Gahanna-Jefferson school board member and Democrat Heather Bishoff faces Reynoldsburg City Council member and Republican Nathan Burd in a race for the Ohio House of Representatives' 20th District seat.
The race will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, though early and absentee voting already has begun.
State Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) decided not to seek a third term as representative of the district after the communities she has been serving were divided among three House districts following the 2010 census.
Garland has been representing Bexley, Gahanna, Whitehall and parts of New Albany, Westerville, Reynoldsburg and Columbus. The new 20th District includes Canal Winchester, Groveport, Lithopolis, Lockbourne, Obetz, Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, Whitehall and parts of Columbus and Hamilton Jefferson and Truro townships.
Bishoff, 38, has worked for 19 years in the finance industry. She's owner and chief operating officer of the Bishoff Financial Group.
She has resided in the Gahanna-Jefferson community for 15 years. Bishoff was elected to the Gahanna-Jefferson school board in November 2011.
Bishoff and her husband, Eric, are the parents of four children: Sammi, a senior at Lincoln High School; Harry, a freshman at Lincoln High School; Emma, a sixth-grader at Gahanna Middle School South; and Gracie, a fourth-grader at Blacklick Elementary School.
Burd, 34, is co-owner of FlyComm Inc. He has lived in Reynoldsburg for 10 years and was elected to an at-large seat on the Reynoldsburg City Council in 2009.
He and his wife, Jolene, have two children: Noah, 2, and Charlotte, 4 months.
Bishoff and Burd provided the following answers to ThisWeek's questions:
When Gov. Kasich took office, the state had an $8 billion deficit, which he and the legislature closed without raising taxes but with deep cuts to school district and local government funding. Would you have done anything differently? Explain.
Bishoff: I've been out talking to our residents for well over two years -- seniors on fixed incomes, young professionals with college debt, single households and school-age families. There is a fundamental issue in communicating that the legislature closed an $8 billion deficit without raising taxes. (A total of) 3,600 taxing entities across the state putting levies on local ballots would contradict this. In addition, I have spent a large amount of time this year with small-business owners who have experienced increased fees and regulation associated with doing business in the state of Ohio. The aggregate cost of living and running a business has gone up in most communities across the state.
In 2008, our state and our country experienced one of the worst economic downturns in what I hope is our lifetime. Gov. Kasich did what he believed to be best for our state. However, the budget cuts, coupled with the recession, revealed a fundamental problem in how we fund local governments and schools. Funding isn't tied to the underlying economic growth or, in this case, the economic downturn in our state's revenue. Local governments and schools, as well as every other line item in our state budget, are appropriated according to the priorities of whoever is in majority as opposed to a pro rata share in growth or shortfall in the revenues of the state.
As a small-business owner for over a decade, if there is shortfall in revenue, I'm not going to give myself a raise and lay off staff; we will ultimately share in prosperity or sacrifice.
Burd: The previous budget kicked the can down the road by irresponsibly relying on one-time federal stimulus money that was not going to be available again. It was very important to balance the current budget without tax increases because higher taxes harm economic growth. I will oppose tax increases as a member of the House. State government has many state-specific funding obligations they are required to meet, and local governments must become as self-sufficient as possible in the coming years. As a local elected official, I understand that these are challenging times, but relying on state funds is not a responsible course of action. State aid to school districts was not reduced in the current budget, but federal aid to our schools was cut due to the lack of stimulus funds. Forty-two percent of state revenue is spent on K-12 education, and it will remain a funding priority.
Do you agree with the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee that third-grade students who do not read up to grade level should be held back? Is the state properly funding its implementation?
Bishoff: I'm in my 13th year of volunteering in schools. I have learned and believe that in most cases, children who are successful readers have had exposure to many words, many times, consistently and starting at a young age. Education begins with reading at home. Ideally, most children should be reading by the third grade. For that matter, it should be younger.
However, I struggle with the notion that schools receiving an unfunded mandate from legislators will actually solve the problem we have with the children that aren't reading by the third grade. I also struggle with the idea that the ideal situation is what every child in every home has -- that every child comes to school fed, rested, with no personal challenges for schools to overcome before they are able to engage in the process of learning.
In addition, over the summer the average student loses over two months of the prior year's education, which means that our schools are forced to spend resources reteaching material every fall. Why not collaborate on how to efficiently extend the school year? Why not assist our schools with resources like all-day kindergarten or coordinated preschool programs for those children that wouldn't otherwise have opportunities outside of school to gain additional exposure to language and reading?
We should work with schools to find ways to reinforce education during the summer and support programs such as all-day kindergarten, coordinated preschool and virtual classrooms. We are simply compounding the problem. One student's inability to earn the right score on a reading test -- with little to no resources from the state requiring this to happen and removing him from his peer group -- seems more like a punishment and less like the best we could do for our children.
Burd: As a former literacy tutor for elementary school students, I understand how important it is for our children to acquire reading skills. Similar initiatives have been successful in other states, and I believe this is an important policy that can put students in a better position for long-term success. State officials should listen carefully to feedback from parents, teachers and local school officials as they prepare to implement the guarantee. As for funding, the legislation requires the state to reprioritize state and federal funds to support the assessments and interventions associated with the guarantee. It is my belief that adequate funding will be in place by the time the policy takes effect during the 2013-14 school year.
How do you plan to vote on Issue 2 and why? What is the most sensible way to redraw legislative districts in Ohio?
Bishoff: I will be voting for Issue 2. After four decades, it's time we take political strategy out of the process of drawing legislative boundaries and use an independent, nonpartisan committee to draw fair, equitable districts. This will help to ensure Ohioans have elected representatives that are responsive to the needs of their communities.
Burd: I am not supportive of Issue 2 for many reasons. It politicizes the judicial branch by making judges choose redistricting commission members. Because of this, the Ohio State Bar Association and the Ohio Judicial Conference oppose Issue 2. The proposal does not remove politics from the redistricting process at all. Local politicians are eligible to serve on the commission, and unaffiliated voters that hold partisan viewpoints could tilt the commission in favor of one party. This proposal is terribly flawed. The bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Task Force is currently meeting to explore true bipartisan reform of our redistricting process. They are set to make recommendations soon, and I believe they will find a better way forward than the Issue 2 proposal. In addition, House Bill 188 created the Constitutional Modernization Commission, which offers another avenue to review and potentially revise the redistricting process.
Why should residents vote for you?
Bishoff: I am a proud mother of four wonderful children and Army veteran who graduated at the top of my class and earned Soldier of the Year for the state of Ohio in 1996. I am a small-business owner and have been in the financial industry for 19 years. I care about my family and my community and our respective challenges more than a career in politics.
After knocking on thousands of doors, the people of the 20th have spoken. This election is about adding jobs, providing educational opportunities to Ohio's 2 million school-age children and bringing back leadership in our Statehouse that looks more like what we'd find in our homes and our communities, where we roll up our sleeves and work together for our common challenges, not attack one another.
Burd: As a father, a small-business owner and a local elected official, I believe my background has prepared me to effectively address the issues facing Ohio's businesses, taxpayers, families and local governments. As a Reynoldsburg City Council member, I have kept the promises I made to our residents when I ran for the office. I believe that the people of Ohio deserve honest debate, ethical leadership and a commitment to solving the challenges we face. I will always listen to and learn from the people I represent, and I'm ready to get to work on their behalf.