This is democracy at work. About twelve citizens, out of a possible crowd of 79,000 voters in this district, attended an informal meeting today at the Oakwood Library with Republican Jim Butler, their representative for Ohio House District 41. Butler responded to questions from the entire group for 50 minutes, or so, and afterward, met privately with individuals who chose to do so.
I asked Butler if he would be willing to do “Lincoln Douglas” type debates with his Democratic challenger, Caroline Gentry, and he answered, “Sure.” Wow. Gentry and Butler are both attorneys and both are residents of Oakwood. Butler said he recently had coffee with Gentry and thinks highly of her.
This may be a great year for citizens in OHD-41. Two excellent, articulate candidates, both thoughtful individuals with impressive credentials, both, I believe, well meaning and seeking to do what is best for Ohio, may actually conduct a campaign that will elevate our political discourse and cause thoughtful participation by voters. It would be a great compliment to the citizens of OHD-41 if “Lincoln Douglas” type debates between Gentry and Butler would actually happen.
Butler has been in the Ohio House for one year, appointed to his position by the Republican Party after John Husted was elected Secretary of State and the representative for this district, Peggy Lehner, replaced Husted in the Ohio Senate, leaving her seat in the Ohio House open. This is Butler’s first election.
As I left the meeting today, I praised Butler for his demeanor and openness. Butler, a graduate of the Naval Academy, creates a good rapport with his constituents and shows a positive attitude. It’s just too bad he votes with the Republican caucus.
The meeting started with one member of the group asking Butler to explain his priorities as representative. Butler indicated that he sees his first priority as advancing public policies that will make Ohio more competitive in attracting and growing businesses and growing jobs. He spoke positively about how Ohio’s system has been made more business friendly via the “Jobs Ohio” legislation, and added that he wants to make sure that there are “guard rails” to make sure “Jobs Ohio” works as it was intended to work. He spoke with pride at how Ohio’s $8 billion budget gap was closed without raising taxes, and, how, in fact, because of action of the Assembly, taxes for Ohioans were reduced. He said he particularly was proud that the Assembly voted to end Ohio’s inheritance tax.
In response to my question, Butler said he personally would like to see Ohio follow Indiana’s lead and pass “Right To Work” legislation, but that he agrees with Governor Kasich that the time is not right to pass such legislation now. (At a recent press conference, Kasich said, about “Right to Work,” speaking about the repeal of SB-5, “If you’re going to bring about massive change, that’s going to cause great unrest – I mean, I’ve learned this – is you’ve got to prepare the way.”)
New legislation that Butler hopes the Assembly will agree to pass includes a law he is writing, and will soon present, to empower Ohio prisons to create manufacturing facilities. This new law would allow prisons to employ eligible prisoners, on a voluntary basis, to work for 40 hours each week. Butler says such manufacturing would not compete with American workers, because the prison population would make products that currently are made in foreign countries. Butler says this manufacturing would create profit for the state and would create a savings account for prisoners — money that will be available to them on their release. He proposes that prisoners would work for 25 cents to 50 cents per hour, and says such work would prepare prisoners to reenter society as productive citizens.
Butler said he has refused to sign the Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” to oppose all tax increases, but that about 26 members of the Ohio House have signed the pledge and that Governor Kasich has signed the pledge as well. I’d like to know more about Butler’s thinking about this issue, but didn’t pursue asking a follow-up question.
I asked Butler about his vote, as a member of the House Education Committee, to support legislation (HB136) that would subtract money from public schools and use that money to fund vouchers to pay for private school tuition. Butler said that this legislation is being rewritten and that the new version addresses some objections raised to the original bill. The new version will reduce the number of students who will be eligible to receive such vouchers to only 1% of the student population of any district, will reduce the size of each voucher, and will finance the vouchers with state funds allocated to local schools, not funds generated by local taxes. He said, with the new formula, the new legislation would mean that Oakwood Schools would lose only about $40,000 in revenue each year.
Over 90% of Ohio private schools are religious schools. I told Butler that I was amazed that legislators who consider themselves “conservative” would advance legislation to empower coercive taxation to fund religious education.
He offered a lame excuse, the same excuse offered by the courts who have approved Cleveland’s voucher program, that, in the voucher program, tax money is not paid to religious schools directly, but, instead, is paid to parents of children. Parents, in turn, pay the religious schools. I asked if he had read the mission statement of a private school that clearly reveals that one central purpose of the school is coercive religious indoctrination. I said I was surprised that, as a conservative, he would abandon the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.
Then, I said, I would get off my soap box.
In my brief private meeting with Butler, I told him about my Deming inspired thoughts that public education needs transformation and that the basis for such transformation is creating a new system — one based on free market and entrepreneurial principles and one based on local control — centered on accomplishing a much more profound aim than what directs the current system. I said the House Education Committee should research how local systems, particularly those now deemed “excellent,” might be incentivized to attempt this hard process of transformation.
Mr. Butler is an engaged listener and had some insightful comments in response to my POV about public education. He promised that sometime soon we would meet again for more discussion.
For the twelve of us in attendance, it was a good meeting.
- Ohio’s Proposed Voucher Law, HB136, Raises TQM Question: “In Public Education, Who Is The Customer?”, November 17th, 2011
- Why Some Libertarians Oppose Ohio’s HB136 — A Big Increase In Tax Funded Vouchers For Private Schools, October 4th, 2011
- Ohio’s Proposed Voucher Law HB136 — Should Tax Money Be Used To Fund Religious Education?, September 29th, 2011
- What Quality Guru W. Edward Deming Had To Say About Reforming and Improving Public Education, August 30th, 2009
- Let’s Bring Back Lincoln Douglas Style Debates To Today’s Campaigns, September 9th, 2008
- Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself”, November 13th, 2007