State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, named education as one of his top priorities in the General Assembly at his town hall at the Gates Mills Community House on Nov. 11. He spoke to constituents about universal prekindergarten and all-day kindergarten, decreasing the number of standardized tests and the legislature’s attempt to pass a new school funding formula.

GATES MILLS — State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, said last week that education, workforce development and gun reform top his list of priorities for District 6. Constituents braved the first winter storm of the year to see Rep. Robinson at the Gates Mills Community House on Nov. 11 as part of the Ohio Promise Town Hall Tour.

“It’s not about Republican or Democrat ideas,” Rep. Robinson said. “It’s about good ideas.”

Rep. Robinson represents 18 communities in the greater Cleveland area, including Bentleyville, the Village of Chagrin Falls, Chagrin Falls Township, Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills and Solon.

He said that one of his priorities in the General Assembly is education reform. Rep. Robinson, who serves as the senior vice president for regional and site operations for City Year, said that he has a deep commitment to education.

He advocated for universal pre-kindergarten and all-day kindergarten. In addition, Rep. Robinson said that there are too many standardized tests and students should learn and analyze material instead of instructors “teaching to the test.” He also said that the state is in need of an overhaul of the school funding formula.

“The Ohio Supreme Court says it’s unconstitutional how we fund schools,” he said of the 1997 DeRolf decision that found the state’s method to pay for public education primarily through property taxes failed to provide an efficient funding system as required by the state constitution. The court reaffirmed its decision a number of times calling for lawmakers to find a solution, but ultimately relinquished jurisdiction. Lawmakers continue to resolve the issue.

Gates Mills Councilman Larry Frankel asked Rep. Robinson to expand on school funding. Rep. Robinson explained the proposed HB 305, also known as the Cupp-Patterson bill, named for primary sponsors, Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima and Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson. HB 305 offers a new school funding plan that takes considerations such as demographics, poverty level, special needs and property taxes into account to determine the amount of dollars each district would receive from the state.

“Right now, there’s not a consistent funding mechanism,” he said. “[The schools] constantly have to adapt to what the state is mandating without knowing where their funding is going to come from.”

Another priority, he said, is workforce development. Rep. Robinson co-sponsored HB 4 with Rep. Tracy Richardson, R-Marysville, to streamline recognized industry credentials and certificate programs. HB 4 passed the House of Representatives 89-0. It was introduced in the Senate in June and was assigned to the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee.

He said that many owners of small businesses have to figure out where to find industry-recognized credential and certificate programs to train employees. Barriers to finding programs cost entrepreneurs time and jobs, Rep. Robinson said.

He said that he is also working on gun reform, and co-sponsored HB 317 to close loopholes in gun sales and require universal background checks. Rep. Robinson and Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, introduced the bill in August and it was assigned to the State and Local Government Committee. This bill would require a background check for all gun sales, whether they are private or at gun shows.

“Ninety percent of Ohioans and 87 percent of gun owners in Ohio agree with getting this done,” Rep. Robinson said.

He encouraged audience members to call committee chairman, Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, to encourage him to hold a hearing for HB 317.

Rep. Robinson’s next stop on the Ohio Promise Town Hall Tour is Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Glenwillow Village Hall, 29555 Pettibone Road.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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