Gov. Ted Strickland, speaking in Toledo yesterday, linked "cheerleaders for failure" with Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich over criticisms of an award for the governor's signature education-reform program.
Mr. Strickland told an Ohio Federation of Teachers convention that the state's "evidence-based model," education-reform plan that he helped pass last year was recognized as the most innovative education plan in the country by the nonprofit Education Commission of the States.
He lambasted state Sen. Gary Cates (R., West Chester), who criticized the award as "political" and said the state is undeserving.
"It's sad that Senator Cates isn't proud of Ohio's recognition for good schools. Apparently, he would rather belittle Ohio's accomplishments and be a cheerleader for failure," Mr. Strickland said, quoting his own spokesman from earlier in the day.
Education Commission of the States last month named Ohio the winner of its 2010 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation based on enactment of an education-reform plan that "demonstrates the state's commitment to informed, bold, and courageous reform," according to a statement from the nonprofit group.
The Columbus Dispatch yesterday reported that Senator Cates wrote a letter to the commission's president asking for an investigation, saying the award was released to coincide with the governor's State of the State speech in January, and calling that "blatantly political."
Mr. Cates said the evidence-based model was "cobbled together in closed-door, back-room meetings among union leaders, special-interest lobbyists, and the administration." He called it "a major step backward for low-property-wealth schools."
Governor Strickland said he didn't know Ohio was being considered for the award and that Ohio had not applied for it.
He noted that Senator Cates decried the $700 million cut in state education funding this year, and questioned how Senator Cates feels about Mr. Kasich's support for eliminating the Ohio income tax, which supplies 46 percent of the state's general revenue.
"Anyone that would advocate or even consider eliminating 46 percent of our state's general revenue funds while at the same time pretending to be a friend of education is acting in a duplicitous manner," Mr. Strickland said.
"What's that going to do for our schools?" Mr. Strickland asked. "Ohio would not be the state that we want it to be without the resources to invest in our children," Mr. Strickland told the approximately 200 delegates to the convention being held downtown at the Park Inn.
The governor said the Education Commission of the States is regarded by some as "the gold standard" for evaluating education progress.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols responded that, "Ted Strickland believes Ohio's taxes aren't too high. John thinks they are. We're glad to let the voters decide who's right."
He added that Mr. Strickland's plan for funding his education programs was tied to establishing video slot machines at horse racing tracks.
"Few Ohioans view that reckless and ridiculous idea as innovative," Mr. Nichols said.
The governor said there have been other recent recognitions of Ohio's education progress: Education Week ranked the state first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation for its standards in mathematics and science and its assessment and accountability practices. And he said Ohio ranks in the top 10 states in the National Assessment of Education Progress in all grades and subject measures.
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