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Strickland speaks out on education

U.S. 6th District Congressman Ted Strickland visited Ironton High School Friday to talk about education with people who are on the front lines of the battle to improve schools: teachers, administrators and students.

While he praised the strides being made locally to improve schools and encouraged students to make the most of their educational opportunities, he expressed reservations about parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Strickland said he will introduce a bill within the next few weeks that would change parts of the legislation that he said are unfair and overly burdensome to local school districts. He also expressed dismay that the Ohio legislature has yet to take any action to correct funding inequities that exist between wealthy and poor districts.

Strickland said his School Testing Fairness Act would require the federal government to refrain from mandating changes unless it provides the money to pay for the cost of such changes.

The congressman pointed out that The No Child Left Behind Act funding for next year is $8 billion short of what it should be. Because of this, local districts will have to pick up the cost of the

changes, even though many schools do not have the resources to do so.

Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance said the unfunded mandates from both Washington and Columbus make it difficult for local districts to excel and make ends meet.

"We're on a limited budget," Nance said. "But yet we're being asked to do more with less, and it's very difficult. We must decide how to spend our funds so that it most positively affects our students. You can't cut fat when there is no fat."

Strickland's proposed bill would also alter the graduation testing process. Instead of one single graduation test, his bill would require schools to use multiple measures to determine a student's achievement, such as attendance and cumulative grades.

"I believe in accountability, but it is unfair to take students and give them a single test and based on that test say whether or not they graduate," Strickland said. "It is cruel; it is unfair; it is unethical. Tests ought to be used to diagnose problems and help students learn. It should not be the sole determination of whether the child has learned what they need to have learned."

Strickland also said he was disappointed that the Ohio legislature has yet to address the school funding inequity issue.

"The Ohio Supreme Court decided years ago that our form of funding education was unconstitutional and unfair, and you would think the legislature would have heeded that decision and corrected the inequity, but this still has not been done," Strickland said.

In spite of the problems that face them today, Strickland urged students to make the most of their time in school and prepare themselves for the future.

"It is important that you understand what's facing us and that you get involved. This country needs you," Strickland said. "You face opportunities that most people you age around the world can only dream of. You have the freedom to pursue your dreams, express your opinions and live your life as you choose to live it, to choose a career and seek an education. We need you so very very desperately. We're proud of you."