Calling it a “horrifying spectacle,” education reformer Diane Ravtich wrote about an upcoming vote by Ohio’s State Board of Education:
On November 11, the Ohio State Board of Education will vote on a motion to eliminate crucial positions at elementary schools. The Board will vote on whether to eliminate “specialist” positions, that include elementary schools arts teachers, elementary school music teachers, elementary school physical education teachers, school nurses, school library media specialists, school counselors, and school social workers. Will they call it “reform”?
Education blogger Peter Greene said the Ohio Board was “gunning” for specialists:
The appeal for districts is obvious. Let’s have one music teacher for 10,000 students. Let’s have no music teacher at all. Great…Do we really need to argue that the poorest, most vulnerable students are the ones who most need these sorts of services and enrichment? Is there somebody in Ohio prepared, seriously, to argue that nurses and music and art and phys ed are unnecessary luxuries, and kids should just pack up their grit and do without?
Is this true? Does the State Board of Education in Ohio really want to deprive poor children of music and art education and social services?
Currently, the Ohio Administrative Code requires that for every thousand elementary students, schools must have in place five of the following eight specialists: art, music, counselor, school nurse, librarian/media specialist, visiting teacher, social worker, or phys ed — called the “5 of 8” rule. The state board is simply considering allowing boards to have local control over staffing decisions rather than enforcing an arbitrary number of specialists, regardless of the individual district’s needs.
Tom Gunlock, the board’s vice chairman, told the Plain Dealer that the proposed change (the vote won’t likely take place until December) isn’t intended to eliminate those positions, but to let districts make their own choices.
“I’m sure they’ll do what’s right for their kids,” Gunlock said. “For years, people have been telling me about all these unfunded mandates and that we’re telling them what to do. They keep telling me they know more about what their kids need that we do, and I agree with them.”
This is actually a good thing. Instead of treating children like numbers and treating all school districts the same, it returns control to local districts so they can decide which (and how many) teachers and specialists they need. As we’ve seen with Common Core, one size does not fit all and local control is better than top-down national (or even state) authority. If you don’t like something your local school board does, you can walk down the street and complain to someone who lives in your community. They’re your neighbors and their kids likely attend the public schools in your district. If they make decisions you don’t like, you can vote them out in the next election and get a new school board.
Nevertheless, near panic has set in in Ohio as word has gone out that very soon, art and music will cease to exist in the state — along with the union jobs that must be protected at all costs (whether they’re needed or not):
— PatMcManamon (@PatMcManamon) November 10, 2014
— Mrs. Wiley (@MrsWileyArtRoom) November 11, 2014
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) November 11, 2014
Kids need to have the opportunity to be creative. You cannot take away their art,music, or other classes that will take that away #Ohio5of8
— Jessi ✨ (@stillj17) November 11, 2014