Public Education Matters

The Ohio Education Association is committed to fighting for great public schools, a strong democracy, racial, social and economic justice in our communities, and the freedom for our students to receive the full and honest education they deserve. We cannot win those fights alone. During the OEA's Fall Representative Assembly, leaders from four of our crucial community partner organizations joined OEA President Scott DiMauro for a panel discussion about their work and the challenges ahead. Part of that conversation is shared here.

Show Notes

Standing Together for Public Education - Season 3, Episode 14
The Ohio Education Association is committed to fighting for great public schools, a strong democracy, racial, social and economic justice in our communities, and the freedom for our students to receive the full and honest education they deserve. We cannot win those fights alone. During the OEA's Fall Representative Assembly, leaders from four of our crucial community partner organizations joined OEA President Scott DiMauro for a panel discussion about their work and the challenges ahead. Part of that conversation is shared here.

WATCH | To see the full panel discussion from the 2022 Fall RA, click here.

SUBSCRIBE | Click here to subscribe to Education Matters on Apple Podcasts or click here to subscribe on Google podcasts so you don't miss a thing. And don't forget you can listen to all of the previous episodes anytime on your favorite podcast platform, or by clicking here.

Featured Education Matters guests: 
Connect with OEA:
About us:
  • The Ohio Education Association represents about 120,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals who work in Ohio’s schools, colleges, and universities to help improve public education and the lives of Ohio’s children. OEA members provide professional services to benefit students, schools, and the public in virtually every position needed to run Ohio’s schools.
  • Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May, 2020, after a ten-year career as a television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
This episode was recorded December 3, 2022.

What is Public Education Matters?

Ohio's public schools serve 1.6 million children - 90 percent of students in the state! What happens in the classroom has impacts far beyond the walls of the K-12 school building or higher ed lecture hall. So, on behalf of the 120,000 members of the Ohio Education Association, we're taking a deeper dive into some of the many education issues facing our students, educators, and communities. Originally launched in 2021 as Education Matters, Public Education Matters is your source for insightful conversations with the people who shape the education landscape in Ohio. Have a topic you'd like to hear about on Public Education Matters? Email us at

Intro 0:00
This is Education Matters, brought to you by the Ohio Education Association.

Katie Olmsted 0:15
Thank you for joining us once again for Education Matters, your source for insightful conversations about the big issues facing Ohio's public schools. I'm Katie Olmsted, part of the communications team for the Ohio Education Association, and I had the chance to hear a really important conversation earlier this month. It happened at the OEA Fall Representative Assembly, and it featured some really good insights from for dedicated community leaders who are standing shoulder to shoulder with Ohio's educators in the ongoing fights to protect democracy, protect public education, protect union rights, advocate for racial, social and economic justice, and so so much more. Taking part in that panel discussion were Jen Miller, Executive Director of the Ohio League of Women Voters; Cynthia Peeples, Executive Director of the Honesty for Ohio Education coalition; Tom Roberts, President of the Ohio NAACP; and Molly Shack, the Co-Executive Director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, who was representing the All in for Ohio's Kids coalition to address school funding in this particular forum. OEA President Scott DiMauro moderated this panel discussion. And he started it by asking each of the guests to speak a little about their organization and the work they all do. Jen Miller with the League of Women Voters was up first. Let's take a listen.

Jen Miller 1:48
Well, hello, everyone. It's an honor to be with you. I'm a proud daughter of Ohio, grew up in Shelby. I have eight family members who are Ohio teachers. And my family thought I should be a teacher. I think I am just in a nontraditional classroom. The League of Women Voters has - actually, you all, you could argue, helped found the League of Women Voters. We were formerly the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association. Our first victory was in 1894, giving women the right to vote in school board races. And then in May 1920, at a convention like this in downtown Columbus, nurses, teachers, business women, reporters, lawyers, the Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, the Council on Jewish Women and the DAR, actually, came together to form the league. Our first purpose was to empower a new group of women voters. You know, if the voter in your household didn't think you had the right to vote, or should have the right to vote, you didn't necessarily want to learn from him. So this was about women teaching women the mechanics of voting. But we initially we also immediately started working on advocacy, including compulsory education, state funding for public schools in Ohio, the end of forced marriages and child marriages, the ability for women to divorce, many things. So what does that look like today today that looks like first and foremost working on democracy issues, making sure that every Ohioan has access to the ballot and that their votes are meaningful. It also means that we do a lot of different partnerships. So my friend Phil Long is out here, with Kids Voting Ohio. Please make sure you check out Kids Voting Ohio, we have a actually a free textbook in English and Spanish that we started printing in 1964 called Know Your Ohio Government. And you can get that online if that's something you want. But it also means that we partner with organizations like the OEA and Honesty for Education to really defend Ohioans, rights to a quality public education, and the right to a functioning democracy.

Scott DiMauro 4:13
All right, thank you. So next, I first got to know Cynthia Peeples, not long after, I believe the introduction of House Bill 322 and House Bill 327, the first two in unfortunately, a long line of censorship bills that were introduced by the legislature. Cynthia and her team swept into action very quickly to say, How do we how do we organize to stop these kinds of attacks? So Cynthia, tell us a little bit more about your background. And tell us about the Honesty for Ohio Education coalition.

