Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rosa, Unmuzzled

The public/private dance between gubernatorial candidate J. Ken Blackwell and his wife, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Rosa Blackwell generates considerable fascination. Like most conservatives, J. Ken has long been a critic of public schools. Like most critics of public schools, he cites failures in urban districts to paint the system as failing. Yet, here's his wife running an urban public school system.

Lately we've seen both blog and MSM speculation about whether Rosa will say anything about J.Ken's education platform, such as it is. Well wonder no more. Rosa sat down for an open online forum sponsored by the Enquirer yesterday. You can read the entire forum, much of which is specific to Cincinnati. I've pulled some highlights that touch on state policy and added a few comments.

thebishop (Jul 12, 2006 11:03:45 AM)
I am interested in the 65% solution for education proposed by some republicans. How will that help the schools in Ohio and do you support it?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:03:45 AM)
Currently, Cincinnati Public Schools is funding the schools through our per-pupil formula. The monies actually follow the students. I believe that whatever percentage of money that we can get directly into the classrooms benefits the children, this district and the state should be our goal, whether it's 65% or 75%.

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:04:05 AM)
Currently we have 71% of our monies that are directly forwarded to the schools.

Comments: First off, she deftly avoids the actual question. She doesn’t say she supports a 65% mandate, only that any money that gets to the kids is good. And water will make you wet. Second, she doesn’t actually say whether or not CPS meets the 65% mandate as proposed. Third, she is conflating money that flows from “Downtown” with money that actually gets into the classroom. 71 gives a 6% cushion. Do principles, janitors, food service and transportation take up only 6%? I doubt it. Also, she doesn’t say whether the pot of money that makes up that 71% includes Title I moneys (which don’t count) and nutrition subsidies (which do.)
Jo (Jul 12, 2006 11:07:01 AM)
What is your opinion of the EdChoice Scholarship program (i.e. "vouchers") and what can/will CPS do to keep students from abandoning the public schools for state-funded private educations?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:07:01 AM)
I am an advocate for quality education for all of the students within the city. I believe that Cincinnati Public Schools has a great opportunity to share with its public that the district is improving in its academic performance and competition is healthy

Again with the nonanswer of the oppose/support question.
citizen (Jul 12, 2006 11:20:04 AM)
Cincinnati Public enrollment is mostly African American population. CPS is lead by an African American and most of it Administrative positions are African American. Why is it that most of our African American children are failing?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:20:04 AM)
It's important to note that staff in Cincinnati Public Schools are responsible for all children. Equally important is our responsibility to ensure that all children meet with academic success. We are not satisfied when any child is not academically successful. Regarding the African American students, there is a gap, however, we have begun to see that gap narrow, and we will continue to focus on closing the gap. What we know is that our African American children are bright, they are intelligent, and there are no excuses for them or any children not performing at higher levels. My focus has been and will continue to be on every child in every seat in every schoolhouse.
proud cps parent (Jul 12, 2006 11:44:41 AM)
Is there any initiative to encourage the hiring of more minority, specifically male teachers? (I know there may be legal constraints, however i'm a firm believer in diversity of education on each and every level of the education process)

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:44:41 AM)
We are committed to a diverse workforce. Our HR department attempts to recruit minority staff. Regretfully, there are not enough minority male teachers in education and therefore we are not as successful as we would like to be.

A fundamental tenet of Black conservatism is critiquing affirmative action as undermining self-sufficiency. Fascinating to hear Rosa speak positively about diversity hiring which conservatives regard as pretext for quotas.
Ama Shabazz (Jul 12, 2006 11:48:34 AM)
What policy suggestions would you offer to make school funding more equitable as the current income property tax scheme is extremely unfair to inner city schools where the property values are very low?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 11:48:34 AM)
I would encourage the state legislature to look for ways to fund schools in a way that the property owner is not unduly penalized, which suggests that more funding needs to come from the state level.

Comment: This is a fundamental element in education advocacy. It’s why I said there were better things to do with the state surplus. It is again interesting to see Rosa make this point. And interesting that J. Ken has nothing to say about education except choice and 65%.
Toward the end, three questions about J.Ken’s run.

fred (Jul 12, 2006 12:47:06 PM)
Forgive me if this question seems out of line; I mean no offense. But, I feel I have to ask: how much of your husband's (gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell) political ideology and current campaign platform do you agree with? Disagree with?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 12:47:06 PM)
Forgive me if I seem out of line, but I choose not to answer.
Joe (Jul 12, 2006 12:50:22 PM)
How would your husband being Governor reflect on your status as Superintendent of Cincinnati Schools?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 12:50:23 PM)
I respect the work that my husband is doing and his commitment to the citizens of this wonderful state. During the 38 years that we've been married, we've had the opportunity to discuss many things. He retains the right to make decisions in the work that he does as Secretary of State and respects my right to make decisions as the Superintendent of Schools.
citizen (Jul 12, 2006 12:50:50 PM)
If your husband wins the Governors race, will you step down from your position with CPS?

Rosa Blackwell (Jul 12, 2006 12:50:50 PM)
It is my intent to honor my contract.


Jill said...

Thanks very much for this, Scott. My only reaction at this time? Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

She's quite the diplomat. She said a whole lotta nuthin'.