Students testify in favor of Cleveland Plan

Yesterday, Senate Bill 335, otherwise known as “The Cleveland Plan,” was under the microscope again. In an intense and passionate Senate hearing, Ohio lawmakers heard various perspectives on Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to reform Cleveland schools. More than 100 advocates, both in support of and against the plan, packed the hearing room.

After the testimony of spokespeople from various activist groups and community-based organizations, Chairwoman Peggy Lehner finally allowed Cleveland’s children to speak. Arguing in favor of Mayor Jackson’s plan to reform their schools, these students offered compelling appeals for policy changes that would ensure high-quality teachers and enable high-quality schooling options.

David Boone Jr., a graduating senior from MC2 STEM High School, a science and math magnet school, described the impact that teachers have had on his education:

“I couldn’t form a complete sentence upon entering high school. But upon graduation, I will be the first student from my school to attend Harvard, because I had teachers who cared.”

Boone then spoke about his wish for change that would provide more Cleveland students with similar opportunities for success:

“My belief is that the current approach of doing nothing [emphasis his, in written testimony] is not helping. The Mayor has a new reform plan, and I urge you to give him a chance. Allow the state to focus more on students and provide us with higher-quality opportunities. We deserve it.”

Moreover, in a pointed remark, Boone stated that teacher hiring policies should be concerned first about students:

“Let’s make some progress and end old fashioned ways of hiring and compensating teachers. . . .It’s time we find a new approach that focuses on our students.”

Senator Nina Turner stated in her response to these students’ testimony:

“We have learned a lot from the mouth of babes.”

As Senator Turner advises, we can all learn from the testimonies of students like David Boone and others (including several students from the Citizens Leadership Academy, a Cleveland charter school covered in Fordham’s report “Needles in a Haystack”.) These students would most clearly understand the pressing urgency of Mayor Jackson’s plan—it’s their futures and their peers’ futures that depend on it. And lawmakers would be remiss if they didn’t listen to their voices as they consider passage of this important piece of educational reform.

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