OHIO SCHOOLS Taft's rep makes area visit
Teachers across the state are concerned that their schools aren't funded properly.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Jayne Burger has logged thousands of miles traveling across Ohio in the nine months since being named Gov. Bob Taft's Teacher in Residence.
From Cincinnati to Youngstown, the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River; small towns to big cities, rural schools to urban.
But teachers' concerns are the same everywhere: not enough money, not enough time and too much testing.
"The state is extremely diverse, but it doesn't matter where you go, it's the same concerns," she said.
Burger, a veteran elementary school teacher in the Gallipolis city schools in southern Ohio, was at Hayes Junior High School in Youngstown on Tuesday and in the Warren city schools today as part of her ongoing quest to find out what's on the minds of teachers in the Buckeye State and relay them to the governor.
Taft created the Teacher in Residence position in 1999 to foster better communication between classroom teachers and the governor's office.
Burger, an award-winning teacher, was named to the two-year post in July 2001. She plans to return to her teaching job in Gallipolis for the 2003-04 school year.
She said she's visited dozens of schools in about 20 Ohio counties.
"I was concerned when I started this job that if I went in and said, 'Hey, what's wrong with education, what do you want me to tell the governor?' that I would be bombarded with constant negative feedback because I know teachers are frustrated," she said.
"But that's not really been the case. I have been very pleased that teachers understand there are problems and, yes, they want to voice their concerns, but they also do understand the enormity of the education system," she added. "I think teachers just want to know what they're supposed to be doing, and they want to make sure they're doing it well."
Burger said teachers across the state are concerned that their schools aren't funded properly.
"Even schools that appear to have everything feel they have needs," she said.
Teachers also feel pressed for time and "being able to fit in all of the demands of the curriculum."
"Today's teacher doesn't just teach," she said. "They have all of these other responsibilities and duties, being social workers and dealing with other problems that didn't used to be in the schools that are now."
Teachers also are concerned about how the state's proficiency tests are affecting students. Teachers believe the exams in the fourth, sixth and ninth grades have become punitive, she said.
"Most teachers are not opposed to testing," she said. "They understand the need for it. You do have to test students to figure out where they need to go and what they need to do, but the structure concerns them."