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School Issues: A Letter from Mike Wiles

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott School Issues: A Letter from Mike Wiles
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Editorial note: This week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 167. Assuming passage in the senate, the bill will put a school levy on the November ballot for Columbus voters. School Board Member, Mike Wiles, has a few words to say about the contents of the legislation, education reform and the press coverage surrounding it. It’s 1,000 words worth reading:

The Dispatch editorial of May 26, 2013 should have been titled “Easy vote for lawmakers, Tuff Break for Columbus City Voters”.

Granted it won’t cost the state anything but it could cost the Columbus City Schools taxpayers plenty; millions in new tax dollars to pay for it all.

I wouldn’t call 25-30 select people sitting on a committee (Columbus Education Commission) the “broadest possible community support”, especially considering many don’t live in the school district or have children in our schools.

The “aims” may be to give parents more “good schools” from which to choose and district accountability but I see it doing neither. It does add yet another layer or two of bureaucracy while funding more schools in already over-burdened tax base. The voters already have a way to hold the board and district management accountable; the Voting Booth. Every two years board members are on the ballot; every four years or so a Levy / Bond issue is proposed, voters can then hold them (us) accountable. Sadly, many do not!

This legislation maybe risk-free to state lawmakers but not to Columbus City Schools’ Parents, Students, and neighborhoods that will watch their schools endure a long, painful process before any change comes (if it ever does).

No this Bill does NOTHING to improve Math, Reading, Science, or Citizenship Scores. NOTHING to add enrichment courses or fix declining enrollments. NOTHING to improve safety or discipline issue. NOTHING to shrink achievement gaps. NOTHING to deal with the copious non-academic barriers present, nor the plethora of other issues plaguing in our schools. In short this Bill does NOTHING needed in Columbus CITY Schools.

The really sad part is we have a great opportunity to actually facilitate meaningful long-lasting reforms and we will blow it by treating the symptoms and never addressing the real problems!

These reforms totally miss the mark asked for at the numerous public forums. I don’t recall any of what’s being proposed by the commission being suggested by anyone. They did ask for more accountability and better schools but this does neither.

The Columbus Education Commission missed many “key stakeholder groups” on its panel not the least of which was PARENTS, students, Civic Association Representative and Area Commissioners, Principals and actual classroom teachers, Bus Drivers, Custodians, School Secretaries, Instructional Assistants, etc. Yes, their union leadership was there for the latter but many rank-and-file members could have provided much deeper insight on what needs to be fixed and changed (as would a few other board members; trust me, the school board rep on that panel didn’t represent my views).

A “New Independent Auditor Position” would only add more layers of bureaucracy to an already bloated government, cost millions in operating cost while displacing the very Internal Auditing Department that arguably was the only group that did what was needed during this whole scandal. A New Independent Auditor does little if anything to provide “Checks and Balances”. No our current Internal Auditor could (and has) provided the same; IF the BOARD would expand the department as she has requested and IF the BOARD shows some BACKBONE to guarantee her independency. So the problem is with the BOARD not the Office of Internal Auditor but the Bill doesn’t address that issue or provide for “RECALL” language that would give the voters even more direct ways to force accountability.

Adding a “TAX LEVY” to support high performing (charter) schools just means: 1) The VOTERS of CCS will now be ask to fund two separate school systems. 2) Will further partition off the City of Columbus from the Columbus City Schools. 3) Do NOTHING to improve Columbus City Schools. 4) Do something the current administration has already proposed except their version was intended to improve CCS not fund new ones, and 5) Continue to erode Neighborhood Schools.

The support of the Columbus Education Commission Recommendations are not surprising to me, disappointing to be sure. Since they were only ones offered and again has little to do with all the input and information garnered during its tenure. Where is anything about Parent Accountability for their children’s attendance or homework completed or that they attend Parent / Teacher Conferences or the many other areas parents control? Where is anything about allowing Principals more autonomy running their buildings or on hiring/firing staff or establishing effective academic pathways? Where is anything about improving Safety, Discipline, curriculum or setting high expectation for students or any of the 100’s of other things the experts presented or the community asked for?

As for Board of Education support; the vote was 3-4 to amend the support resolution to remove the term “support” as well as opposing HB 167. How can one allude to the Board of Education as a reason why we need reforms and then refer to the same Board as a credible supporter of those reforms? More to the point the Board is like Jello; wobbly and turns into a puddle with heat!

Yes, the voters can decide 2 of the 3 proposed changes depending on how it’s packaged, promoted, advertised, etc but, they can do that under the current constitution every election. The authorization of City of Columbus to Sponsor Charter Schools will not be on the ballot!

If the City of Columbus et al want to improve education in Columbus what’s stopping them? The City already has schools they could sponsor. They’re called West, Hilltonia, West Board, Linden-McKinley, East Linden, East, Champion, Ohio Ave, Walnut Ridge, Shady Lane, South, Livingston, Marion Franklin, Buckeye, Watkins Road, Alum Crest, Centennial, Whetstone, Indian Springs, Brookhaven and about 100 others City Schools in Columbus! How about City Leaders put their collective shoulders (and political clout) to the wheel and make ALL CITY SCHOOLS HIGH PERFORMING instead of trying invent new ones!

Lawmakers passing HB 167 will do “NOTHING” to help the Columbus Community to repair the damage & move forward; they will have only muddied the waters further and missed a prime opportunity to actually help reform education not only in the largest district in the state but set a standard for others to follow.

But, so goes politics!

To read more updates on Columbus City School Issues, CLICK HERE.

For more ongoing discussion on the Columbus Education Commission, CLICK HERE.

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