In his budget plan for education, Gov. John Kasich earmarked $10 million in 2014 to help schools upgrade broadband connections and Internet access. The one-time funding is part of the planning to assist Ohio schools as they move to the new Common Core curriculum, with tougher academic standards and tests that will be wholly online.
The funding is puny, considering the need to bring Internet connectivity and hardware up to speed across 613 school districts. All the same, it acknowledges a 21st-century reality: that communications and the tempo of daily life — whether at school, at home or in the workplace — increasingly depend on access and the speed of connection to the Internet. Already evident is a “digital divide,” rural areas and inner cities across the state more likely to lack high-speed Internet access.
Then, late last week, the House removed from the budget bill a provision that links funding for the broadband upgrade to the timeline for implementing Common Core testing, arguing that questions need to be answered about the initiative.
It seems the easiest way in the Ohio House to put up roadblocks against systemic change is to attach “Obama” to an initiative. Health care has been a test model, and the model is being extended, unfortunately, to educational policies in a way that will set back Ohio schools and students at a time when they need to seize the technological edge.
Among some conservative critics, the Common Core is now “Obamacore,” a federal takeover of primary and secondary education. They aim to deny funding to implement the program.
Republican and Democratic governors in the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers launched the Common Core in 2008 and have collaborated in developing it. A consortium of 22 states developed the standards and tests. Ohio wisely has participated from the start in the drive to define what students need to know and do to be ready for college and careers and to hold their own internationally. Participation is voluntary, and 45 states have signed up. The Obama administration has helped, supporting the effort with Race to the Top grants.
It is crucial for Ohio schools to equip the next generation of citizens to function skillfully with the appropriate technologies. Terry Ryan, the vice president of Ohio Programs of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative educational think tank, called the House’s response to the Common Core “bizarre.” He is right.