The Mahoning County Educational Service Center has been working with the Ohio Department of Education and Gov. John Kasich's administration on ways to operate more efficiently. The state has at times highlighted the efforts made by Mahoning's ESC. These include:
Sharing a treasurer and merging fiscal departments with the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center beginning in August.
Joining forces with 16 other government entities - school districts (including Boardman, which also received praise at the state level), cities, townships and county offices - in applying for a Local Government Innovation Fund grant to share technology services such as data centers, fiber optics, IT management, maintenance and purchasing.
So imagine the reaction of state leaders, including those with influence over the innovation grant, when Mahoning ESC Superintendent Ron Iarussi and Boardman Superintendent Frank Lazzeri led a vitriolic rally designed to blast state leaders on education issues.
''Our Public School System is Under Attack,'' read the headline on a flier promoting a May 7 rally.
''Help stop the Unfairness,'' was underlined on the bottom of the flier.
The rally focused primarily on using tax dollars to fund private education through vouchers and charter schools. Delivering speeches were former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland; University of Illinois Professor Kern Alexander, who is editor of the Journal of Education Finance; Former Ohio State Rep. Steve Dyer, who is an analyst for the liberal think tank Innovation Ohio; Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center Superintendent Dick Murray; Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding Executive Director William Phillis; Iarussi; and Lazzeri.
The speakers blasted Ohio's private tuition vouchers, which create choices for families in chronically poor performing public schools, and Ohio's support for charter schools, which primarily accept students struggling in the traditional classroom setting and are likely to drop out. They want the tax dollars spent on vouchers and charter schools redirected to public schools.
The state has implored public school districts to reduce administrative costs to spend more on classrooms. Iarussi's and Lazzeri's districts are working with the state on this. It seems rather odd that they went out of their way to turn around and bite the hands that feed them.