Education depends on political party affiliation

August 07, 2014, Plain Dealer

In a July 19 article (“4 takeaways from Kasich and Columbus Mayor Coleman's preschool partnership”), Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman stated, “Kids don’t care what party you are. Kids don’t care if you are a D or an R. Fact is, education should not depend on whether you are blue or red.

If you’re a D, then you support a quality public education for all of Ohio’s children.

If you’re an R, then you drain the public school budget to create low-quality, unaccountable charter schools. If you’re a D, the Ohio Supreme Court was correct when it ruled four times that Ohio’s school funding formula is unconstitutional, and the legislature should fix it. If you’re an R, you ignore the Supreme Court, but then label the public schools “failing” when they don’t meet state standards.

If you’re a D, then you believe teachers know what’s best for Ohio’s children. If you’re an R, you think you know what’s best, with no degree in education. If you’re a D, public schools should remain public. If you’re an R, then you are in a race to privatize our schools, with your eyes on profit instead of quality.

Education shouldn’t depend on whether you’re blue or red. But, unfortunately, it does.

Meryl T. Johnson, Cleveland

 

More Blacks Against Blackwell

November 1, 2006, SCENE

Appreciated your article on the group Blacks Against Blackwell. Just wanted to let you know there is another group out there with the same focus. I was asked to start a group of African-American labor leaders who are supporting Ted Strickland. So a small group of us named ourselves Black Labor for Strickland, formed a PAC, and created a brochure to distribute. The brochure covers three reasons why Blackwell is dangerous: He’s against raising the minimum wage, he’s anti-union, and he’s a voter suppressor. Our brochures have landed in Cincinnati, Youngstown, Akron, Toledo, and of course, Cuyahoga County. This is probably too late to be written about. Just wanted to make you aware. Both groups are supportive of each other — Lang Dunbar has distributed some of our pieces, and I’ve helped them sell T-shirts. Thanks for your great article.

Meryl T. Johnson, Trustee, Cleveland Teachers Union

 

Calling on Mayor Jackson to collaborate with teachers on improving Cleveland’s schools

February 14, 2012, The Plain Dealer

On the cover page of Mayor Frank Jackson’s brand-new “Cleveland Plan” to reform Cleveland’s public schools, the following sentence appears: “I instructed Eric Gordon, the Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, to work in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Cleveland Foundation, The Gund Foundation, and The Breakthrough Charter Schools, to develop this plan.”

Do you see anything missing? Correct. Where are the teachers? Eugene Sanders, former CEO of the Cleveland schools, did not consider it necessary to work with the people who have the knowledge to improve our schools, and neither does Mayor Jackson. How’s Dr. Sanders’ transformation plan working? It’s not.

Until the folks in power recognize that teachers must be at the table when discussions about school improvement take place, wheels will continue to spin, going nowhere. We are the ones who work with children every day and have access to the best research possible from the American Federation of Teachers. We know what works. We turned around schools before, and even agreed to reconstitute a school that did not improve. We were successful because we worked in collaboration with the Cleveland district. We have peer review, in which colleagues help struggling teachers and recommend those who don’t improve for nonreappointment, thus removing “bad” teachers.

We spend thousands of dollars of our own money to update our skills so we will be the best educators possible for our children. Our dollars also go to supplies, coats, field trips, books for classroom libraries. If the need is there, we try to take care of it, because we care about our children.

Privatization through more charter schools and using test scores as the No. 1 teacher evaluator through merit pay will not improve the education of our children. On average, charter schools are not superior to our traditional public schools. Merit pay creates a toxic school environment of competition, which is not good for anyone. Collaboration is what makes schools successful.

Mayor Jackson, don’t make the same mistake Dr. Sanders made. Cleveland teachers really do know what’s needed to reform our school district. For the sake of our children, whose future is at stake, it’s time for you to listen to the educators. We are all committed to Cleveland’s children. Let’s do this together.

Meryl T. Johnson, Cleveland

 

White Hat Management

May 31, 2010, The Plain Dealer

Kudos and best of luck to the 10 charter school boards who have filed a lawsuit against White Hat Management, David Brennan’s for-profit charter school company. As a result, the Plain Dealer finally decided to make recommendations on desperately needed changes to Ohio’s charter school legislation. But where was the PD back in 1999 when the Akron Beacon Journal’s series “Whose Choice?” brilliantly chronicled how David Brennan used his political ties to push a pro-charter school agenda, which in 2004-2005 awarded him profits of $4.16 million on revenues of $116.95 million (Education Voters, November 2008)? And while the profits continue to flow into Brennan’s pockets, school buildings close and teacher/paraprofessional lay-offs occur. Where was the PD in 2001 when several education groups, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio PTA, filed a lawsuit charging that Ohio’s charter school law is unconstitutional because, among many other reasons, the new schools operate with little oversight by local school boards and taxpayers? The majority Republican Ohio Supreme Court ruled against them in 2006. And where was the PD when the Education Voters Institute produced a very detailed report in 2008 which included the following statements: 1) Charter schools are allowed to group significant types of expenditures under a single category called “administrative expenditures”; and, 2) The state’s taxpayers now provide over $586 million annually to support charter schools?

Those courageous charter school board members will have a hard time getting a victory; Brennan and his wife “gave a combined $733,000 to state candidates and Republican organizations in 2007, including $400,000 to the Ohio Republican Party.” (Plain Dealer Politics Blog July 1, 2008). But I am pleased the PD finally decided to do what it should have done many years ago — responsible editorial writing.

Meryl T. Johnson, Director of Community Engagement, Cleveland Teachers Union

 

Plain Dealer largely silent over the years on charter school abuses; thanks for taking a stand now

June 4, 2010, The Plain Dealer

Kudos and best of luck to the 10 charter school boards that have filed a lawsuit against White Hat Management, David Brennan’s for-profit charter school company. As a result, The Plain Dealer finally decided to make recommendations on desperately needed changes to Ohio’s charter school legislation.

But where was The Plain Dealer back in 1999 when the Akron Beacon Journal’s series “Whose Choice?” brilliantly chronicled how Brennan used his political ties to push a pro-charter school agenda, which in 2004-05 awarded him profits of $4.16 million on revenues of $116.95 million (Education Voters, November 2008)? And while the profits continue to flow into Brennan’s pockets, school buildings close and teacher and paraprofessional layoffs occur.

Where was The Plain Dealer in 2001, when several education groups, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio PTA, filed a lawsuit charging that Ohio’s charter school law is unconstitutional because, among many other reasons, the new schools operate with little oversight by local school boards and taxpayers? The majority Republican Ohio Supreme Court ruled against them in 2006.

And where was The Plain Dealer when the Education Voters Institute produced a very detailed report in 2008 that included the following statements: 1) Charter schools are allowed to group significant types of expenditures under a single category called “administrative expenditures”; and, 2) the state’s taxpayers now provide more than $586 million annually to support charter schools?

Those courageous charter school board members will have a hard time getting a victory; Brennan and his wife “gave a combined $733,000 to state candidates and Republican organizations in 2007, including $400,000 to the Ohio Republican Party” (Plain Dealer Politics Blog, July 1, 2008).

But I am pleased that The Plain Dealer finally decided to do what it should have done many years ago — responsible editorial writing.

Meryl T. Johnson, Director of Community Engagement, Cleveland Teachers Union