Two Powell residents are running for the 67th District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Janet Breneman is the Democratic Party’s nominee running opposing Republican incumbent Andrew Brenner in the Nov. 8 general election.
During a meet the candidates night at Shanahan Middle School in Lewis Center, both Brenner and Breneman answered questions from the audience.
Breneman said she is new to politics and her professional life has been that “first of a mother, a nurse and a small business owner,” she said. She said for the last 12 years she has been working in public health in hospitals with policies and programs and her small business consists of renting houses to low-income families.
According to Brenner, he is a professionally licensed insurance agent who served from 2005-2010 as Delaware County Recorder. He is currently in his third term and running for his fourth and final term due to office term limits.
Brenner said that one of the committees he wanted to serve on when he was first elected was the education committee to which he was appointed to his freshman year at the House. Currently he is the chairman of the house education committee.
“I now have oversight of all the bills that go through the general assembly dealing with education policy,” Brenner said. “Pushed to reenact the Education Management Information System that has the oversight over all the data systems for the entire state. It had not met in about seven years and I pushed for some oversight of that to improve it.”
In his legislative career, Brenner said he introduced one of the first bills dealing with dyslexia and recognizing that in a pilot project and in the code. “I pushed for a bunch of other reforms and bills dealing with education policy, especially school funding reform,” he said.
Breneman said she became involved in politics while working at the state house as a medical expert on House Bill 223, the so-called medical marijuana bill. “I was trying to educate (the legislators) so they could make an informed decision to letting the patients of Ohio have (medical marijuana),”she said. She stated she is only an advocate for the medical use of marijuana.
Breneman said she learned a lot about politics through her work at the Statehouse. She said the thing that struck her the most was the people are supposed to be heard by state officials.
“It’s not being done in this district, it’s not being done on the state level,” she said. “We need to make a change. We need to take back our voices and make sure they are going to be heard. I offer to be your voice at the state house. I’m not afraid of a challenge. I don’t shut up and I don’t sit down. Especially if I’m fighting for the right thing to do.”
Brenner said he first became involved in education policy in 1992 when he was in student government at Ohio State University. From there he tossed his hat into the ring for the Buckeye Valley board of education. “I ran unsuccessfully for Buckeye Valley school board in 1993,” he said. “I ran because I was passionate about reforming schools.”
Brenner said he finds it important to reach out and meet with all the school boards in the county.
“Especially in the 67th house district,” he said. “I routinely meet with school board members, superintendents, parents and constituents all over the state and I’m readily available online through Facebook and my cell phone.”
Breneman said her platform on education is to push for the same standards for both public and charter schools. She said she would like the oversight of charter schools to be done through public schools so the funding would go through the school districts.
“It has been ruled four times now (by the Ohio Supreme Court) that the way we fund our education in Ohio is unconstitutional to use the property tax like we do,” Breneman said. “After years of that I want to find out what is being done about it.”
Breneman said if funding is based on property taxes, then only wealthy areas will have the best schools.
“There has to be a way that funding for schools in the State of Ohio can be a more equal playing field without relying on property taxes,” she said. “We need to look beyond our local area.”
“Charter schools are public schools and have been public schools for 20-years,” Brenner said. “We passed charter school reform in House Bill 2, it added some major oversight to our charter schools that hadn’t happened in the 20-year period. I sponsored the bill. I would like to see good charter schools, not bad charter schools.”
Brenner said most of the students who attend charter schools are economically disadvantaged. He said many of the students have been in and out of traditional schools. “Many of the students have been bullied,” Brenner said.
“To get away from the schools and the bullying many go online,” he said. “I think before we go and say all these schools are bad, they can only be located in school districts in the lowest 5 percent of the schools in the state. That means there aren’t any located in Delaware County, they are located in our urban area schools.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.