Panel Unanimously Approves Columbus, Ohio Ed Reform Plan

The 25-member education commission appointed by Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael B. Coleman has unanimously approved a set of recommendations to improve the quality of schools in the city, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Among the recommendations are some increasingly common education reform ideas, including introducing public charter schools to the city and expanding access to pre-K programs to all students in the district.

The recommendations were authored by commission staff and were based over day-long informational meetings held since the commission was first appointed in December of last year. The full list of recommendations can be found on the commission's website.

If adopted in full, the recommendations would substantially change how Columbus schools are operated. For example, the school board – currently operating independently – would get an overseer appointed jointly by the mayor, the school board president, the county probate judge and the city auditor.

A fund overseen by a panel from the private sector, schools and city government would oversee a fund of $35 million to $50 million to help replicate high-performing city schools and successful charter schools. A portion of that money would come from property taxes paid by district residents.

The mayor would re-start a department of education in his administration. The director would sit on the school board as a non-voting, advisory member.

A number of recommendations were released prior to the final report earlier this month, including a plan to offer an pre-K program to every student in the city. Tuition would be adjusted based on family income with the neediest students attending for free.

The commission also recommended wider adoption of the blended learning model, which combines the traditional learning environment with an online learning component.

More blended learning would require a more robust technology infrastructure in the city, including a possible one laptop per childprogram that would make digital tools like portable computers or tablets available to each student in teacher in Columbus.

Give students more chances to earn college credit or advance toward a career. That means a college or career program should offer something in each of the school district's neighborhood zones. Parents asked for this, Fingerhut said.

Link schools with social-service agencies, hospitals and other community services. School nurses should be able to share medical information about students with the children's doctors if parents approve. Businesses should offer more student internships, and the city's libraries should play a bigger role in helping students learn. Every Columbus child should have a library card, Fingerhut said, and every library should be linked with schools.

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