2011 has been a tumultuous year for education policy in Ohio. With a new administration and single party control of all the legislative levers, we have witnessed a lot of corporate education reform ideas rushed, with little discussion, into reality. We thought we would reflect on what has happened, and bring you our 5 top education stories of 2011.
5. Two Heads Are Worse Than One
The year started with Deborah Delisle as the State Superintendent, but pressure from the Governor and a board of education stacked with tea party activists, saw her quickly ousted.
"Last Friday, it was made known to me by two members of the governor's staff that my tenure was limited," Delisle said during the board's monthly meeting in Columbus. "They said they have the votes to replace me."
It was supposed to be a quick one-two step. Oust Delisle, install the Education Czar Bob Sommers. Somewhere along the line, for reasons still not wholly clear, there was a misstep and suddenly the administration was left scrambling to fill this critical roll. Candidates dropped out quickly and no new candidates from either far nor wide stepped forward. Almost by default, with one foot out the door, interim Superintendent Stan Heffner was appointed.
Heffner's first job was to implement the newly passed budget an axe staff to make up for a $6.3 million shortfall
“If we’re going to sponsor up to 20 schools and if we’re going to engage in the additional activities that House Bill 153 has charged us with, then there I already have an under-staffed office.”
He also still has Education Czar Sommers looking over his shoulder. It can't be easy working at ODE these days, not with greatly increased mandates, reduced budgets and two bosses.
4. Who me? Cheat?
With the rapid proliferation and implementation of corporate education policies came news of other corporate behaviors. Cheating.
The year started with serious questions being raised of the darling of corporate education reform, Michele Rhee, as evidence came to light that much of her success may have been a consequence of cheating. This was quickly surpassed by a massive cheating scandal unfolding in Atlanta
State investigators have uncovered a decade of systemic cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools and conclude that Superintendent Beverly Hall knew or should have known about it, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
In a report that Gov. Nathan Deal planned to release today, the investigators name nearly 180 educators, including more than three dozen principals, as participants in cheating on state curriculum tests, officials said over the weekend. The investigators obtained scores of confessions.
New Jersey also fell under the shadow of suspicion
The Department of Education has ordered an investigation of 34 schools for possible cheating after an analysis of standardized test scores revealed irregularities.
It seems wherever one finds high stakes corporate education policies in effect, we find corporate types of behavior to bolster performance. With similar polices going into effect in Ohio, how long before these headlines hit home?
3. Not So Fast, Huffman
In one of the most audacious moves of the year, State Rep Matt Huffman threw up a legislative Hail Mary, in the hopes that the 1% could make a spectacular catch in the end zone. His bill, HB136 sought to privatize public education in Ohio, transferring hundreds of millions of dollars intended for public education to private schools. After blowing through committee on a party line vote, the radical nature of the bill caused the impossible to happen. Everyone in the education community in Ohio suddenly started to publicly oppose the effort. For a state where people can't agree on lunch, let alone education policy, this was unprecedented and caused Huffman to backtrack. HB136 looks dead for now, with the Hail Mary pass batted down, Huffman may still try for a field goal in the new year.
It's at this point we had to pause and consider. In which order should we place our top two stories? It was a very difficuly choice.
2. Senate Bill 5
If SB5 would have passed, it would have been the number one story. But having been resoundingly defeated it should put to bed the notion of dismantling collective bargaining rights in Ohio for at least another generation. The passage and subsequent repeal of SB5 was the most hotly contested political issue of 2011. In a campaign that went from protests and lock-outs at the Statehouse to signature collections in every neighborhood, to a $50 million campaign, each and every step of the way citizen efforts ate away the small portion of political capital governor Kasich had. The repercussions of SB5 will ripple through 2012, with the fight sure to continue for control of the legislature, but its defeat means it will not have lasting direct policy implications.
In any ordinary year, each of those stories would be huge news and carry great consequence for public education in Ohio, but there is one other story that will have a severe lasting impact on the state's education system.
1. To Be Continued...