Two thumbs up to Columbus’s Mayor Coleman

My son is a student in the Columbus City School District. Thus, what transpires per education in Ohio’s largest district impacts me personally, not just professionally. Last evening I was pleased on both fronts by Mayor Michael Coleman’s State of the City address. It was his 14th such speech but it was a “first” in one regard: Coleman tackled the issue of improving public schools in his city head-on. This speech comes as the mayor’s education commission is meeting regularly to develop a plan to help right the city’s schools. (Terry and Ethan Gray from CEE-Trust presented to the committee just a few days ago). Terry's presentation can be viewed here and Ethan's can be viewed here.

The entire speech was promising and demonstrated the mayor’s strong intent to provide better education options to his city’s children. Perhaps most striking, though, was his unabashed support for good charter schools (which is rare from an Ohio Democrat—though we’ve seen tides shift among other urban Dems). Here is the charter school portion of the speech:

And finally: Every child deserves to go to a good school, and the schools that consistently fail our children must be replaced.

Unfortunately we don’t have enough good schools in Columbus. When you combine Columbus City Schools and charter schools, only five percent of schools earn an A rating. That means only 2,800 of 65,000 students go to excellent schools. Meanwhile, five times as many students attend failing schools—both district and charter. This is unacceptable and needs to change.

As a community, we should encourage, promote, and replicate the best of what works in education. We must support success and replace failure.

Public charter schools are here to stay, and we must view them as part of our overall public education system. A quarter of all our kids are enrolled in these schools. They’re just as likely to be poor or disadvantaged as those in the Columbus City Schools.

I applaud Dr. Harris for proposing the Columbus Innovation Fund, which would provide additional public funding for the best district and charter schools. This is a first step in the right direction.

Not only should we embrace our high-performing charters, we should also recruit the best charter schools from around the country, just like we recruit businesses to expand and locate to Columbus.

We have too many failed charter schools in Columbus. We must find a way to close them.

I believe that as we embrace the good and shed the bad, we will strengthen public education in Columbus.

Kudos to Mayor Coleman. As an observer of education policy and a mom in your city, I hope you maintain this conviction and philosophy as the district navigates the tough path ahead of it.

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