CANTON, OH – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke at a local ceremony as Plain Local School District School Board President John Halkias was sworn in as the new President of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). OSBA is made up of more than 700 Ohio school boards and more than 3,000 elected board members who represent school districts across Ohio. Halkias has been a member of OSBA since 1999. 

Education is a basic human right for every child. It’s why your work matters,” said Brown. “As Mr. Halkias takes the helm and Ohio School Boards begin a new chapter, you have my commitment to continue our work together to make our public schools a priority.” 

Brown has been a vocal champion for public education and has led the charge to strengthen Ohio schools. 

Last year, Brown introduced The Full-Service Community Schools in Distressed Communities Act to help Ohio school districts and students working to achieve academic success in light of Ohio’s addiction epidemic. Full-service community schools, which provide comprehensive academic, social, and health services, have a proven record of success in meeting the needs of students, families, and their communities and can help address the needs of students in Ohio communities hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic.

Some Ohio schools are leading the way in implementing this model. But far too many don’t have the funding and support they need to be effective. Brown’s bill would work to expand the full-service community school model to communities hit hardest by the addiction epidemic.  

In 2015, Brown secured several Ohio-specific provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. Brown fought for provisions to reduce duplicative testing, to improve accountability and transparency at charter schools, and to boost social services in community schools. 

Founded in 1955, the OSBA works to help Ohio school officials better serve Ohio students and advocate on behalf of public educators in Ohio.

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Thank you to Brent May for that introduction. 

Thanks to outgoing President Randy Smith for your leadership over the past year. 

And congratulations to John Halkias as you take the helm of the Ohio School Boards.

John has been a leader in Stark County, and has a deep appreciation for the difference public education makes – not just in individual students, but in the entire community.

John, you will have the privilege and the responsibility of guiding an institution that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of Ohio students. And I mean all students. 

I talk often about the dignity of work, and our respect for all workers – whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge, make a salary or ear tips. Whether you’re raising children or caring for an aging parent. 

When we talk about education, we have to think in the same universal terms. We talk about all students.

Next weekend, we’ll celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

A few years ago I was at a MLK Day breakfast on a cold, snowy morning in Cleveland. One of the speakers said, “Your life expectancy is connected to your zip code.” 

That’s something John and all the members of Ohio’s school boards know all too well in your work.

Whether you grew up in Hilliard or Hilltop, the east side of Cleveland or Appalachia – your zip code often determines whether you have access to health care, to quality housing, to broadband, and to all the social supports necessary to succeed.

And more than anything else, it determines whether you have access to quality education. 

Education is a basic human right for every child. 

It’s why your work matters.

Ohio has been ground zero for the fight to invest in all schools, in all neighborhoods, that serve all our students. 

You all know how too many for-profit schools are denying Ohio students a quality education and stealing our tax dollars – tax dollars that should be going to educate Ohio kids in your schools that have a record of success.

We need to hold those so-called schools – and the for-profit companies that run them – accountable. 

And we need to invest in real resources for our public schools. You educate the vast majority of Ohio students, and every day you all have to make tough decisions about what to cut and trim in your budgets. 

Those choices shouldn’t be so hard, and they wouldn’t be if we as a state had more of a commitment to public education.

As Mr. Halkias takes the helm and Ohio School Boards begin a new chapter, you have my commitment to continue our work together to make our public schools a priority. 

So many of your districts are doing innovative work. 

Cincinnati has been a national leader in bringing new wraparound services and social supports to its schools, and helping them act as anchors in the community.

And Cleveland and Toledo have also had some success moving toward this full-service community schools model. 

We worked to make it easier for schools to adapt this model in 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act, and now we’re working to expand it – particularly to districts that have been hardest hit by the addiction crisis.

As you all plan for the future of your districts and your students, I hope we can continue to work together on this and so many other issues. 

Never hesitate to call on my office.

And I hope to see many of you at the end of the month, during your annual trip to Washington.

Hearing your voices and your stories is so important.

And I’m excited to see what you do this year, with a new voice leading this organization. Thank you.