The race for office

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Ohio’s candidates for governor split in their second debate Wednesday on how much to support alternative types of schooling over traditional public schools.

Republican Ken Blackwell talked about the importance of spending education dollars so they follow children to the schools they choose. The state should “provide a system that actually would provide broader choices for parents and students,” he said.

The race is among the most closely watched in the nation because the winner will play a key role in trying to win the state for his party’s presidential candidate in 2008. Ohio clinched re-election for President Bush two years ago.

Democrat Ted Strickland says Ohio is not even meeting its obligations to traditional public schools yet.

“Ohio has not done well for children, has not provided them with the type of school funding that they deserve and our Constitution demands,” he said.

Strickland strongly criticized charter schools, thumping his podium as he spoke about them, saying charter schools weren’t being held accountable and were making some private individuals rich.

“This is a rip-off of the public tax dollar and my opponent wants to increase that rip-off,” Strickland said.

Blackwell responded that, while Ohio’s charter system isn’t perfect, it provides alternatives particularly to students in struggling urban and rural districts.

“If the abolitionists had said, you know we’re not going to take anybody off of the plantation until we can take everybody off the plantation, how silly would that have been?” he said. “I’ll tell you right now, I’m advancing a system that will offer a way out.”

Strickland said Blackwell’s plan to put 65 percent of state dollars to classroom instruction would eliminate school nurses, and more.