“It’s the jobs stupid.” Neither Ohio Governor Ted Strickland nor his Republican opponent, former congressman John Kasich, has put it quite that bluntly, but they have been close. Both candidates agree that more jobs are needed in the State. Jobs and education are the issues in the 2010 election. They are intertwined.
Ohio has been suffering from a lack of good job growth for two decades. For this Governor’s race, Kasich blames the lack of jobs on the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio’s business creation agency. He vows to disintegrate the Department if elected and replace it with a nonprofit corporation directed by a board of for-profit CEOs appointed by him. They will report to the Governor.
Strickland believes he has put into place the steps required to bring jobs into Ohio when the recession ends and the economy begins to regenerate. To him the Department is not to blame.
The reality is that jobs are the product of much more than simple steps or grandiose ideas to remodel government. They result from a solid business climate and an educated workforce.
Ohio’s education system was declared unconstitutional back in 1997 (DeRolph v. State (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 1274). The Ohio General Assembly took small steps to fix it, but they never confronted the whole question of education in Ohio until Strickland became Governor. There will not be good jobs without an educated workforce. This is step one.
Strickland has begun to answer the jobs issue by his Evidenced Based Model for education. The EBM seems to have acceptance among education professionals, though the acceptance is not universal, and the plan is to take ten years for full implementation which is too long. The mandates are to be funded as they are mandated, but this is dependent on Ohio’s economy strengthening. Can Ohio’s economy strengthen without a strong education system? It is clearly a chicken or egg question.
Kasich’s plan is to “put more money into the classrooms.” I do not know if this means buy more books, get more classroom computers or buy every student an iPad. Statements are not plans; he needs more substance on this issue.
In the last twenty to thirty years, the new passage into adulthood has included a college degree. High schools have cut back or eliminated art classes, music classes and wood shops since they are not college prep courses and cost more than college prep courses. But, the government needs to face the fact that college is not right for everyone and cutting these classes is wrong for many students.
College degrees are not necessary for many jobs. Many successful entrepreneurs do not have college degrees. Why should we expect all children to pursue them? There is no logic behind this expectation. And, by the way, haven’t we priced college out of the budgets of most working families? Even so-called state supported schools are increasing costs far faster than the rate of inflation.
The last piece of the education puzzle is educating the existing workforce. Ohio has, perhaps, the worst Workforce Investment training in the country. The federal Workforce Investment Act was sponsored by then U.S. Senator Mike DeWine in 1998. His state established a system that totally failed the State’s workforce and it has not been corrected since. Neither candidate has spoken effectively to this about making this system serve Ohio’s workforce.
If they do not effectively correct these education problems, any fix to the jobs issues will be only temporary. Ohio must have a strong education system that meets the needs of all Ohioans.