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Published: Wednesday, 11/15/2006

Core education bills on fast track


COLUMBUS Republican lawmakers prepared yesterday to give Gov. Bob Taft a parting gift, his final-year priority of a more rigorous high school core curriculum heavier on math and science.

Democrats, however, charged that the fast-tracked Ohio core has no funding attached and will add pressure to already underfunded schools.

And while stressing he wants to stay out of the lame-duck governor s and General Assembly s way, Governor-elect Ted Strickland said he feared the requirements could create a two-tiered system that discriminates against students gifted in the arts and other nonpriority areas.

Mr. Taft, coming off an election year in which his administration was displayed as Exhibit A for GOP scandal, will be joined by Ohio business and higher-education leaders today to push for passage of the amended bills introduced yesterday in the House and Senate.

Passage before the end of the year would allow Mr. Taft to sign the measure into law before leaving office on Jan. 8.

Both bills require high school graduates to have taken four years of mathematics, including Algebra II; four years of English; three years of lab-based sciences in physical science, biology, chemistry, or physics, and half-years of health and physical education. The first students affected would be those entering the ninth grade in the fall of 2008.

We need to give the parents and students of this state a realistic bar of what they need to achieve if they want to be successful academically, said House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering). Frankly, it should have been done six months ago, but it wasn t. The longer you wait, another grade of students misses introduction to what we expect them to do.

In addition to implementing the changes a year later than Mr. Taft originally proposed, the bills dropped the governor s proposed mandate that high school students complete two years of foreign language studies.

Mr. Taft s proposal, as originally outlined in his State of the State address earlier this year, allowed students to opt out of the requirements. They could still get a diploma but with the understanding that completion of the core is a prerequisite for acceptance into a public four-year institution.

The revised bill, however, calls for a study committee to come up with a system to allow such schools to consider accepting students who ve opted out.

I am concerned that we recognize individual differences in students and that a young person can be highly gifted in one area and have significant deficits in other areas, Mr. Strickland said.

Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), sponsor of the Senate bill, said the revised bill shows lawmakers have listened to concerns raised by educators, students, parents, and the business community.

I am confident the next governor and General Assembly will consider these new standards as we craft the next biennial budget, he said. We have already put $13.2 million into Ohio core. It s already been appropriated this year for teacher capacity building, training [teachers for] science, mathematics, and hard-to-staff areas.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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