By Loren Genson
MEDINA — Gov. John Kasich unveiled new initiatives, including several education reforms, during a joint session of lawmakers Monday night at the Medina Performing Arts Center.
Kasich called for increasing access to vocational education and improving education for students who struggle to graduate. He also talked about reforms at the collegiate level.
He proposed a new initiative, Community Connectors, which would support schools, parents, community organizations, faith-based groups and business leaders in mentoring efforts.
“We’re going to ask you — the Legislature — to take the $10 million from casino receipts, and we’re going to ask you to create a program that will give these communities a $3 match for every dollar they put in to build these mentoring efforts,” he told the gathered General Assembly.
In addition to reaching out to traditional students, he also spoke about increasing the vocational school program to start as early as seventh grade.
“We want kids to have a connection to this in the seventh grade,” he said. “Mom and Dad, your kids can get that kind of training for a skill and a purpose, and it doesn’t stop them from going to the two-year school or the four-year school.”
Kasich also talked about providing training to Ohio’s 1 million adults without high school diplomas. He said two-year colleges can provide GED education to adults.
“Never before has Ohio reached out in such a way to help dropouts,” he said.
He said he wants to change how state schools get their funding to increase graduation rates.
“Colleges and universities will not get any of these state dollars that have gone to them traditionally based on enrollment,” Kasich said. “They will only get paid if students complete courses and if students get degrees.”
Kasich said he’s met with university leaders and he will propose legislation soon to enact the changes.
Kasich said he also would ask the Legislature to make additional cuts to state income taxes.
“We’ve got to keep cutting taxes, we’ve got to keep doing it,” he said. “That’s why I’m proposing another round of tax cuts that will finally succeed in getting Ohio’s tax rate below 5 percent.”
He said $12 billion in income has left the state since 1995 from residents who moved to states with lower income taxes.
Other proposals Kasich mentioned during his address included additional support for minority-owned businesses and creating a system to allow veterans to get college credit for training they get while on active military duty.
Kasich ended his speech urging members to work together despite the election year.
“Please don’t let politics — the fact that we’re in an election year — make us weak or too partisan, not willing to take on big issues,” Kasich said.
Following the address, Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, called Kasich’s speech “visionary.”
“This was an address that gives the people of Ohio the understanding of what can be done in the future if we cooperate,” Batchelder said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.