Published: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Valley residents testify at hearings in Columbus
Lawmakers heard from a Youngstown charter school's representatives.
By MARC KOVAC
COLUMBUS Middle school pupil Nicholas Craig recounted the spit balls, the fistfights and the mayhem that accompanied his days in the Columbus Public School system.
He contrasted that learning environment with the private education he receives at a Christian school, made possible through a state voucher system.
And he urged lawmakers Wednesday to retain those vouchers, which would be discontinued under Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed biennial operating budget.
"I think that if we did not have the EdChoice Program, I would not be able to attend a good school," Nicholas said.
"Please fight to keep this program so that I can continue to focus on my education and to strive for my highest."
The youngster was among the dozens of education advocates at the Statehouse, testifying before the House's Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.
House finance subcommittees have been meeting throughout the lawmakers' two-week spring break, accepting testimony on the two-year operating budget.
And throughout the week, attendees have packed the hearing room, with many others waiting in adjacent hallways for a chance to address the five-member education subcommittee.
Some favored the governor's budget proposals, which include an end to the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, an initiative that provides vouchers for pupils in failing school districts to attend classes elsewhere.
Some students said the voucher program is taking funding away from public school districts.
Other speakers, however, said such charter or private schools provided the only means for their children to obtain a quality education.
Lydia Brown-Payton, administrator, and Erica Brown-Fire, a counselor, from the Mollie Kessler School in Youngstown, said they have provided a positive learning environment for 62 at-risk children.
"Most of them come to our school because they have children who aren't succeeding in the schools they're in," Brown-Fire said. "...They see a lot of feelings of humiliation and poor self-image. These are kids that just don't fit in."
Classes are offered for pupils in kindergarten through eighth grades at Mollie Kessler.
"We try to set an environment where the children feel like it's OK to be who they are," Brown-Payton said, adding, "We want them to be able to rise above some of their problems. We want them to become successful adults."
East Liverpool family
Mary Anna Lucas from East Liverpool offered testimony about her son, who is dyslexic, and an enrollee in the Buckeye Online School for Success.
"I say to those of you who sit here today and do not have a son or daughter who struggles with learning disabilities to put yourselves in my shoes," she wrote. "... He has the right to be able to learn at his pace and with all that's available to him, just as those kids who don't struggle with learning disabilities."
She concluded, "If you vote to close down the charter schools, you will do my son a great injustice, and the [education] system will have failed him once again."