John Kasich Touts Ohio Record on Standards, Gains and Youngstown Turnaround in New Hampshire

Manchester, New Hampshire (See full coverage of our 2015 NH Education Summit)

By Mareesa Nicosia

Ohio Gov. John Kasich touted his education record Wednesday, pointing to his success in expanding a statewide school voucher program, raising standards through an early elementary reading program and passing a bill to reign in failing schools as a model for what other states can do with strong local control.

“There’s no substitute for local control — local control matters, but if we’re going to have local control, which we need to have, then people at the local level need to take control of their schools, period,” he said.

Like other GOP candidates who spoke at the day-long 2015 New Hampshire Education Summit, Kasich railed against “federal overreach” in the U.S. education system.

Control over education policy in hands of superintendents, principals and teachers should be strengthened — but parents also play an important role, he said.

“For parents, just don’t walk into the school building and just listen to what the administrators tell you. Dig in. Know how kids are performing, know how they’re doing, know what the heck is going on in the classroom.”

Kasich, in his second term as governor, said improving K-12 education in the U.S. requires a “robust” school choice program, whether through charter schools or a voucher system. In Ohio, Kasich expanded the number of vouchers available from 14,000 in the 2006–07 school year to 64,000 in the school year that just ended. The vouchers allow students in the lowest-performing schools to transfer to another school, regardless of their family’s income.

One of two Republican candidates who continues to support the Common Core standards, (Jeb Bush is the other) Kasich said he would not tolerate failing schools, whether charter or public. The state’s charter school program has been harshly criticized amid financial and ethical scandals and academic failures; Kasich and the Ohio Legislature appear poised to fight their way toward reform.

Kasich also expressed his support for increased vocational training and student internships (his own daughter, who is 15, spent time at the women’s wear brand Victoria’s Secret to pursue her interest in design, he said), mentoring programs and anti-drug initiatives. He’d like to see administrators more willing to take risks and innovate.

“We cannot worship at the altar of status quo in K-12 education,” he said.

One way Ohio has innovated, he said, is through the elementary reading program, which helps struggling children learn to read at grade level before moving on to the next grade.

“Libraries, teachers, local communities, senior citizens have all come together to help kids read at the third-grade level and performance has gone sky-high,” he said.

Kasich expressed praise for hard-working teachers and said they deserve to be listened to and given proper support. But negativity driven by unions gets in the way, he said.

He indicated he encountered union roadblocks when the state moved this year to take over the Youngstown school system after nine years of failure. The new committee intervention system could apply to any school deemed failing after three years, according to the bill.

“We don’t tolerate a long period of failure anymore in Ohio,” he said.

As “king” of America, Kasich would “abolish all teachers lounges where they sit and worry about ‘Oh, woe is us,” drawing laughs from the crowd.

His appeal for higher pay for teachers garnered the most applause of his 45-minute segment. “How do we pay a college football coach $4 million a year but we pay our teachers peanuts?”

Several times, Kasich, who is Catholic, likened the need to improve schools and give children greater opportunity to carrying out God’s will.

“You don’t have to think the way I do, but I believe the Lord watches what we do with our children. And the more we dedicate ourselves to having those children rise and to use their great brains to help heal this world and bring justice, the happier He is.”

Photo by Brian Jodice

See our complete coverage of the 2015 New Hampshire Education Summit

Originally published at