Thursday February 2, 2006

A Boost From Boehner

Faculty from University of Dayton in Boehner's home state say his election as U.S. House majority leader good news for education.

Anyone who lives or works near the University of Dayton is familiar with Rep. John Boehner, R-Hamilton. The long-time area congressman has been an important champion for a variety of critical local issues. Now, those who've known him say Boehner's election to U.S. House majority leader should bode well for the nation, particularly when it comes to education.

Thomas J. Lasley, dean of the University of Dayton's School of Education and Allied Professions, has worked extensively with Boehner on numerous education-related issues.

"Congressman Boehner has been a significant positive voice for change in education," Lasley said. "The world of education is evolving toward assessment and accountability as a means of enhancing student and school performance. Congressman Boehner has been on the leading edge of that movement."

For example, Lasley has worked with Boehner to support the Dayton Early College Academy, a Dayton Public Schools high school developed in partnership with the University of Dayton and housed on UD's campus. The experimental high school has earned positive national media coverage and recognition in national studies examining ways to better prepare young people, particularly those from urban areas, for college and work.

Boehner toured the school in September 2004 while he was chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. He also met with a small group of DECA students, who told the congressman they like their close relationships with teachers, the opportunity to do internships and take college classes, and the autonomy and attention they receive at DECA.

After his visit, Boehner said he was "very impressed" with the school.

"There's a strong effort to impart knowledge in a unique way that seems to be successful," he said. "The empowering of the teaching staff is an important component of this because they're setting goals and outlining how they'll proceed."

Lasley looks for Boehner to continue his strong leadership of such educational innovations as DECA as leader of the U.S. House.

"The Dayton area is very fortunate to have someone so devoted to education as one of its Congressional representatives," Lasley said. "The world of the future is one that will be dependant on a highly skilled workforce. No one has been a stronger voice for this than Congressman Boehner."

Boehner or his chief of staff make yearly visits to the classroom of the Rev. John Putka, S.M., a UD political science lecturer. Next week, Putka will be taking 50 students to the Conservative Political Action Conference, and they also will meet with Boehner.

"It is a big plus for Ohio," Putka said of Boehner's election. "Ohio has not had anyone this high in the House leadership since Nicholas Longworth was Speaker of the House (from 1925 to 1931). Boehner's now a key man at the table for Ohio's interests. It will attract more attention to business interests in the state. This will generate national attention for Ohio and strengthen what already is one of the most powerful Congressional delegations.

"This is a great comeback story for Boehner after he lost the Republican conference chairman race to J.C. Watts," Putka continued. "The nation can expect a really down-to-earth guy. What you see is what you get. He's had to work for everything he's got. He is a hands-on man who understands people."

Putka agreed that Boehner's election is good news for the world of education.

"Education always has been a priority to him," Putka said. "He now is in a position of leadership where he can share initiatives in his home state, like the Dayton Early College Academy, with the rest of the nation."

UD political science professor Grant Neeley teaches and conducts research in several public policy fields, public administration, state politics and political behavior. He said Boehner likely will begin his term with some serious housecleaning.

"I think Boehner's first priority will be taking steps to show that the Republicans in the House are serious about reforming," Neeley said. "With the mid-term elections coming in November, he has to be concerned with the public's perception that the Republicans have a corruption problem. He's now the leader in the House and will have to dedicate considerable time to managing internal issues, especially the reforms that many are calling for."

For media interviews, contact Thomas Lasley at (937) 229-3327, John Putka, S.M., in his office at (937) 229-2594 or at home at (937) 229-4815, and Grant Neeley at (937) 229-2595.