so the school voucher program cannot spread beyond Cleveland.

The governor's ideas in the area of school choice are nothing short of awful. Choice is a concept that has been far from perfect in its implementation, but families deserve educational options. Strickland and his aides should shut down charter schools that fail, but they should reward the ones that succeed.

Strickland could change the administrative structure of education in Ohio without doing any damage. But the General Assembly would have to keep a close watch on how such changes affect education policy and use its powers to ensure that parents, children and taxpayers are well served.

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