When I first read reports that grades and other records were being manipulated to improve performance ratings at Columbus schools, I was very disappointed—almost to a point of embarrassment that this could happen in Franklin County. Knowing that many students in Columbus City Schools are already struggling, the behavior of those who changed the data only highlighted the many challenges we face in preparing our young people for success. Something had to be done.
Ohio House Bill 167, known as the Columbus School Plan, became a conduit to improve the schools and provide an added level of accountability. I was proud to sponsor this piece of legislation, along with Democrat Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard. The bill has three major components, all of which came as a result of the unanimous recommendations brought forward by Mayor Michael Coleman’s Columbus Education Commission. They are:
1.) Allowing for an issue to be placed on the November ballot so that the residents of Columbus can decide whether or not the district will have an independent auditor to review reports and data, as well as look into reports of fraud, abuse or unlawful acts. The independent auditor would also perform the traditional tasks of instituting cost-effective measures and accounting for all funds.
2.) Authorizing the sharing of levy proceeds with community schools that partner with the district. This is important because if our public schools are not performing well enough, our young people must have an alternative available for the benefit of their own future and for the that of the community at large.
3.) Permitting the mayor of eligible communities to sponsor community schools with the approval of city council.
The Columbus Education Commission included a broad array of leaders from around the city, many of whom have differing goals and interests. But for the sake of Columbus school children, they came together and agreed on what must be done. I was pleased to work with members of both political parties to get a bill passed implementing the recommendations of the commission that required action from the Ohio General Assembly.
Supporting children should always be an easy decision. Faced with the most difficult of circumstances, the parents of Columbus school students want nothing but the best for their children’s future. As community leaders and legislators, we found the opportunity to lead the way and put in place some of the changes that must be made. The passage of House Bill 167, the Columbus School Plan, is something that all of Columbus and Franklin County should be proud of.