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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Protesters urge governor to restore education funding

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
AFSCME member Mark Factor, of Ottawa, Ohio, and Theresa Allen of Forest, Ohio, rally in Lima where Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State address. AFSCME member Mark Factor, of Ottawa, Ohio, and Theresa Allen of Forest, Ohio, rally in Lima where Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State address.
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LIMA, Ohio — Trying to call attention to labor issues before Gov. John Kasich took to the podium on Tuesday night, a small group of workers said the $63.3 billion, two-year budget the governor has rolled out leaves the “state of the worker” less than it should be.

About a dozen people braved biting wind and swirling snow to stand on the otherwise deserted public square outside Lima’s Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center.

On the other side of the square a group of young Republicans chanted "Go John Go."

Dan Greenberg, a teacher with Sylvania Public Schools and vice president of the Sylvania Education Association teachers’ union, said the governor's budget is a bag of broken promises.

“Instead of short-term partisan priorities Governor Kasich should focus on long-term solutions for Ohio, that strengthen our economy, that prioritize schools, that keep our communities safe,” said Mr. Greenberg, 37.

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PHOTO GALLERY: 2013 State of the State address

He said public schools are receiving less than they did before Mr. Kasich's term began in January, 2011.

The group was organized by the labor-related group We Are Ohio, which came together in 2011 to defeat Senate Bill 5, which would have undermined collective bargaining rights of public employee unions.

A larger group of young Kasich supporters waved signs and chanted “Go John Go” from across North Street.

Anna Hoard, 20, from Michigan, a student at Ohio Northern University in Ada, welcomed the governor's higher education funding plan for students, even though her college does not receive state money.

“I think Governor Kasich has the right plan in place. I think he's going to do what's best for our education system. Every child has the right to receive a great education, and I think the governor's going to take care of that for us,” Ms. Hoard said.

As an example of an empty promise, Mr. Greenberg said Mr. Kasich promised poor districts would get more money while rich districts would get less.

He said six out of 10 Ohio school districts will see no increase in the next two years.

Shonda Sneed, 47, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, contended the budgets have made it harder for her to find work as an engineer. “If he invested in infrastructure that would send me back to work,” Ms. Sneed said. “I'm struggling now. I know family and friends that are living on baloney and crackers.”

A key part of the governor's plan is to tap the borrowing power of the Ohio Turnpike to funnel $3 billion into state highway projects. The governor said the plan will create 65,000 jobs.

Dave Rabe, 58, a United Auto Workers member at Ford Motor Co.'s engine plant in Lima, acknowledged that the economy has improved but gave credit not to Mr. Kasich but to his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, and President Obama.

“For us to continue to thrive in Ohio we need Governor Kasich to invest in the local communities. To be competitive in the advance technology in manufacturing we need Governor Kasich to invest in education and training. The state of the worker is not good,” Mr. Rabe said.

Several other members of the group predicted that Governor Kasich will eventually get behind a “right-to-work” initiative that they derisively called “no rights at work.” Governor Kasich has not endorsed such a bill.

Elsewhere in downtown Lima, businesses were hoping for a little spillover from the influx of government officials into the community for a day of meetings, conferences, and forums.

Karen Barrington, co-owner of Nitza's Ladies Boutique and Tailor Shop at 300 N. North St., said downtown Lima was proud to host the governor's speech. She and co-owner Elizabeth Leis posted a sign out front and on their Facebook page saying, “Mrs. Kasich called — She wants a new outfit.”

Just in case someone actually came into buy an item for the First Lady, Ms. Barrington found out Karen Kasich's height (5 feet, 9 inches) and probable dress size (8 or 10).

Ms. Barrington was counting on some of the speech-goers to trek up the street past her business to the Metropolitan bar in her block afterward.

“The whole community is thrilled they've come to do the State of the State here,” Ms. Barrington said. “This community is coming back.”

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com, or 419-724-6058.



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