John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Education

If you are following the 2016 Republican primary, surely you have heard this narrative: In a field of extremists and ideologues, John Kasich is a voice of moderation. While it is true that Kasch has not called for a ban on all Muslim travel to the United States or said that we will find out if sand glows after carpet-bombing the Middle East, Kasich has his own set of extreme positions, particularly on education policy.

Kasich has been a tireless advocate for charter schools in Ohio, even as questions have been raised about the quality of these schools. Indeed, Ohio’s charter schools have so many issues that they have become a joke among charter school advocates. According to a report from Margaret Raymond of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, students at Ohio charter schools learn 36 fewer days of math and 14 fewer days of reading than students at traditional public schools in the state.

In addition to questions about education quality, Ohio charters have also been implicated in the improper use of state revenues. Since 2001, audits in Ohio have found that $27.3 million dollars in state money has been misspent by state charter schools. To offer one especially galling example, the state has been billed $1.2 million dollars for students who no longer even attend the schools.

To make matters worse, Dave Hansen, school choice director at the Ohio Department of Education and husband of Kasich’s campaign manager (and former Chief of Staff) Beth Hansen was forced to step down after it was revealed over the summer that failing grades for online charter schools were intentionally left out of state charter school evaluations.

While Kasich did finally sign a charter school reform bill in late 2015, the zeal with which his administration has pursued the expansion of charter schools — even in the face of evidence showing serious problems with the current system — shows just how important charter schools are for his administration. The central role that the expansion of this conservative policy goal has played in his administration stands in direct contrast to the argument that Kasich is a moderate Republican.

At the same time, John Kasich has also sought to weaken the rights of public school teachers and cut funding to public education. Early in his first term, John Kasich signed Senate Bill Five, which took away collective bargaining rights from all public employees in the state, including teachers. (After a massive organizing effort, Ohio voters ultimately overturned this law via referendum in 2011.) Kasich also cut funding for education in early budgets, with total state spending on education only recently exceeding the level of funding under of his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, after being consistently lower throughout much of his tenure.

Kasich also rolled back Strickland’s efforts to reform the very mechanism by which Ohio funds its public schools. That system, which relies on property taxes, was ruled unconstitutional in 1997, as it systematically disadvantages lower-income communities with lower tax bases. By undoing efforts to bring Ohio’s school funding in line with its own constitution, Kasich has effectively signaled that he’s fine with the perpetual and disproportionate underfunding of Ohio’s public schools.

Furthermore, Kasich’s rhetoric on education is as conservative as his actions. In August of 2015 Kasich called for the abolition of teachers’ lounges because teachers “sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’” This wasn’t the first time that Kasich bashed teachers in the press: Right after winning his first term as governor, Kasich said that he was “waiting for” teachers’ unions to take out full-page ads in the newspaper to apologize to him for the way these unions talked about him during the campaign.

Overall, it is clear that John Kasich is not a moderate when it comes to education, whether one looks at the policies his administration has pursued or the rhetoric he has used when talking about teachers. When it comes to education, John Kasich fits neatly within the conservative wings of the Republican Party.

Jacob Smith is Political Science Ph.D. student at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has a B.A. in Political Science from Kenyon College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with highest honors in Political Science, and a M.A. in Political Science from UNC-Chapel Hill. His interests relate to Congress, congressional elections, and political parties. All opinions shared here are his own; posting on AMERICAblog does not imply agreement with any posts, current or past, by other authors.

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3 Responses to “John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Education”

  1. UncleBucky says:

    Affinity? Kasich’s affinity for charter schools is GREEN. Very green. And it’s nickname is Franklin.

  2. BeccaM says:

    It’d be simpler just to note that NONE of the current Republican candidates for president can be considered a political moderate. Indeed, none of them would even admit publicly to being anything other than “a staunch conservative.” For all of them it’s “Conservatism can’t fail; it can only be failed.”

    When one of their candidates loses, as they often do, due to being too whackadoo wingnutty, the party’s response isn’t, “Gee, we shouldn’t be so extreme.” It’s always, “We failed because we weren’t conservative enough.”

    Back before Reagan, there used to be these uncommon critters known as Moderate Republicans, and the even more rare (but still existing) liberal Republicans. Nowadays, not only does the GOP demand the rigid dogma of wearing the Conservative label, they’ve systematically redefined that term further and further to the radical right.

    Basically, there is no wing to the GOP other than the far-right conservative one.

  3. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    Kasich may not be running on a ban on all Muslims or Carpet bombing Isis, but he would support both of these things.

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