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Jeff Bryant says that John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, is now getting serious attention because he presented himself as a “moderate” and a “do-er” at the Fox News Republican candidate debate.
Yet in all this horse-race analysis there is very little scrutiny of what Kasich’s track record actually is in the state he governed for the past four years – a consideration that should matter a lot in order to be recognized as a candidate in the first rank.
On the economic policy front, Kasich has very little to brag about. According to a recent op ed by Dale Butland of Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank in that state, Kasich makes a case for his economic prowess based on an increase in jobs in his state since the Great Recession. But compared to other states, Ohio has “led the nation in lost jobs” and “is still about 140,000 jobs short of where we were in 2007 before the downturn began.” Job creation in the Buckeye state has “lagged the national average for 20 straight months” and kept its rank mired at 41st.
Butland points to an analysis by the Associated Press that shows “Ohio’s real median household income fell from $54,000 in 2007 to $45,000 in 2012 – a far steeper drop than for the nation as a whole. Nearly half of Ohio households now live paycheck to paycheck, and 16 percent have fallen into poverty.”
Another analysis from the Center for American Progress finds Kasich presided over an economy of expanding inequality where “the share of the total income generated across Ohio that has gone to the middle class has declined sharply,” and there has been “increasing concentration of income among extremely wealthy Ohioans.”
Jeff says that governors can always claim that global and national economic trends are outside their control.
So it is important to examine what they have done on education specifically, because they have more control over education policy than economic trends.
As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush slashed education budgets, rolled out an absurd school grading system that stigmatized schools serving low-income kids, and opened the door to an invasion of corrupt charter school operations. In overseeing New Jersey schools, one of the top school systems in the country, Chris Christie has bullied teachers, slashed funding, and made the whole system vastly more unequal. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has cut education spending, especially to the state’s prized university system, weakened teachers’ job protections, and spread a failed voucher scheme from Milwaukee across the state.
But the effect Governor Kasich has had on public education policy in Ohio is especially atrocious.
A quick report card compiled by Innovation Ohio, a progressive advocacy group in the state, finds that under a Kasich administration school spending hasn’t kept pace with inflation. This has left many school districts to rely more on local property taxes for funding, a financial situation that is virtually guaranteed to increase inequity in support of low-income schools. In the meantime, Kasich has jacked up the proportion of school funds diverted to private pockets, spending over $1 billion a year on charter schools and increasing the amount of money in the state’s voucher program by 113 percent.
Other education funding facts provided by Innovation Ohio
Traditional public schools, which educate 90 percent of Ohio’s kids, receive $515 million less state funding than before Gov. Kasich took office.
Charter school funding has increased by 27 percent, and charters now receive more state money per pupil than do traditional public schools.
These factors alone should make anyone think twice before letting Kasitch get anywhere near the US Department of Education – the federal agency historically tasked with enforcing states to uphold education equity in their school systems. But Kasich’s education record is so bad, a more in-depth examination is merited.
Right after he took office, Kasich trashed a school spending upgrade put into place by previous Governor Ted Strickland that would have, according to an article in Education Week, revamped state standards and assessments, required all-day kindergarten, and gradually increased spending to align with a “series of court decisions finding the state’s school finance system unconstitutional.”
He stocked the state board of education with charter school advocates, and undermined the state superintendent of education, Deborah Delisle, by creating an Office of 21st Century Education that would work on a “parallel track” to bring more “school choice” to the state. Then he appointed a former charter school executive Robert Sommers to head that office. Delisle was forced to resign.
Then Kasich and Sommers turned their attention to passing a bill, Senate Bill 5, which, according to an Education Week reporter, “would have stripped teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.” When educators fought back by getting the bill put up for a vote in a ballot recall, Ohioans overwhelmingly agreed, voting to reject that measure by a 22-point margin.
With the backing of the state legislature, Kasich then put into place a Jeb Bush style grading system that unfairly labeled schools serving high poverty kids “underperforming.” School officials in Cincinnati, who lead the state’s highest rated school system, denounced the grading system and said it would cause more families to opt for charter schools.
On the matter of charters, Educations Week’s state policy reporter Andrew Ujifusa finds, “The number of charter schools in Ohio has grown on Kasich’s watch, from about 325 in 2011 to about 370 today,” and “the governor made expanding state aid for charter school facility costs a top priority” even though “a study of Ohio charter schools’ performance found their students to lag behind their counterparts in traditional public schools.”
Under Kasich, Ohio charter schools have become a national embarrassment. Recently, an Ohio newspaper ran a story with the headline, “Ohio’s charter schools ridiculed at national conference, even by national charter supporters.”
The story gets worse from there. Cronyism, political patronage, wasted taxpayer dollars, manipulation of data for the benefit of charters and political donors.