Cynthia Peeples 4:50
Yeah, thank you so much, Scott, and thank you for the invitation to attend. It is always an honor to be in community with the heroes of public education. So I I am here to honor all of you. And it's because of you that the coalition actually came into existence. I myself, I'm a Korean American woman and married to a Black man raising three multicultural children in America. So I am intimately connected to these issues in public education, specifically ones that are weaponizing race, identity, backgrounds and culture. So that's why I'm here, first and foremost as a parent, and second as an advocate, a public advocate. Honesty for Ohio Education is a statewide nonpartisan coalition that's top line mission is to ensure that every student across the state of Ohio receives an honest, high quality education that's grounded in truth, facts, and diverse perspectives. And that's regardless of their race, their identity - (applause) yes, regardless of race, identity, background and zip code, and part of that work includes ensuring that our public education spaces are affirming all identities, cultures, lived experiences in the classroom, and in communities, and always prioritizing the rights, the safety, and the well being of all students of all educators and of all families. And our coalition, we do this very important work across three critical access points to public education: at the Statehouse, at the State Board of Education, and in our local school districts. And we do this work simultaneously. And it is an incredibly heavy lift, which is why we have to do this in broad coalition with our unions, with the League of Women Voters Ohio, with the NAACP, with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and more than 50 other statewide partners and organizations across the state of Ohio and across the country. And we really have three pillars in our work: We educate, we advocate, and we build community around protecting honest education. And what that looks like right now, just as Jen was talking about issues with democracy, right now, that means we are constantly responding to this national extremist agenda that has been imported into the state of Ohio, which is essentially trying to dismantle the face of public education as we know it. And they're using the pipeline of gerrymandering and democracy to do it, because we know that it is our elected leaders at different levels of education that are importing this hurt and harm into public education. One of the beautiful things about our coalition, which I've I hope that you find as the greatest takeaway is that this statewide coalition started little less than a year ago with an email thread of pissed off and concerned parents, educators, and advocates. And in that short time, it has grown into a statewide coalition that has national funding and national partners, because this is an existential crisis. And this intersects with all of us, regardless of party, regardless of our ideology. This -education intersects with every facet of our lives. So we all have to be paying attention. And we cannot politicize and polarize this issue. Doesn't matter if you're red, blue, or purple. Public education is the bedrock of a high functioning democracy. So we all have to be active participants and advocates. What I was saying about the coalition, the takeaway is, the coalition started as a grassroots effort. It was all about community action and collective action, and taking control and not being controlled, which is what all of these organizations up here are advocating and fighting for. So thank you so much.

Scott DiMauro 9:02
Thank you, Cynthia. I first met our next guest, when I was - when my hair was not gray - and I was working as, in addition to teaching in Worthington, I was a political action coordinator for Central and attending a lot of committee hearings at the Statehouse. And Tom Roberts was a state senator from Dayton, Ohio, and was a champion for education issues then, and he has gone on to, since his political career ended, has gone on to lead the oldest civil rights organization, the nation's oldest civil rights organization's Ohio organization, the NAACP, so Tom, welcome and tell us a little bit more about the NAACP and your work here in the state.

Tom Roberts 10:04
Well, thank you, Scott. And let me thank all of you for your support of me and my 20 years in the Ohio General Assembly. Working side by side with a new state school board member, Theresa Feoder, we worked very hard to get education on the map and to fight for the rights of teachers and for our students. So let me thank you, for your support for 20 years and the General Assembly. Our mission says it is to to ensure the political, social, economic equality rights in order to eliminate race based discrimination, and to assure health and well being of all persons. The NAACP looked like you. It began over 113 years ago, by multiracial group of individuals who were tired of the lynching of Black men and Springfield, Illinois. And they joined with another individual William EB Dubois, who created the Niagra Movement to put together the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with the emphasis being on advancement. In even though our words say "colored people", all people. NAACP, if you come to our units in Ohio, we have roughly 30, we have one national board. And they set the policy, the guidelines that, I, as Ohio Conference President, follow along with the 30-some units in the state of Ohio that are in many of you have communities. And a 2017, our leadership said, let's focus in on seven areas. We call them the game changers. And of course, one of those is education. So I say to you, the relationship between education associations and the NAACP has been strong. Now I see you're 170-some years old, and we're only 113. But at least for those 113 years, I would say that we have been right there working with you across the state, across the nation, and locally to fight for public education. Let's make no mistake about it, our democracy is being challenged by those who don't believe in a democracy. They want an oligarchy, they want white male rule, they don't believe in inclusion. And it's groups like the NAACP, the League of Women Voters working together for all these years on these many different issues. We have been friends of education. Had it not been for Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954, we would not have the quality of education that we do, access for the quality of education, for all the students in the nation and in the state of Ohio. We are being challenged. But it's groups like education associations, League of Women Voters and NAACP, that are called to be the stewards of this democracy. We have been on the forefront for democracy since its beginning. Crispus Attucks, the first person to die for this nation, African American male. So I say to the units across the state and the many of you are probably life members or members. Let's not be afraid to stand up for this democracy. That's what people wanted us to have. And we are still an experiment. And the challenges that we have to face an experiment we have to meet head on. But we should not be afraid to say we are for democracy, and we're for public education. So Scott, I look forward to our conversation today. I think, I think we all will be enriched by this conversation. Thank you.

