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Ohio business leaders urge education reform

CINCINNATI (AP) — A group of major Ohio business leaders is urging Gov. John Kasich to push hard on educational changes, saying there are good jobs they can't fill for lack of qualified workers.

The Ohio Business Roundtable wrote to Kasich as he prepares in the next few days to unveil plans for revising the state's school funding formula and his blueprint for a new two-year Ohio budget. The group includes executives of about 80 companies, such as the Procter & Gamble Co., J.M. Smucker Co. and Bob Evans Farms, and other large employers such as Ohio State University, hospitals, law firms and foundations.

"Our companies today have tens of thousands of challenging and rewarding jobs that are going unfilled because young people seeking them lack the basic educational qualifications to hold them," the letter stated.

The group says Ohio is making progress, praising recent initiatives such as a third-grade reading guarantee and toughened ratings for school districts that will use A-F grades.

"Please keep your foot on the gas pedal," stated the letter provided to The Associated Press.

The letter also asked Ohio parents to insist on immediate educational improvements.

Signed by 17 chief executives, including those of Cincinnati Bell and Western & Southern Financial Group, the letter pledged the Business Roundtable's commitment to work with Kasich "to meet this important challenge."

"It's encouraging that Ohio job creators recognize that we can no longer be afraid to fix problems in the state, just because it's difficult," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said, adding that the governor wants to help the children who need it most.

Kasich has said he wants businesses to be integrated with the education system, including allowing students to earn credit for activities related to their future careers and for teachers to incorporate more real-world experiences into classrooms. He also wants schools to pay bonuses to teachers based on student performance.

Educators are anxiously awaiting Kasich's plans, especially on funding. Many schools have had budget struggles in recent years, as tax bases have declined, state dollars cut, and recession-hit voters have been reluctant to approve school levies. Ohio's school funding formula has been called inequitable and too reliant on property taxes.

Ohio's overall jobs picture has been on the rebound, dropping from double-digit unemployment in 2009 to 6.7 percent for December.

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