- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio school board’s beefed-up coalition of Democrats said Friday it will fight for better accountability for charter schools, beginning with pushing for the election of Democrats for board president and vice president.

Minority Democrats on the 19-member panel said in a teleconference with reporters that they plan to speak with one voice to promote a so-called “pro public education” agenda as the powerful policy-setting board begins the year’s business Monday.

They plan to nominate newcomer Pat Bruns to face veteran board member Tom Gunlock, an appointee of Republican Gov. John Kasich, in the race to replace departing president Debe Terhar. Democrat Michael Collins, a board incumbent, will be nominated as vice president, likely facing incumbent Ron Rudduck.

In an otherwise losing election season for their party, Democrats gained two seats on the school board last fall, including former state Rep. Bob Hagan, bringing their numbers to seven. They said they plan to raise their education concerns, especially about charter schools.

“Public education seems to have taken a backseat to the charter school system. We have to turn that around,” Hagan said. “That’s why I think this group has formed because we’ve seen the drift away from the constitutional issue of making sure we have a fair and efficient system.”

Last month, Kasich also joined the growing chorus of concern surrounding Ohio’s charter schools. The second-term governor, who supports vouchers and school choice, said he won’t sit by and watch charter operations “making money at the expense of great education for our kids.”

His remarks came on the heels of a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes that found Ohio charter schools’ performance results are mediocre. The report found students attending charter schools fall behind their counterparts in traditional public schools by 14 days on average in reading and 43 days in math over the course of a school year.

The Democratic board members said Friday they also hope to revisit teacher and principal evaluations that Ohio has recently put in place, as well as state testing requirements.

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