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Gov. Kasich Signs Columbus Education Plan

It has been several months since Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s education commission submitted recommendations on how to improve the city’s struggling school district. And Monday Governor John Kasich, signed House Bill 167 dubbed the Columbus Education Plan, sparked from the education commission. WOSU reports significant changes are in store for the district. The bi-partisan bill allows Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman to sponsor community schools with city council approval. The Columbus City School district now can share voter-approved levy money with local charter schools. And the plan calls for independent oversight. The bill’s supporters say it is the proper step to fix the troubled school district that has been plagued by an on-going state and federal investigation into alleged attendance and data rigging and grade changes. Governor John Kasich, who signed the bill at Indianola Alternative School, said Columbus City Schools deserves a second chance. “There is an element of distrust. OK, that’s fine. But it’s a new day when it comes to education in Columbus. The mayor [Coleman] will be the enforcer and I’ll be right next to him.â€? Mayor Coleman was opposed to a city-wide takeover of the district, and Kasich noted it took some time to get them mayor on board of the initiative. “This took Mike Coleman out of his comfort zone, a little bit," Kasich said. "Until he stopped and thought that this is about the kids.â€? But Monday, Coleman was on board. “This is the most important thing our city will face in a generation," he said. Coleman said he supports the 55 recommendations from the education commission, which includes cutting back district spending by $200 million over five years, as well as helping fund charter and community schools. “To give us a choice and a voice of quality schools to educate our kids.â€? But not everyone likes the plan. Maureen Reedy, who is Ohio’s 2002 Teacher of the Year, opposes it. Reedy, who picketed the signing, does not think taxpayer dollars should go to fund what she calls ineffective charter schools. “I’m concerned that we’re continuing to take money out of our public system to fund a system that is dividing our school houses. And Ohio school houses divided simply cannot stand," Reedy said. Samuel Gresham, who co-chairs No School Take Over Coalition, said he senses the community is divided about the plan. And he predicts the district and the city will have a difficult time getting issues passed. “You got one-third of the people say I’ll never support that. You got one-third of the people who say I don’t like Columbus Public Schools. And you got one-third of the people who are going to be confused," Gresham said. "The result is, you have a bill that is going to become a piece of levy legislation that I think is going to have a difficult time passing because it has too many components that people see as threatening." But Mayor Coleman vowed he will get out the vote, so to speak, and educate voters of the initiatives. Governor Kasich has promised to campaign the issues, as well. Columbus City School board members are still working out the particulars of a bond and operational levy. Nine mills have been proposed, but a district spokesperson said it is too early to know what will be placed on the ballot. As for a new independent auditor, that position would be held at city hall and also would require voter approval.