Canton Repository

February 11, 2003

Schools' lobbysts taking problems to directly to Washington

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — An Ohio coalition of urban school districts is taking its problems with federal policies directly to lawmakers and education officials during a three-day visit to the nation’s capital that began Monday.

“We want to be able to talk about some of the challenges we are experiencing around No Child Left Behind,” the federal education law that requires improvement in student performance, said Canton City School Superintendent Dianne Talarico, a member of the coalition.

The 18-month-old alliance is made up of the superintendents and teacher union presidents of the Canton, Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Cincinnati, Youngstown, Dayton and Toledo school districts.

In its first trip to Washington, the coalition hopes to build relationships with congressmen, senators and federal education officials.

“We want them to be aware that there is a group of professional educators concerned about urban-education issues who are available as resources to them in Ohio,” said William Wendling, executive director of the Ohio 8.

The group also wants to get a sense of how educational decisions are made in the nation’s capital.

In recent weeks, the coalition has attracted notice as a first-of-its-kind organization that could draw attention to the monumental problems and challenges facing large urban school districts.

Some believe that Ohio 8 could become a model for the creation of similar organizations in other states.

The coalition has a lunch scheduled today with Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland. Afterward, small groups of members will visit their individual congressmen.

Talarico and Sam Dorto, president of the Canton Professional Educators Association, will meet with Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township. The Canton school system and all of Stark County are in Regula’s district. Regula has unusual clout as chairman of a House subcommittee that shapes spending on education.

The group expects to meet later in the day with Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, another powerful lawmaker in education. Boehner is chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, which oversees schools legislation.

The organization also will hear from representatives of teachers unions and other educational groups.

On Wednesday, the coalition will meet with various federal education officials.

Ohio 8’s quarterly meeting is tonight. It is closed to the public, as with previous meetings of the organization.

Initially, coalition officials described the entire Washington visit as closed to the press. But on Monday, Wendling said reporters would be allowed to attend at least some of the events.