Where’s Waldo, Er, ALEC?

            With “Kasich sees need to deregulate schools” Joe Vardon of the Columbus Dispatch  gives John Kasich’s latest (1-6-14). At the Ohio Newspaper Association convention Vardon quotes Ohio’s Governor as saying “I’ve talked to (Ohio schools superintendent) Dick Ross about the need to bring about some deregulation. We have deregulation in some ways of rules that are connected to business, (we need to) figure out how we can bring more common sense to the rules and more trust to the people in the local communities who are running our schools.” “We need to have a flexible education system so that people in our communities can adopt these schools and adopt these children,” Kasich said. “We have got to develop a mechanism to enable this to happen.” What could the governor be suggesting? What does he have in mind? Vardon proffers “Kasich could propose a host of ways to deregulate schools, according to education insiders, such as removing state rules for class sizes and personnel and leaving those to the discretion of local boards. Kasich could propose easing licensing requirements for teachers to make it easier for business professionals to come into classrooms and teach, or establish some sort of formal tie between the state Board of Education and the business community so that business leaders could have a more direct influence on curriculum.” What could this be about?


            The same state legislature which has been heaping regulations, mandates, standards and requirements on Ohio’s underfunded public schools now will be asked to “deregulate” those schools? What would this look like? Central Ohioans might think “Great! Park National Bank, State Farm and United Health Group will be investing in Newark City Schools, North Fork schools, etc. and folks like Dan DeLawder, Susan Krieger and Steve layman will be leading regularly scheduled seminars at Newark High School, Watkins, etc. Peachy!” The finest minds honed by real world accomplishment and coupled with beaucoup funding is a definite recipe for success. Praise the lord! The cavalry has finally arrived. Vardon ends his article with “During a campaign speech in Zanesville last night, he urged local businesses – along with civic and faith-based organizations – to adopt local schools and mentor children. “We can no longer sit on the sideline and wait on someone else to do it,” he said.”


            But when Kasich’s governorship expires, what then? Legislative action with regard our schools extends over the span of multiple executives, as witnessed by the reluctance to adequately meet the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that public education in Ohio does not abide by its constitutional requirements. Business “investment” is never a gift. It is made with the expectation of leverage on input, policy decisions, and on anticipated return. What if a potential outcome of “deregulation” would be the west end of Newark, east side of Granville, and adjoining parts of Heath separating off as an indivisible entity or “Educational Development District” (kind of like a JEDD or JEDZ)? A new set of schools, a new campus could be formed catering to the expectations of the business investors who have “adopted” this venture with taxes collected on the workers, residents and customers of this district (again, akin to a JEDD or JEDZ) along with state per pupil reimbursement. This campus could be located in the environs of Cherry Valley Road with its soon to be built interchange with State Route 16. This could facilitate drawing the brightest and best STEM students and future entrepreneurs from all over the central Ohio area with publicly funded school transportation thanks to open enrollment regulations (or de-regulations, depends on how you look at it). A separate school district that siphons off all districts would certainly be one materialization of John the governator’s “deregulation” anticipation (which has not been spelled out at all, ever). Far-fetched you say?


            Exactly that is currently taking place in many southern states previously affected by Federal Court ordered bussing and desegregation requirements (“regulations”). “In East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods want an educational divorce from a neighboring community where four out of 10 families live in poverty. Saying they want local control, they’re trying to leave the 42,000-pupil public-education system. They envision their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-value homes, which would take money from schools in poorer parts of state-capital Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. They even want their own city.” So reports Bloomberg’s Margaret Newkirk in “Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes” published on the same day as Vardon’s report (1-6-14). Further along she writes:

“In Alabama, which makes it relatively easy to create districts, two Birmingham suburbs left the countywide system in the past two years. Jefferson County, which encompasses the city, now has 13 systems to serve its population of about 660,000. In Tennessee, the majority-black Memphis schools last year merged with the majority-white county district. In response, the Republican-dominated legislature lifted a decades-old ban on new systems and six suburbs seceded, approving sales-tax increases to pay for their plans. In the Atlanta area, new districts have been proposed by Dunwoody, which is part of the DeKalb County schools. In Georgia, new districts require a constitutional amendment, and Dunwoody legislators want to get one on the ballot. A city study showed a new district would immediately have a $30 million annual surplus. And, in Dallas, a move to create a district emerged last year. Parents are proposing a system called White Rock in an affluent area east of the city.” Newkirk closes with “If approved by voters, St. George, as it would be called, would be Louisiana’s fifth-largest city. Prospective residents hope its existence would provide political momentum for separate schools. St. George would have about 100,000 residents, or a quarter of the population now governed by the combined city-parish government of Baton Rouge. It also would include much of the area’s retail and commercial development, including the Mall of Louisiana, which has more than 150 shops, among them department stores of Macy’s Inc. and Dillard’s Inc.”


            All of this is quite unexceptional, historically, for Ohio, central Ohio, and Newark itself. With previous “deregulation” we have had the growth and investment in boutique health clinics and hospitals, without emergency room capability, and located in areas where most residents are expected to be more than adequately insured. Newark witnessed this on a massive scale with the move of its hospital from the heavily populated east side to the “newly developing” west side. A constitutional amendment was required to get gambling casinos legal in Ohio (a primary selling point was the promised funding bonanza to local education). Deregulation in Ohio has also resulted in the almost absolute non- existence of any form of public transit between Columbus and its outlying small cities, or between those cities, or within those municipalities themselves. “Deregulation” is not always defined as progress. It does not always equate with improvement.


            Where is all this coming from? Why is this occurring? Analysis would encourage readers to find ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), membership to which is maintained by most of Ohio’s ruling state representatives and senators.



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