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Mike DeWine Proposes Less Testing, More Job Training In Education Plan

Ohio Attorney General and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine
John Minchillo
Associated Press

Republican governor candidate Mike DeWine wants to reduce the amount of standardized testing in Ohio – one of several goals he laid out in a new education plan. 

DeWine’s plan, which his campaign released Thursday, looks to prepare students for college or for the job they want.

DeWine says making sure kids are ready for college needs to start before they even start elementary school, through early childhood development. He says that often, students from low-income areas or with adverse childhood experiences immediately start school at a disadvantage.

“We have an obligation, I think, to reach these kids and if we’re going to reach them, we’ve got to do it very, very early,” says DeWine.

DeWine stresses that an emphasis on higher standards upon graduation does not mean an emphasis on testing. In fact, he wants to find a way to reduce the amount of standardized tests administered in schools, and instead find other ways to measure student growth.

“Allowing teachers to teach the subject matter and to focus on that is very, very important, and I think the pendulum, frankly, has swung too far towards the testing,” DeWine says. “You have to have tests, we’re having too many now.”

There’s also a component of his plan that would add more attention towards vocational training. But DeWine urges he doesn’t want to make too many changes, saying teachers are looking for stability.

“We have to resist the temptation of constantly changing, you know, moving the goal line,” DeWine says. “Teachers just throw up their hands sometimes when they talk to me and say, ‘Just tell us what the rules are but for heaven’s sake stop changing them.’”

DeWine and the Republican slate of candidates have been criticized for their involvement with ECOT, once Ohio’s largest online charter school. The now-closed school was caught overbilling the state by tens of millions of dollars for students they didn’t have. ECOT operated for years without needing to prove student participation through log-in data.

DeWine says, as governor, he would implement a pay-for-performance model, to add accountability for taxpayer money.

“What we need to demand from the people who are running these schools is accountability and accountability means they don’t get paid until we find out what that child has learned,” DeWine says.

Democratic governor candidate Richard Cordray has constantly attacked DeWine on this issue, saying he had eight years as Ohio Attorney General to hold ECOT accountable. While DeWine did appoint the attorney who represents the state in its case against ECOT, he only recently filed a civil lawsuit to collect at least $62 million from ECOT founder and prominent GOP donor Bill Lager.

DeWine himself received over $12,000 from Lager over the years, all of which he donated after a state audit revealed ECOT’s data manipulation. Cordray also donated money from Lager, although just $600.

DeWine counters that Cordray had his chance to take on ECOT when he was Attorney General and didn’t do anything to hold the e-school accountable.

“I’m the only one who’s actually in fact taken action on behalf of the state Department of Education,” DeWine argues.

Cordray was not available for comment. Instead, the campaign referred to the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which endorsed Cordray.

Union president Becky Higgins says that DeWine laid out some measures they can agree on, but says he has a track record of voting against increased school funding.

“He does have a history, we believe, of going against what is in the best interest of Ohio students,” says Higgins.

In contrast, Higgins says Cordray has an impressive understanding of what public schools need.

“He wants to halt the overreliance on standardized tests, and he also wants to continue to rein in the poor performing charter schools,” Higgins says.

Cordray has yet to lay out an official education plan of his own. However, he has mentioned several goals during his campaign, including a commitment to early childhood development, expanding universal pre-K, and encouraging wraparound services, which provides a network of support for students.

Along with ideas for Ohio’s K-12 system, DeWine wants colleges to freeze tuition for students upon enrollment, so their payments stay the same until they leave the school.