State of the State: DeWine touts Dayton school’s success with science of reading

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch

Gov. Mike DeWine singled out a Harrison Twp. elementary school as a model of what more schools should look like in his Wednesday State of the State speech that detailed the lame duck Republican’s priorities with his final few years in office.

Much of DeWine’s rhetoric Wednesday was centered on initiatives his administration has made to help fix Ohio’s lagging education performance. Education is a central tenet of his quest to ensure that every child in Ohio has “the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.”

He called on more schools to follow Northridge Elementary’s lead in adopting the “science of reading” as their method of teaching literacy, which quickly and greatly improved the school’s literacy statistics among young readers.

“Northridge had been using the ‘whole language’ approach to teaching reading. From the 2018 to 2019 school year, only 46% of their kindergartners were on track,” DeWine said. “The next school year, they began to switch to the science of reading. In the spring, 60% of kindergartners were on track; and by the spring of 2023, 73% of their kindergartner students were on track.”

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

“We’re seeing similar results all over the state of Ohio from schools that have switched completely to the science of reading,” DeWine continued. “It makes a difference.”

Despite the effectiveness of the method, DeWine said many teachers aren’t trained by Ohio’s universities on how to actually implement the science of reading in their classrooms.

“Today, I’m calling on every college and university president in Ohio, every provost, every Dean of College of Education, to immediately align their teacher training programs with what we know works. And that is the science of reading,” DeWine said.

DeWine’s focus on schools and early education continued, including plans to improve student healthcare, expanding access to state subsidized child care, and keeping more college graduates in the state.

Some of these proposals DeWine can enact himself by order, but on others, he will need to garner enough support among a splintered Republican caucus in the Ohio General Assembly to make the proposals law.

Largely, Democrats came away from the speech in agreement on several of the governor’s priorities, but felt as though his ambitions would be hindered by Republican infighting.

“The governor started his state of the union saying all Ohio children should have the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential. We agree with that,” said House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, after DeWine’s address. “But until we start putting people over politics and actually start doing the work of the people here, we are not going to be able to achieve that.”

Focusing on children

DeWine said he wants to create a child care voucher program for families that meet income eligibility requirements and to use $85 million in federal funding for grants to expand child care offerings.

The voucher program would be open to families that make up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four. He estimated that it would help 8,000 children. He did not say how much money it would require, or what sort of grant would be available to each family.

Saying the state needs to retain more of its college graduates, DeWine said he wants to start collecting data that measures how many graduates get jobs within six months. He framed the effort as an accountability measure that will help students in picking a higher education institution to attend.

As part of an effort to help children learn, DeWine said he wants to ensure every child who fails a vision screening test in school can get a follow-up eye exam and, if needed, a pair of eyeglasses. Too many do not, he said, announcing a “Children’s Vision Strike Force” to work with vision care professionals.

“Ohio has never had a statewide plan to ensure that every Ohio child who needs glasses will get glasses,” DeWine said. “Now we do.”

DeWine pledged to improve various aspects of health care for infants and schoolchildren.

Every school should consider starting a school-based health clinic, DeWine said. His administration could help with technical assistance, he said.

He said his administration will launch a new pilot program in 11 counties to offer every new mother a visit from a nurse about three weeks after delivering a baby. Visiting nurses can help parents find medical support, navigate breastfeeding or other aspects of caring for an infant, DeWine said.

Similar programs have a track record of reducing infant mortality, emergency room visits, postpartum depression and child protective services investigations, DeWine said.

He also said he wants to expand a quick-response service for children in mental health crisis from 38 to all 88 counties.

Public health, safety

On public health and safety, DeWine asked lawmakers to ban marijuana use in public after Ohio voters approved a measure last year legalizing recreational marijuana, defying Republican legislative leaders who had refused to pass it.

He asked lawmakers to toughen seat-belt laws, require schools to minimize cellphone use by students in classrooms, and write new legislation to require parental consent for children under 16 to use social media apps. An existing law DeWine signed is blocked by a court.

“We need to go after the social media companies that are targeting our kids — addicting them and then monetizing that addiction,” DeWine said. “What they are doing is shameful.”

He also called for lawmakers to outlaw flavored vaping and flavored cigarettes and ban the sale to children of delta-8 THC, a mildly intoxicating sibling of delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

New state park

DeWine also mentioned the forthcoming Great Council State Park in Greene County, Ohio’s 76th protected state park that DeWine said will be opened “in just a few short weeks.”

The park, slated to open in “early 2024,” is located between Xenia and Yellow Springs and will feature a learning center focused on Ohio’s indigenous people, and has been developed in coordination with Shawnee Tribes, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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