Mary Taylor

School Choice - April 12, 2011

Mary Taylor
April 12, 2011— Columbus, Ohio
School Choice Celebration and Rally
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Thanks for being here today. It’s great to see so many of you here who care about giving parents choice. Choice for how to educate their kids here in Ohio. Ohio’s future depends on our children being the best and the brightest in the world. Governor Kasich and I know that every student can succeed if given the right opportunity.

You may know that I served as your auditor of state, and when I was there we worked hard to hold every public school accountable, and make sure that our charter schools in Ohio had an opportunity to succeed. Thank you for all of your help.

Like many of you here today, I am a parent. I am a parent first and foremost. I have two sons. Now, we’ve been very fortunate, traditional public school has worked very well for my kids. But what works in my family doesn’t necessarily work in your family. You deserve the opportunity to educate your kids the way that you want your kids to be educated.

I remember a thanksgiving dinner sitting across the table from my second cousin, and he looked over and said to me while was serving in legislature, thank you for giving my son the opportunity to graduate from high school. Because if it wasn’t for a charter school, he would have never graduated and had the opportunities he had, because of that high school diploma. Government shouldn’t tell you, parents and children, how to educate your kids.

I have a couple of stories I would like to share with you, because you have put a face on school choice in Ohio today, and I applaud you for that. But let’s just look at a couple other stories. Imagine if government had told Pam from Northeast Ohio that her grandson JJ could only attend the public school in the area. Pam and her husband were both retired on fixed incomes, and had sole custody of JJ.

Pam said she had never heard the word autism until doctors diagnosed her grandson. Immediately following the diagnosis, Pam asked, what now? What do we do now? Doctors at the Cleveland Rainbows and Babies Children’s hospital told Pam about the Rich Center for Autism in Youngstown. She called the school, and was told about the autism scholarship program. Finally, she said, an answer to her prayers.

There was a time when Pam wondered if JJ would ever speak. Today, she is just happy that he rarely stops talking. She credits Richs Center for JJ’s progress.

Then there is Michael from Cleveland. When financial problems forced his mother to move back to East Cleveland, Michael didn’t want to attend the local public schools there. Instead, he chose to attend Cleveland’s Horizon Science Academy, where he quickly developed an affinity for science and technology. He graduated valedictorian in 2004, four years later, Michael had earned dual degrees in Aerospace technology and philosophy from MIT.

And then there’s Tina, who enrolled in Life Skills Center in Cleveland at the age of 21. She needed tutoring and guidance to pass the math portion of the OGT, and Life Skills was there for her. She passed the OGT later that year, and graduated with the class of 2008. Her high school diploma opened doors that had been previously closed to her. Today, she is a police officer in the (inaudible) County Community.

These are all stories about students that have the opportunity to succeed because of what you are doing here today. Thank you for your work. These students and their families were not alone, which is why you’re all here today. In Ohio previously we’ve had some opportunity for choice, scholarship, charter schools, and private schools, there has been a limited amount of choice.

But I can tell you, this budget includes a lot more choice than we’ve had before, for you to make those decisions about your kids. I hope you’ve had the chance to look at the budget and look at the choices and options that we’re giving parents in Ohio.

We previously had 13,000 vouchers that we’re provided for our Ed Choice scholarship program. Well under this budget, the Kasich-Taylor budget, that number doubles. You may know there was a cap previously on the number of charter schools they could open in Ohio. Well guess what, the cap is gone.

We believe parents should have options and in this budget, a new approach to public education is emerging. Parents now have the ability to take over failing public schools. Under current law, charter schools are already forced to close after three years if their students are not being educated. Now, all public schools will be held to that same standard.

We believe parents should have the choice, and have options, that don’t require them to keep their kids in failing schools. This budget puts control of those failing schools, in the hands of those parents. Parents will decide what’s best for their children, and they will have options to take over and fix those failed schools. In fact, this budget also permits teachers to take over a school, and create an innovation school, even if it’s not failing. Teachers and principals won’t be held to the same burdensome regulations that bog down our traditional public schools today, and they can create innovation schools to better educate today’s kids.

School choice is not about doing away with public schools, it’s about making them better and giving families the freedom to choose the school option, public, charter, private, virtual or home school that will help your children learn and grow. Ohio’s future depends on our children being the best and the brightest in the world. Our education system must deliver better results at a better value for Ohio’s tax payers. The reforms in this budget will support and encourage such a system.

After all, increased education performance means opportunity for each and every Ohioan, and increased opportunity in Ohio means jobs. Thank you for what you do, God bless each of you today, we hope to hear from you each and every day for the next several months as we begin to build this.

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