District 2: Ohio’s Board of Education candidates talk culture wars, funding

By: - September 29, 2022 4:40 am

State Sen. Teresa Fedor, left, and middle school teacher Sarah McGervey, right, the candidates for Ohio State Board of Education District 2. Official photos.

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

Two Northern Ohioans are vying to represent District 2 in the State Board of Education.

This is the third edition of OCJ’s state Board of Education series, where the candidates for District 2 discuss controversial topics and school funding.

To learn why you should be paying attention to the Board of Education races, click or tap here.

Who is in District 2

District 2 is made up of Senate districts 2, 11 and 13. This contains Erie, Huron, Lorain, Lucas, Ottawa and Wood. In simpler terms, this is from Avon Lake to Toledo.

To find out if you are in District 2: The Sec. of State website has a handy tool called “Find my District.”

Once you are there, type in your address. You should get a pop-up stating the numbers for your house, senate, congressional and school district.

If it says District 2, you can learn more about the candidates you’ll be voting on below.

Candidates

Current state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) was a public school educator for nearly 20 years before moving over to the Statehouse in 2001. She is the ranking member of the Primary and Secondary Education Committee and focuses much of her time on helping victims and survivors of sex trafficking. She also served in the United States Air Force.

Sarah McGervey is a conservative middle school teacher at a Catholic school in Cleveland. She has been an educator for about six years, now working at St. Leo the Great School in Cleveland. She is from Avon Lake and got her Master’s Degree in Theology and Ministry. She has been a part of the pro-life movement as a student and as an adult.

Culture wars

The battle around what students should be taught in school continues to rage on in not just the Ohio Legislature but also at the local level.

Parents have been raising concerns on each side for about two years now, but the debate is heating up as the election gets closer.

Dozens of families, students and educators have reached out to OCJ, asking the team to speak to candidates for the state school board about the “culture wars.”

In just a few weeks, the state board will vote on a resolution that would oppose Title IX protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

Click or tap here to learn more about the resolution.

McGervey’s social media shows she is against critical race theory and against so-called “woke” ideas.

“I don’t like cancel culture,” she said. “I know that parents should be involved with their child’s life, that it’s the parent’s decision of what their children are exposed to or not exposed to.”

When it comes to the school board resolution, McGervey told OCJ that the origins of Title IX were to help women, so that is what she supports.

On her Facebook page, she shared a post on Sept. 11 saying, “We need to protect scientific factual information regarding biology, as well as women’s rights in school and sports.”

“If this change to Title IX goes through, then facts no longer matter and women’s rights will not either,” she continued.

One of the largest parts of her platform is that parents will have their voices heard.

“Whatever people’s agenda is or where people’s opinions are, that is not for the classroom,” the middle school teacher said. “That’s not for teachers to give out.”

She wants to get back to “foundational skills again,” and focus more on math, reading and writing. Being able to do this well can help teach history, she said.

“Look at various parts of history and [understand] what’s happened in the past, what’s currently happening and examining those things, then they can also not repeat past mistakes, but go forward and do productive things and truly be a good American citizen and live for liberty, live for freedom, promote free and promote liberty and do those things and teach others how to do it,” she said.

Fedor knows her fellow public educators are making the right decisions in the classroom, especially with history and curriculum, she said.

The “fight against public education” just continues to grow as people weaponize CRT, which is not being taught in schools, and rally against books they don’t like, the state senator added.

She was also one of the first public officials to make a statement condemning the resolution as discriminatory.

“This resolution hides under a very thin veil of ‘supporting families,’ but we must call it what it is: an unnecessary, unprovoked attack on Ohio’s children,” Fedor said about the Board of Education resolution. “The resolution is harassment — full stop. If adopted, our youth will be pushed into social isolation, stigmatization, bullying and potentially even self-harm.”

During the interview, Fedor didn’t want to spend much time on the culture wars issue, because she said it goes directly hand-in-hand with the funding issue.

“The exaggerations of CRT and other negative attacks — it works on their behalf so that we never address constitutional funding,” she added.

Funding

Issues like the culture wars are not a true concern from advocacy groups, Fedor said, but rather a fear tactic to get attention off of financial issues.

“Put threats in front of it, make people fearful, continually make up these exaggerated theories on CRT, book banning, for goodness sakes,” she said. “It works on their behalf so taxpayers aren’t able to see what’s going on.”

Starting in the fiscal year 2021, lawmakers added hundreds of millions of state dollars in both direct funding and tax credits to subsidize families sending their children to private and charter schools. Critics, like Ohio Education Association (OEA), said this makes taxpayers pay for these for-profit schools and diverts money away from public education, which desperately needs it.

“Our public tax dollars, every penny that goes into the charter school system, it’s not fully accountable and transparent,” she said. “And in the voucher system, which is woefully unaccountable, [it] goes into a black hole, never to be seen again by the taxpayer.”

She, like candidate for District 10 Tom Jackson, referenced Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT, as one of the greatest scandals in Ohio’s history. The defunct online charter school allegedly owes Ohio $117 million for public funds it improperly received during its final years of operation, according to the state auditor. It closed in 2018. This shouldn’t happen, especially not on the taxpayer’s dime, she said.

Fedor built her career on “good governance,” which is accountability, transparency and oversight, the lawmaker said. Modernizing the public education system deserves all the funding it should receive — but this doesn’t mean she wants to totally disregard nonpublic schools and those families.

“There’s some merit into seriously considering that if this is the way the elected leaders right now want to use our tax dollars beyond public school accountability, oversight and transparency, then they need to have a separate line item in the budget,” she added. “Having a separate line item in the budget will not dilute the transparency, oversight and accountability that must be used when you look at their results.”

McGervey is on the opposite side of Fedor. She and other school-choice advocates say the money should always follow the child, not the school.

“Whatever controversy there may be, it still boils down to what is best for the child,” she said.

McGervey did not have much to say about the public funding formula and the impact of nonpublic schools. The conservative said she would be here to “represent people,” specifying parents, and their opinions.

“We’re about the child, right? We’re all about helping children be empowered and learn the best way they can, so that funding the child so the child has everything it needs to succeed,” McGarvey said. “That’s my answer.”

Wanting more answers, OCJ went to her campaign accounts to get additional information.

Earlier this year, she posted an opinion article from Newsweek titled, “COVID exposed how public schools are failing Black kids. Will progressives care?”

Fedor said that public schools wouldn’t be struggling as much if they didn’t have to rely on a system that gave money to nonpublic schools. Also, getting rid of the former funding formula that focused heavily on property taxes funding schools would help, as well.

This month, McGarvey shared a blog post sharing the benefits of voucher programs.

If you want to see all the stories OCJ’s Morgan Trau has done on the state school board, click or tap here.

Want to learn the latest on where the candidates stand? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.

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