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December 12, 2008

Ohio's first lady attends school-funding brainstorming session in Perry
Gatehouse Ohio Group

The first lady of Ohio visited the township Thursday night not to speak, but to listen.
Frances Strickland attended a forum at R.G. Drage Career Technical Center that included more than 150 educators, elected officials and business leaders.

The group gathered to watch a live regional broadcast of Gov. Ted Strickland's latest Governor's Conversation on Education series.

The governor fielded questions from a studio audience in Cleveland. Later, participants at R.G. Drage broke into small groups to brainstorm about reforming the state's educational system.

"I sure like the way Stark County does things and that they are open to doing this ... having discussions in a small group is a great idea," Frances Strickland said. "Tonight, I'm trying to be an extension for Ted and be an ear for him. We want to have as much public involvement as possible (with reform) and this is a signal to the people."

EDUCATION REFORM

The forums have focused on the governor's principles for education reform outlined in his State of the State Address. The first round of 11 education forums were completed last summer. Thursday's event was part of a second phase of seminars dealing with how to properly finance a reformed education system.

"We can start from a basic premise that we must meet the needs of our students. Our funding system must ensure our systems have the resources to teach every student in Ohio," he said. "... quite frankly so much is at stake when you're talking about the education of young people."

INPUT IS KEY

The idea behind the watch parties is to solicit input about reform from a cross section of education stakeholders across the state, according to Erik Roush, a policy adviser on education for the governor's office.

"We have heard about a variety of issues including school funding, all day kindergarten and longer school days," Roush said.

The governor plans to unveil his education reform proposal early next year, Roush said. Strickland said her husband is placing an emphasis on early childhood education. One of the options being discussed is offering all day kindergarten classes.

"He is very, very interested in children getting a fair start in learning," Frances Strickland said.

She said school funding and adequate education go hand in hand.

In fact, the economic downturn is one of the chief concerns facing area educators, said Mel Lioi, assistant superintendent of the Stark County Educational Service Center.

"I think we are facing one of the most difficult economic situations any of us have ever been faced with. Part of that solution has to be the strengthening of our education system," Lioi said.

Lioi said Thursday's discussion was an important exercise for area educators and community leaders.

"I think it's important that we realize we are in this together and that we are working to solve the problem," Lioi said. "I think every community group is represented."


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