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John Kasich Joins the Crowd: 8 Things to Know About the Ohio Governor’s Education Record

By Carolyn Phenicie | July 20, 2015

John KasichPhoto: Getty Images
Tuesday marks the end of the beginning of the 2016 primaries, as Ohio Gov. John Kasich prepares to add his name to the lengthy list of senators, governors, business leaders and others vying for the Republican nomination (Check out The Seventy Four’s presidential baseball cards for the biographies and education policy records of the others.)
Start your Kasich research with this profile by The Atlantic’s Molly Ball from April, which details Kasich’s rise from his childhood as the son of labor union Democrats in southwestern Pennsylvania to the moxy that got him a slot as a youth adviser to President Richard Nixon during his time as a student at Ohio State. The piece also chronicles his dark horse run for state Senate to his years in Congress and eventual election as governor in 2010. Ball details both Kasich’s well-known prickly personality (at one point calling him “kind of a jerk”) and the empathy and strong Catholic faith that has led him to be one of the few Republicans calling for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Kasich’s feeling  for “the little guy” bleeds through to his education positions. Unlike many others in the Republican contest, Kasich backs the Common Core State Standards, and he’s pushed for revamping the state’s school funding formula in a way that rewards growing districts, sometimes at the expense of more affluent ones. In one notable setback, Ohio voters in a 2011 referendum overturned a bill he signed limiting the bargaining power of teachers’ unions.
At 62, and having just been reelected by a 30-point margin, Kasich is both in the prime of his political career and facing what could be a now-or-never moment. He has been contemplating, he told me, “some things that are extremely personal—what is my purpose in life?” He also told me he was trying not to let all the attention he’d received in New Hampshire go to his head, but it sounded like he was having a hard time. “I just feel so liberated,” he said. “All the things I’ve done are finally paying off.” (The Atlantic)
Here’s six other articles to get up to speed on his education priorities.
STANDING UP FOR THE CORE: The Huffington Post reports on the splash Kasich made this winter when he delivered an impassioned defense of the Common Core on Fox News. He countered claims from other Republicans — notably Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also a 2016 contender —  that the standards give the federal government too much control of local schools. “The Common Core was written by state education superintendents and local principals. In my state of Ohio, we want higher standards for our children, and those standards are set and the curriculum is set by local school boards,” he said. “I’ve asked the Republican governors who have complained about this to tell me where I’m wrong, and guess what, silence…I don’t know how anybody can disagree with that unless you’re running for something.” (The Huffington Post)
PULLING OUT FROM PARCC: Although Kasich has been a strong supporter of the Common Core standards, he isn’t so enamored with the testing consortium Ohio belongs to, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. He signed a budget deal in June prohibiting the state from spending any money to support the PARCC testing consortium. Principals, teachers and others complained to the legislature that the tests took up too much class time and the online exams had too many tech glitches. The state awarded a new contract to the American Institutes of Research, which currently administers the state’s science and social studies exams. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)
GRADING THE TEACHERS: Ohio has changed its teacher evaluation systems several times during Kasich’s tenure. NPR’s State Impact Policy explains the first changes, which started in the 2013-14 school year. Those changes, a requirement of 2009 and 2011 state laws, plus Ohio’s Race to the Top application and No Child Left Behind waiver, required 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations to be based on student learning and required annual evaluations (NPR State Impact). The Columbus Dispatch reported on changes made in 2014 in response to district complaints that the original system was too burdensome: Teachers rated “accomplished,” the highest mark, would be evaluated every three years and “skilled” teachers, the second-highest rated, would be evaluated every two years. Teachers rated in the bottom two categories continue with annual evaluations. The law also allows districts to reduce student growth and observations to 42.5 percent of evaluations each, with the remainder made up with student surveys, peer review and other measures. (Columbus Dispatch)
CHALLENGING CHARTERS: The Columbus Dispatch reported on Kasich’s vow to overhaul charter school regulations following the release of two reports that said state laws allow low-performing schools to continue to grow and management companies to profit. “We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools,” Kasich said. “There is no excuse for people coming in here and taking advantage of anything.” He vowed to put “tough rules” in the budget; a bill to make changes passed the state Senate but has stalled in the House until the fall, the Dispatch reported later. Separately, those close to Kasich have gotten in hot water for covering up poorly performing charters. School Choice Director David Hansen resigned last week after admitting that he omitted “F” grades of some online and dropout recovery schools, boosting the ratings of their charter managers. Hansen’s wife is Kasich’s chief of staff who is taking a leave of absence to help with his presidential bid, the AP reported. (AP via Ohio.com)
COLUMBUS: An Ohio education official resigned Saturday after acknowledging he excluded failing grades for charter schools in evaluations of the schools’ overseers. David Hansen, the School Choice director for the Education Department, confirmed last week he left F grades for online and dropout recovery schools off evaluations of charter school sponsors. He said he felt the marks would “mask” successes elsewhere.The omission boosted the ratings of two sponsors, which could make them eligible for more state perks. (Associated Press)
FIGHTING “UNSUSTAINABLE” FUNDING…UNSUCCESSFULLY: Kasich this winter proposed totally revamping the school funding formula by ending a guarantee that schools would never receive less state funding than the year before, even if they increased local taxes or had fewer students, according to the Dispatch. He also proposed raising funding overall but ending a rebate to wealthier districts that lost big from the end of a tax on local businesses. He called the current formula “unsustainable.” The state legislature wouldn’t back those changes, so Kasich vetoed $99 million worth of aid destined for wealthier districts; state spending on education is still set to rise $505 million over two years, about 3 percent. (Dispatch
(Kasich) proposes a crackdown on poor-performing charters while allowing public school districts to partner with high performers and propose local tax levies to benefit charter schools.  “We’re not going to tolerate any of these things (charter schools) that don’t work,” Kasich said. “Our love is for the kids. Our love is not for some sort of structure.”  (The Columbus Dispatch)
ACADEMIC DISTRESS: The Dispatch also reports on a bill Kasich signed this year affecting the “Academic Distress Commissions” that take over schools that get failing grades for three consecutive years. The measure allows mayors to appoint school board members and creates a new CEO position, who has more authority than a traditional schools superintendent, including to override some parts of union contracts. The changes only affect the Youngstown school district immediately; another district could be under the new rules in the 2017-18 school year if it doesn’t improve. (Dispatch)
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