COLUMBUS -- Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald called on Gov. John Kasich Friday to place a moratorium on the state's third-grade reading guarantee, saying the Republican administration has not provided enough support for teachers administering the program.
During a speech before a teachers union group near the statehouse, the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful also offered his own six-point plan for improving Ohio's education system, including seeking more teacher involvement in development policy.
"I laid out a number of just general principles," he told reporters afterward. "We'll be more specific as time goes on of things that we should be providing at the state level, which includes a higher degree of state funding, a move away from failing charter schools and more accountability with charter schools, less of an emphasis on this high-stakes testing, which is not going well ...."
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf called FitzGerald's comments "empty political rhetoric."
"His flagship education program as county executive spends $500,000 of a $2 million program on bureaucracy and overhead," Schrimpf said in a released statement. "Meanwhile, John Kasich is building an environment where students can actually find a job once they graduate, he has increased state aid for school funding by $1.3 billion over 2010 levels, he worked with leaders in Ed's back yard to advance the Cleveland Schools Plan, and has championed the third grade reading guarantee to help our kids succeed -- an effort that Ed FitzGerald apparently believes is a 'disaster.' There's a clear difference between John Kasich and Ed FitzGerald: Gov. Kasich wants a stronger future for our kids and Ed simply wants to move up a political ladder."
FitzGerald's speech before the Ohio Education Association Friday marked one of his first major policy speeches since officially snagging the Democratic nomination to challenge Kasich in November.
He was critical of the governor's education policies, particularly the third grade reading guarantee, which requires students to be held back if they are not able to read at an appropriate level.
FitzGerald said the state has not adequately funded the program, and students face the prospect of being held back despite a lack of resources to help them with reading.
"I don't oppose the concept of saying that third-graders should read at grade level," he said. "Everybody agrees with that. But it's how do you roll it out? If you roll it out without the resources and without the planning, then you're basically going to fall into this trap of high-stakes testing without providing the resources that you need for people to actually succeed."
He added, "What the governor's doing is he's underfunding education, and the substitute for that is just arbitrarily declaring unfunded mandates and policies (and then say) 'We're going to have good schools because we said so.' It's not going to work."