In states where educational leaders rely upon the passage of local tax levies to help fund their public schools, the closest over the years they have come to engaging in mortal combat is waging levy campaigns. As anyone who has been involved in these campaigns can attest, they can become extremely emotional and divisive. Today, however, we are facing something even more insidious. We are facing levy campaigns on steroids. The daily vitriol now being generated by our political system is much more damaging to the health of our communities and future of our public schools than periodically asking citizens to increase their taxes. In an insightful conversation with Derek W. Black, the Chair in Constitutional Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, he explains how the landscape for public education has changed and then suggests a pathway for navigating through the turbulent waters heading our way.
This past week, the Boardman Local School Board and Administration publicly recognized the legislators, school officials and advisors who led the successful movement to create and adopt Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan: “It was exactly nine months ago to the day that Representative John Patterson spoke here in the Boardman Performing Arts Center – explaining the urgent need for the Fair School Funding Plan. The Boardman Schools could not be happier than to welcome John Patterson back to thank him and the team of colleagues in the Fair Funding movement for a successful job well done! More than three years of intensive study, debate and compromise delivered a funding formula that will allocate funding based on the actual cost of educating a child. This is a huge first step as Boardman Schools will stay engaged in the process to seek full implementation of a constitutional funding system for Ohio’s students.” In addition to Representative Patterson, several other Fair Funding leaders were present at the school board meeting, including: Ryan Pendleton, Treasurer of the Akron City Schools; Jim Betts of Betts & Associates; Kevin Miller, Director of Government Relations with the Buckeye Association of School… Continue reading
Why have we become so politically divided in this country? Political philosopher and Harvard professor Michael Sandel offers a surprising answer in a provocative interview on Canadian public television. For me, watching the video of this interview has served as a breath of fresh air that explains a lot about what has been happening in our nation.
The Atlantic reports that critical race theory has become an obsession this year for Fox News. After being cited 132 times on Fox News shows in 2020, this year its mentions on the cable news network have practically doubled month after month. It was referred to 51 times in February, 139 times in March, 314 times in April, 589 times in May, and 737 times in just the first three weeks of June. As of June 29, 26 states had introduced legislation or other state-level actions to “restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism,” according to Education Week, and nine had implemented such bans.
In a recent study conducted by the Dayton Daily News, investigators found that schools in the greater Dayton area largely don’t require discussion of current events related to racial justice or teach history related to racial equality. According to report, several Dayton area Republican state representatives are sponsoring at least one of the two Ohio House bills recently proposed to ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” around race.
Jeff Porter is superintendent of a wealthy suburban school district in Maine. In the summer of 2020, he said he had no idea his community was about to become part of a national battle when a father began accusing his district of teaching critical race theory. “I was very naïve at the beginning of the year,” said Porter in a recent interview with NBC News. “I thought it was a concerned parent who had taken it a little too far. I didn’t understand this until recently, but these were tactics from national organizations to discredit the entire district.” This attempt to discredit our public schools is gaining momentum in Ohio and many other states and needs to be taken very seriously.
Benjamin Barber was a passionate advocate of democracy’s power. A highly acclaimed political theorist who explored bold solutions for dysfunctional systems and political paralysis, he believed that the future of the world may lie with the politicians who implement practical change every day. In a TED Talk prior to his death in 2017, he discusses “why mayors should rule the world.”
On May 6, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that any student will be eligible for a voucher to cover part of the cost of their private school tuition if Ohio House Bill 290 becomes law. It’s called the backpack method of school funding because the money follows the student wherever he or she goes. In a request for co-sponsors, the bill’s sponsors revealed what they really think about public education: “Families often send their children to their local school district because they have no other funded option, and the schools, guaranteed to have classrooms full of students, lack the incentive to produce higher standards. The COVID-19 pandemic has again exposed problems within our system as many schools refused to open full time to students, despite the evidence that in-person education was safe. Likewise, it seems every day, another story comes out of a rural, suburban, or urban school pushing harmful political agendas in the classroom.”
In 2015, I wrote that decades of sweeping attempts to reform of our educational system had taken a heavy toll on our public schools. As a result, America’s schools were at a turning point. Today, the fate of our public schools is still undecided. Perhaps if it weren’t for the pivotal role they play in our democracy, the situation wouldn’t be so important. But it is. Our public schools are a cornerstone of our democracy. In “public schools are the starting point for bridging our divides,” Derek Black reminds us that in our nation’s prior cultural and constitutional struggles, public education has been a central aspect of bringing people together and inching closer to a more perfect union. He says that for this to continue will require us to commit to opening our schools to tough conversations about the history we teach, the values we instill and the equality we must provide. These are conversations many of us don’t want to have but, for the sake of the millions of Americans who believe in our country and want to make a difference, we must have.
Derek Black is a professor of… Continue reading
What does it take for democracy to work as it should? This is the primary research question that has driven the work of the Kettering Foundation since its founding in 1927. Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, Kettering has come to understand democracy as giving citizens a measure of power and control through collective decision-making. In its 2020 issue of Connections, the Foundation focuses on the ways people see their own role in self-governance – another name for democracy. The articles explore what citizens can do and are doing to make a difference by joining with other citizens in collective decision-making and action to address the problems they face.