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Commentary: Columbus students deserve a better education

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman speaks at an Undergraduate Student Government meeting Oct. 1 about the Columbus Education Plan.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman speaks at an Undergraduate Student Government meeting Oct. 1 about the Columbus Education Plan. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor

Imagine, for a moment, if the outcome of your career, income and education were in the hands of an unregulated group of individuals manipulating the “system” for their own benefit. Imagine that even if those individuals were removed from power, the extent of your success was still decidedly constrained.

Thankfully for current college students, this is nothing more than a worst case scenario … but for more than 50,000 students in the Columbus City School district, this is reality.

In 2012, a scandal broke when The Columbus Dispatch uncovered administrators had progressively manipulated student data more and more over the course of several years in order to improve the district’s grades during the Ohio Department of Education’s annual assessment.

Higher scores from the ODE mean more school funding and oftentimes higher pay for teachers. But what does this mean for students?

This demolition of integrity in the district has proved detrimental for Columbus City School students. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said at an Oct. 1 meeting with Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government that more than 50 percent of Columbus Public students attend “failing” schools.

”Education is the one thing that cuts through everything, it touches every part of our lives,” Coleman said.

A lack of education does more than just affect a student’s report card, it affects their potential career, income and every aspect of the city for years to come.

The solution? Issues 50 and 51 on the ballot this November.

Coleman and other officials gathered a commission of citizens from all walks of life to represent the city: teachers, parents, faith leaders, people in a wide range of professions. Through expert opinion and intervention, the Columbus Education Plan was proposed.

Coleman described this plan as, “not a transformation of public education, but a revolution of public education that will change education in (Columbus) for generations to come.”

First and foremost, this plan requires a law change. Issue 51 specifically calls for an independent auditor that would now review all data and financial information and serve as a “checks and balances” system for the newly hired school board officials.

Issue 50 is a levy that includes but is not limited to: pre-kindergarten programs, integrating innovative and necessary technology into the curriculum and recruiting and maintaining the best teachers.

Updating learning materials is also a quintessential element of the Columbus Education Plan. Coleman noted some Columbus schools are using math textbooks more than 10 years old.

As a member of USG, I felt particularly moved by Mayor Coleman’s address, which is why I felt the need to reach out to the Ohio State community to get involved.

As students at a prestigious university, we all share at least one thing: at one point, we had the opportunity, the teacher, the coach, the class, or the parent that helped us decide that one day, we wanted to be where we are now. That opportunity may not be a specific time we can all remember, because for most of us, we took this luxury for granted.

The students being hit the hardest by the downfall of the school district are not even old enough to vote and attempt to change their circumstances. We are. We not only have the age, but the voice and the power to make a change for our community and for future generations in Columbus.

“We’re all to blame,” Coleman said. “That’s why our children are failing, we look the other way.”

I believe that we have a duty to vote and give Columbus students the quality education and support that we received and they deserve.


  1. Mmmmm, I heard on the news last week (on the 1 year anniversary of the Columbus casino) that the casino paid the city $71 million in taxes in their first year. This money was supposed to go to the schools, just like the lottery (which obviously doesn’t happen). Again, why do we need to pay for this. Where is the money going from the casino? Also, this is the second or third article that I’ve seen on why people should vote for this (or should I say how Coleman has blackmailed you to think you should vote for it). How about someone’s view on why this should be voted down?

  2. As a Columbus parent of two school age children, I am incensed that Mayor Coleman is engaged in a million dollar advertising campaign to promote a 24% tax increase for an already bloated, ineffective, and unaccountable public school system. The problems with education in Columbus can not simply be solved by throwing more money at the issue: Columbus already receives more money per pupil than every other central Ohio school district, yet performs the worse. To go to the ballot, a public entity needs public trust and a meritorious proposal. The school system has demolished the public trust with its cheating scandal, and with the current cover-up and protection of those who scrubbed data to the detriment of our children and families. Further, some of the “reforms” are childish, simplistic, and will not work. The million dollar advertising campaign announces a goal of moving all kids into A & B ranked schools by 2020 — there is not enough pixie dust in the world to move 47,000 kids and 140 schools from C, D, and F status to A/B status in six years: it is a lie. If they couldn’t come close to doing it over the last 15 years of testing (worst schools in the region), they certainly won’t do it in the next six. I hate to be taking on 4-year olds, but Pre-K does not result in sustainable improvements in academic performance. Columbus kids enter school at the same level of readiness as Southwestern City Schools kids (as measured by the state-required Kindergarten Readiness Assessment – Literacy), but by 3rd grade only 55 percent are proficient in math/English, versus 75% of Southwestern City Schools kids. We need to worry about what happens to kids once they enter the schools, and when CCS can’t even get K-12 right, why add another year? The Columbus Council of Parent Teacher Associations voted unanimously not to support these levies, because while they are profitable for a bunch of special interests, they are not going to work for the children of Columbus (mine included). Please do not vote to saddle Columbus property owners with a permanent 24% tax increase for a school system that is riddled with incompetence and corruption. More info is at http://www.facebook.com/NoCheatersNoChartersColumbus or http://www.NoCheatersNoChartersColumbus.org

  3. Dear OSU Students –

    Please help! Don’t vote for 50/51. If you’d like to help, go volunteer tutor in a CCS elementary, middle or high school.

    50 & 51 lack a detailed plan that show how exactly they will make every school an A & B facility. It also encourages public-private partnerships that take our tax money, yet lack accountability. The language in the Columbus Education Plan is vague indicating tax dollars will be funneled into many private partnerships. The plan also creates new administrative positions, committees and councils – no thank you.

    We have everything we need, including brilliant educators that can turn this around. Let’s use our resources better and get a detailed plan and put it on the ballot in May.

    Please come to a local CCS school near you and volunteer. That is a much better use of your time.


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