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Published: Wednesday, 5/30/2007

Ohio urban school superintendents back Strickland plan

The superintendents of Ohio's eight largest urban districts and teachers' union leaders gathered yesterday to present joint testimony to the Senate Finance Committee in support of Gov. Ted Strickland's education budget.

As co-chair of the Ohio 8 Coalition, former Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Eugene Sanders delivered yesterday's testimony calling the proposed budget "critical to sustaining public education in Ohio's big cities."

Mr. Sanders acknowledged support of the Ohio General Assembly and the investments that have been made to improve the standards of school facilities, but asked the committee to focus on strengthening academic standards. "Our encouragement to you today is to complement these physical environments with investment strategies that will provide better academic environments for our children, our employees, and our communities," Mr. Sanders said in his testimony.

Mr. Strickland's plan calls for an end to Ohio's statewide voucher program that uses public money to pay private school tuition for children in low-scoring schools, a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, and a prohibition against charter schools being run by private, for-profit companies.

Mr. Sanders urged finance committee members to reinstate the governor's proposal to postpone the establishment of new charter schools until a review of the charter school program can be conducted.

More than half of Ohio's charter schools are still in academic emergency and the state can't afford the dozens of academic and fiscal failures that constitute the state's charter program, he said.

"Voters in our cities have over the decades approved spending their money on public education," Mr. Sanders said. "They have not voted for vouchers or charter schools."

The governor's original budget doesn't provide as much money for elementary and secondary education as Mr. Sanders and other Ohio educators would like to see, according to yesterday's testimony. They say the challenges of preparing students for today's world require more funds for districts throughout the state. "We could live with the governor's proposal because it would bring us some stability against the continuous draining of resources caused by the charter school and voucher programs," Mr. Sanders said

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