Student Reaction to Education Debate

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In a brand-new, squeaky clean middle school classroom in Lorain County, 27 Southview high school students from a college credit social studies class watch the gubernatorial debate live. Junior Chris Krego says for him one single moment sealed the win for Strickland.

Ted Strickland: Now my opponent talks about 65% going into the classroom, you know President Bush's former secretary of education said that was one of the worst ideas and one of Ronald Reagan's education officials said it was a gimmick.

Chris Krego: So obviously if people are saying stuff about your plan - being on your own committee and your own party not working, saying its not working - it's obviously going to fall through and you're going to need to come up with the money somehow. And what better way then taxes.

Sophomore John Austin disagrees, while he thinks Blackwell was a little too aggressive towards Strickland, he believes Blackwell won the debate.

John Austin: You know, it seems like Blackwell, he was more direct. More direct about what he was saying. I'll give it to Blackwell, 'cause he's more concerned with taxes and you know he's pretty cool.

Overall, the students in Lorain thought both candidates were too vague, leaving them split on the debate's winner; Strickland 14 to Blackwell 13. Their responses, along with those from a similar group at Mentor High School, will be added to a growing stack of opinions on Ohio's schools being collected by the Commission for Quality Education. Similar forums last week in Cincinnati and next week in Youngstown and Columbus involve teachers, administrators, and parents. But the events in Mentor and Lorain are the only ones solely dedicated to the opinions of students, opinions spokesman Damien Filer thinks are important.

Damien Filer: Feedback from the people who education policy has the most direct impact on and that's students and I think that to often their voices are left behind in the shuffle.

Here in Lorain, the economy is struggling, and the students say that translates to a lack of resources in their classrooms. They hope whomever is elected governor will bring them more computers, updated science labs and, most importantly, new books. These are things Freshman Jessica Pinot says make students want to attend school.

Jessica Pinot: When you have a nicer thing, and get books and stuff, like when you get books and stuff - our books are all beat up some the pages are ripped out and we really have nothing to look forward in wanting to finish.

Alex Sellers agrees - that's why he likes Blackwell's idea to ensure 65% of a district's budget is spent directly in the classroom.

Alex Sellers: They should stop sending so much money to the administration while we're sitting in a school with not without a single computer in the classroom. So it could go to more technology in the classroom.

Too much emphasis on testing and not enough on course preparation for college was another concern. The students say they need more electives, and after-school programs to sharpen their interests and point them toward career paths, not to mentions scholarship eligibility. Ricardo Perez says after he passed the Ohio Graduation Test in 11th grade, he felt like the school wasn't concerned about him anymore.

Ricardo Perez: We passed the OGT's, that's all, and then you would've expect that void to be filled with talk about college, and the things we needed to do. And really like... you really have to fend for yourself.

The feedback like this, gathered from Ohioans across the state, is going into a report by the Communities for Quality Education. A report they'll send to the campaigns in mid-October, hoping will reach the hands of candidates Ted Strickland and Ken Blackwell. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.

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