Drug problem a priority for DeWine campaign

SALEM — Drug prevention education for K-12, drug courts in every county, more vocational training to bridge the skills gap, less testing and more learning in schools — those are just a few of the plans Attorney General Mike DeWine has in store for Ohio as governor.

The former senator who’s traveled through Columbiana County many times before and once walked in the Salem Grande Parade visited again Thursday night. Quaker Lane residents Bob and Linda Sebo hosted a fundraiser on his behalf, with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. as a special guest, along with former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Accompanied by his wife Fran, the Republican gubernatorial candidate spoke with the newspaper during an interview prior to the event about his platform’s focus on jobs, education and the state’s drug problem, a problem he indicated would only get worse if state Issue 1 passes.

“Issue 1 sounds good, but it would be a disaster for Ohio,” DeWine said.

Under Issue 1, certain drug possession charges and drug use charges that are now felonies would become misdemeanors, including for drugs like fentanyl, and jail would only come into the picture after an offender is charged a third time for the same offense within a 24-month period. So someone caught with enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people could get away with just a misdemeanor and no jail time.

DeWine said it’s “going to create a safe haven for Mexican drug cartels.” The amendment “will decimate drug courts. They won’t have any ability to help people,” he said.

Plus, as part of the amendment, prisoners in the state prison system can have time taken off of their sentence for just participating in a prison program. DeWine said he thinks the public will be shocked by that — the reduction in sentences will be automatic and for some pretty serious offenses, such as kidnapping or human trafficking.

His campaign is focused on attacking the drug problem through both prevention education and rehabilitation. He said he wants children from kindergarten on up to have age-appropriate drug prevention education, which includes how to make good decisions, every year they’re in school. He wants to increase the number of drug courts so all 88 counties have them. Currently there are 140 drug courts in the state, with 20 counties having no specialized docket and 20 having no common pleas drug courts.

“Drug courts have been highly successful. They work because some people will only go into recovery when they’re forced to — it works because the judge has something to hold over that person,” he said, noting their choice is either jail or treatment.

He also called the drug problem “an anchor on our economy” — people can’t take care of their own families and businesses can’t fill positions.

DeWine’s campaign, which includes Jon Husted for Lt. Governor, has a goal to reduce the skills gap through education, to ensure that “every child in the state is either truly college-ready or on a pathway to a career.”

DeWine said they also want to increase the quality of child care and early childhood educations. As part of an effort to make schools safer, they want to make sure every child has access to a mental health professional in their school.

“We’re going to put a big emphasis on career centers, an emphasis on vocational education,” he said.

If some of the schools aren’t up to the 21st century with the equipment they’re using to train students, bring them up to the 21st century with technology. Push for vocational schools to have a close working relationship with the business community. There’s a need for more internships.

“This education component really is very important,” he said.

If a business wants to expand, if they don’t think they can find the workers they need in an area, they’ll go somewhere else. As governor, he said he’ll be active in bringing business to Ohio. If there’s a CEO he needs to call or go see, he’s going to do that. The idea behind the Ohio Prosperity Plan in the DeWine/Husted administration will be to “train more people with the skills they need.” Part of that plan is funding to help complete at least 10,000 in-demand industry certificates which are quick job training programs for in-demand jobs.

The state report cards came out Thursday and when asked about the state report cards in general, DeWine said “I find them extremely confusing.”

He said the report cards need to be simpler and as governor, he’ll ask the state school board to change the system so that there’s more continuity. He said there needs to be less testing and more learning, with the main objective finding out if a child improved in school.

He stressed that he does not favor more consolidation of schools but of district’s sharing some services, such as bulk purchases, on transportation or insurance. There are opportunities out there, economic incentives to work with other schools, which can save taxpayers money and provide schools with more resources.

DeWine also touched on electronic online schools and the need to make sure children are learning, perhaps with the state not fully paying for the company doing the teaching until an objective test can show if the child learned something.

To learn more about DeWine’s platform, go to www.mikedewine.com.

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