Earlier today, Governor Ted Strickland delivered his State of the State address. Going back and reading his address, I discovered a few interesting bits of information:
- High school students are taking their first college classes at no cost to their families with the Seniors to Sophomores program
- Under the Ohio G.I. Promise program, Ohio became the first state to offer veterans from across the country the opportunity to attend any public college or university without having to pay tuition
- Ohio has the largest energy efficient school building program in the nation
Just from these three facts, can you tell what a majority of this address was about? It seemed that almost half of the speech was regarding education; whether it was where we were, or where we are going, Strickland laid out several specific plans about what he wants to see happen.
"For the last two years, Ohio was the only state in the nation with no tuition increase at our public institutions. At our community colleges and regional campuses we will maintain that tuition freeze for the next two years. For our main university campuses, we will ask that they continue to freeze tuition in 2010, and keep any tuition increase to no more than 3.5 percent in 2011."
I wish these next two were in place for my children, but better late than never...
"We will end the outdated practice of giving our most impressionable students only a half-day of learning. Ohio will now require universal all-day kindergarten."
"Over a 10-year period we will add 20 instructional days to the school calendar, bringing Ohio’s learning year up to the international average of 200 days."
Personally, I would like to see year-round education. A month off in the summer and one for winter break would provide more than an adequate vacation, and the increased instructional time, if used wisely, would help our students remain competitive with the peers from other countries.
There has been a lot of resistance from the National Education Association when it comes to government regulation. It will interesting to see how the OEA responds to these two statements from Strickland...
"Just as future doctors begin their careers under the watchful eye of an experienced colleague, we will give our new teachers the benefit of thoughtful guidance from an accomplished senior teacher. After a four-year residency, successful candidates will earn their professional teaching license."
"Let me say that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. And the residency program will identify them. But even for teachers already in the field, we must have the ability to remove them from the classroom if their students are not learning. Right now, it’s harder to dismiss a teacher than any other public employee. Under my plan, we will give administrators the power to dismiss teachers for good cause, the same standard applied to other public employees."
I am glad that he is willing to say that paradigms need to change for the better. An underlying theme stressed that we need to approach education differently than we have in the past. It is refreshing to see that our Governor is willing to recognize that learning processes might need to be changed for a new millennium.
While ambitious, Strickland did little to explain how any new educational initiatives would be funded. All of this is going to cost a little bit of money, and Ohio is still recovering from issues of how to provide equal resources for all students.
"Under my plan, the state will no longer ask school districts to pay their bills with phantom dollars. Instead, my plan lowers what our local taxpayers are expected to contribute to local schools from 23 mills to 20 mills. The state will assume responsibility for providing the difference between what those 20 mills raise and the cost of the full range of educational resources our students need according to our evidence-based approach."
"In the upcoming two-year budget, even with grave economic challenges facing Ohio and the nation, my plan will take the state’s share of education funding to 55 percent. As our Ohio evidence-based plan is fully phased in, the state’s share will grow to an unprecedented 59 percent."
Besides education, Strickland addressed the issue of health care for all...
"We have finally gained federal approval to offer coverage to Ohio children from families with incomes up to 300 percent of the poverty line. With funding provided in this budget, we will soon be able to say that health care coverage is available to every child in Ohio."
"At the same time, we are taking innovative steps to expand health care access for adult Ohioans. Ohioans with employer-provided insurance will be able to buy coverage for their dependents up to the age of 29. Small business employees who lose their jobs will be able to purchase continuation coverage for up to 12 months. We will reform the open enrollment program to provide more affordable options for people who have pre-existing health conditions. And, we will allow more uninsured workers to purchase health care coverage with pre-tax dollars."
Every speech has a few items in it that may seem like throw-aways, but I only came across one that still has me scratching my head. While I was attending Xavier, and in recent years reading the Cincinnati Enquirer, light-rail seemed to be mentioned once a year, but the funding (and public support) never materialized.
"We will work toward the restoration of passenger rail service between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Our goal is to link Ohio’s three largest cities by passenger rail for the first time in 40 years. This will be a first step toward a rail system that links neighborhoods within a city, and cities within our state."
I'm not saying it will never happen (or shouldn't), but with budget concerns, I do not see how we could support the millions (billions?) that would be needed. Speaking of the budget, Strickland was pessimistic realistic about Ohio's financial standing...
- For the first time since the personal income tax was enacted in Ohio, we are projecting a three-year decline in income tax revenue.
- For the first time since 1950, we are projecting a two-year decline in sales tax revenue.
- We have balanced the budget with a wide range of measures.
- We call for many program reductions of 10 to 20 percent.
- We will leverage existing resources and one-time cash transfers.
- We will increase various state agency fees, fines, and penalties.
- We will modify our Medicaid policies to manage our costs and to take advantage of funds available in the forthcoming federal stimulus package.
- In all, we have reduced spending by $3.2 billion from 2009 planning levels.
It is too early to know how much money Ohio will receive from the federal stimulus package, so it is a little irresponsible to plan on the monies to help fund these new programs. Strickland has started his next political campaign, and it seemed like the tone (and promises) of this address were built upon that foundation.
Overall, I was impressed with the educational initiatives, but other areas (including job creation) were very lacking. When it comes to dealing with losses of jobs and revenue, we have seen that no one knows exactly how to proceed. As long as things do not get any worse, that should be considered great progress. Any reasonable success, and Strickland should count on four more years in office.