Gov. John Kasich, who believes kids should be thinking about careers at an early age, is making it possible for children as young as 12 to start job training courses at career technical centers.
“Some of the most advanced training I’ve seen anywhere are in our career centers,” Kasich said in his fourth annual State of the State speech delivered Tuesday in Medina. “Let me ask you a question. How did we ever lose our way on vocational education? Why did we put it down?”
The Ohio Department of Education quietly adopted a rule change earlier this school year that allows districts to offer career technical education to seventh- and eighth-graders. Previously, those courses were open starting in ninth grade. About 120,000 students are enrolled at career tech centers across the state and a handful of districts opened them up to seventh- and eighth-graders, a state education department spokesman said.
Kelly Herzog, spokeswoman for Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Clayton, said agriculture prep classes are being taught to eighth-graders at a few of the 27 area high schools that partner with the career tech center.
“It is definitely something we are looking at expanding into,” she said.
Eighth grade is an opportune time to expose kids to potential career paths as they head into high school, she said. MVCTC serves 2,300 students at its main campus and satellite schools and offers 42 career programs.
Focus on dropouts
Kasich’s speech to the Ohio General Assembly this week focused on jobs, workforce development, education and social services. Speaking in broad terms and leaving the details for later, Kasich promised to beef up career training, college credit and drop-out prevention programs for high school students and tie all state funding for higher education to whether students finish courses and earn degrees, rather than just enrollment.
Details are expected to be revealed when the Kasich administration introduces a policy-heavy bill, called the Mid-Biennium Review, within the next two weeks, said his press secretary Rob Nichols.
Kasich hinted at a major overhaul in how Ohio deals with 24,000 students dropping out of high school each year.
“We’re going to ask our local school districts to craft unique plans for these students that chart a completely alternative path to their high school diploma,” Kasich said. “And if that path takes them out of the traditional classroom and into real-life job training, so be it.”
He also called for a program for the 1 million adult Ohioans who lack high school diplomas.
“Never before has Ohio reached out in such a focused way to help dropouts. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to force us to think creatively,” he said.
Kasich, who in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign said he wants to eventually eliminate the personal income tax, is proposing dropping the top tax rate to below 5 percent. For the 2013 tax year, the top rate is 5.421 percent. The income tax brings in about $9 billion a year to the state coffers.
Critics say another income tax cut will further diminish the resources available to deliver government services and simply benefit wealthy Ohioans.
Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank based in Cleveland, said a 7 percent income tax cut, which would bring the top rate below 5 percent, would save Ohioans who make more than $1 million a year about $2,500 while middle-income Ohioans would get a $48 break and the bottom fifth of taxpayers would save $2.
“Cutting the Ohio income tax will accomplish two things,” said Policy Matters research director Zach Schiller. “It will further skew the tax system in favor of the most affluent, increasing inequality, and it will reduce the resources badly needed for Ohio’s schools, local governments and human services.”
Kasich toned down the speech for 2014 as he kicks off his campaign for another four-year term in office. He is being challenged by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
FitzGerald said Kasich brags that he balanced the state budget, cut taxes and built up a $1.5 billion surplus. But FitzGerald said Kasich handed out tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of local governments, which sustained massive cuts to state aid under the Kasich administration.
“It is passing the buck,” FitzGerald told reporters last week.
In previous State of the State addresses, Kasich spoke mostly off the cuff, strayed off into tangents, referred to his wife as “hot” and Californians as “whackadoodles.” He also gave shoutouts galore to his pals in the audience.
On Tuesday, Kasich welcomed his “great wife” Karen, kept the shoutouts to a minimum and spoke for 64 minutes – his shortest State of the State address yet.
He steered clear of clashes he has had with the General Assembly over oil and gas taxes and an expansion of Medicaid and instead struck a chord of harmony. He pitched ideas that lawmakers could embrace and touted a record of fiscal responsibility.
“Balanced budget. Surplus. Regulatory predictability. Lower cost of doing business. That formula will work, and it is working for our state right now,” Kasich said.
By Laura A. Bischoff - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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