Scott DiMauro 14:12
Thank you, Tom. And finally, it's good to have a good friend of OEA. The Ohio Organizing Collaborative has been working as one of our key partners along with Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Federation of Teachers to form the All In For Ohio's Kids coalition. With us today is Molly Shack, a proud graduate of the Columbus City Schools and somebody that we've been working together with for a long time. Molly, tell us a little bit more about OOC and your connection to this work.

Molly Shack 14:52
Thanks so much. So shout out to the CEA members who just delivered big wins to our Columbus City Schools. As a proud graduate, it was an honor to join you on the picket line, and our students and families are so grateful for the work that you put in. So as Scott said, I'm Molly Shack. I serve as one of the co-executive directors at the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. We run one of the largest community organizing networks in the state, made up of members of faith-based organizations, student organizations, and community organizations. I actually got my start as a student activist and leader. It was in the days that SB 5, which we started a little while ago hearing about, my dad was a business agent for the local stagehands union. And students joined together supported by the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and the faith community and community members to stand up and say, when collective bargaining rights are attacked, for public employees, it hurts all of us. And since then, for the last 10 years, I have traveled this state from corner to corner, talking to community members about what we need. And in the faith-based organizing tradition, we talk about a concept called Abundance, the idea that we have everything we need right here, to provide for our communities, for our families to thrive. And I believe that we have everything we need to have fully and fairly funded schools in Ohio. (Applause) Yeah, you can clap at that. We do. In the early days of the pandemic - many of you, I'm sure, have blinders on trying to forget what it felt like drinking water out of a firehose - when the big debates around schools opening and closing, masks, vaccines, there was a lot of big fights going on in big ways. And what we saw was that some national politicians were trying to pick on unions, and pick on teachers unions, as the enemy of children, as the enemy of parents, rather than the protectors, the guardians and the educators of our kids. And so our organizations saw what was happening. And in the midst of attacks on our, honesty for education, attacks on racial justice, attacks on our democracy, we're saying, We have big, big problems in Ohio to address and right now we are focused on the wrong things. And so often what happens is, parents and community members end up pointing their fingers at the wrong people and the wrong things because we're mad, we're not getting what we need. But we don't totally understand or have access to understand what's really going on. And what's really going on is a set of people in Columbus have made a decision that they'd rather give tax breaks to wealthy corporations and the top 1%, then fully fund our schools. That is a choice, it is a choice that we do not have to make. (applause) And so together with our policy partners at Policy Matters Ohio, with the Ohio Federation of Teachers, with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, we joined together to say, Okay, we need to break this conversation in a new direction. It needs to be about, whether you live in a big city, or a small town, or you live in the country, or you live in the suburbs, our problems might look different but we have one common solution, which is to fully and fairly fund our schools. We've got kids in Columbus waiting way too long for our for a bus to come pick them up. And we have kids in Appalachia dealing with the same problems. But right now, rather than joining together and saying we deserve fully funded schools, we often are looking at Oh, well, the suburbs are rich, we're really they're capped and they're not getting the funds that they need. The cities are underserved. Appalachia and rural communities don't have what they need, the problems look different. But we do have a path. And so the Fair School Funding Plan was created by many of you in this room, I'm sure a large coalition of stakeholders, and we decided we were going to try to change the conversation and say, rather than these divisive distractions, we need to come together and pass the Fair School Funding Plan. So in the last budget cycle, we joined together to bring parents into the conversation, to be advocates in big ways to bring students into the conversation, to say we need to fully and fairly fund our schools. We need to beat back these distractions. We need to trust educators and local communities to serve their students the best way they know how there's a lot of people in the statehouse who do not have the degrees you all have who are trying to decide how we should teach our students and we just think they're not equipped. And so our mission is to fully and fairly fund our schools in whatever way requires us to do that. We have enough states across the country, red and blue, have done this. And frankly, this should not be about right versus left. This should be about right versus wrong. And what is right is to fully fund our schools and that's what we're here to do.

Scott DiMauro 19:43
Thank you, Molly.

Katie Olmsted 19:48
So, this is only part of that conversation at the RA. These panelists went on to talk about everything from the potential impact of universal voucher expansion on our public schools, our democracy, our fight racial justice, to the need to reframe and really re-examine that whole narrative around parental rights in these education debates, to their thoughts on the simple steps every person can take right now to make a difference in these battles on all of these different fronts. In the interest of keeping this episode to that 20-ish minute mark, we always aim for, you have to end the conversation here, but you should definitely go listen to the full panel discussion for yourself. Right now. That link is in the show notes for this episode. And remember, new Education Matters episodes drop every Thursday and you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a thing in the future. Next week, it is a wide-ranging conversation with a mother-daughter duo of educators who spent years working in the same district. Until next time, stay well.

Transcribed by