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America’s schools are at a turning point. Our children are being over-tested, our teachers are physically exhausted and emotionally demoralized, and our tax dollars are being diverted to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free-market system of education.
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One of the leaders of a grassroots movement to give Ohio’s citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy testified yesterday during a press conference regarding the state’s school takeover system. Representing the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Susie Kaeser spoke in support (about 2 minutes into the video) of House Bill 154 which dissolves the state’s academic distress commission and restores local control of public education to Ohio’s school districts. Susie, who five years ago helped form the Heights Coalition for Public Education in Cleveland Heights and University Heights, Ohio, is currently providing leadership and support for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network which includes more than 100 school districts throughout the state.
In 1920, the American School Board Journal featured a series of articles telling educators that advertising plays an important role in all well-managed campaigns to secure increased school support. Over the past century, the belief that feeding our citizens a steady diet of good news generates public support for our schools has become deeply embedded in the culture of our educational leaders. As a result, much, if not most, of the communication from the vast majority of our school districts is basically an advertising strategy designed to make everyone feel good about their schools. This feel-good strategy, however, is not working. In fact, it is doing the opposite of what it is intended to do. It is undermining public support for our schools. Telling citizens only the good news about their public schools is manipulative and deceptive, and many people know it. In addition, it comes across as sounding arrogant and boastful and puts to sleep the very people whose active ownership and support is so greatly needed. Instead of lulling our citizens into a false sense of security by telling them all is well and they have nothing to worry… Continue reading
The value of tapping into the power of the silent majority of citizens living in our communities who are not contaminated by conventional political thinking and who just want to do the right thing cannot be overstated. Throughout my career working in hundreds of public school districts throughout Ohio, I have observed up close and personally the heroic feats that can be accomplished when citizens understand what is at stake and step up to do something about it.
David Mathews is not only President and CEO of the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. He is one the most important thought-leaders in our nation. In his closing remarks at this year’s National Issue Forums Institute in Washington, D.C., he said we are at a time when confidence in government is at an historic low and many people are frightened that this loss of confidence is eroding the legitimacy of our democracy. For me, the silver lining in this growing national crisis is that the fear of losing our democracy may very well provide the incentive (ie. sense of urgency) needed to bring our citizens and policymakers together to ultimately save it. I see signs of this already happening in the current roll out of a grassroots initiative supported by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to provide citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. In fact, I believe that many of our elected government officials share the public’s concern about the future of our democracy and welcome the opportunity to engage in productive conversations with the citizens they represent.
On June 20, the leadership team for the public school advocacy network being created in the Boardman Local School District will be hosting Ryan Pendleton for an update and discussion regarding the Fair School Funding Plan recently introduced by State Representatives Bob Cupp and John Patterson. Treasurer for the Akron City School District, Ryan is one the key architects of the plan. Boardman and 19 other Ohio school districts are participating in a pilot initiative supported by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to provide their citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy.
State Representative Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) has introduced House Bill 239 to reduce the amount of time Ohio students spend taking state mandated tests. HB 239 targets four end-of-course tests taken by high school students in the areas of geometry, English language arts I, American history and American government. The bill requires Ohio to go back to federal minimums that do not require a final test to pass the courses.
Public deliberation is a powerful force. Throughout my 25-year-career of working with nearly 300 Ohio school districts, I’ve observed how effectively implemented public deliberation strategies routinely double the passage rate for proposed school tax increases from 35 cent to 70 per cent. Today, these deliberation strategies are being employed in the movement being led by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to help Ohio’s citizens shape statewide education policy. For an in-depth look at the characteristics and benefits of public deliberation, I recommend an article published by the University of Houston’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences titled, “What Is Deliberation.”
In my most recent blog, I provided a link to a newly created Facebook group for a pilot initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. The goal of this pilot initiative is to turn the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, created four years ago by Ohio’s school superintendents, into a grassroots citizen movement. For the past six months, a small group of civic leaders and I have been working to help build community leadership teams for pilot school districts participating in the first phase of this citizen-led initiative. They include Woodridge Local Schools, Boardman Local Schools, LaBrae Local Schools, Columbiana Exempted Village Schools, North Royalton City Schools, Mayfield City Schools, North Olmsted City Schools, Avon Lake City Schools, Olmsted Falls City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools. While the movement is in its infancy and there still a lot to learn about what it will take for it to sustain itself, one thing is already becoming clear. Most of the citizens who are joining the OPSAN planning teams understand the importance of this initiative and are embracing the chance to make a difference.
A Facebook group has been created for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network’s pilot initiative to provide Ohio’s citizens with a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. To join, click OPSAN. School districts participating in the first phase of this statewide initiative include Woodridge Local Schools, Boardman Local Schools, LaBrae Local Schools, Columbiana Exempted Village Schools, North Royalton City Schools, Mayfield City Schools, North Olmsted City Schools, Avon Lake City Schools, Olmsted Falls City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools.
In The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, the author, Priya Parker, explains that “every time people gather, they are being brought into the opportunity to help one another, to do what they couldn’t do or think up or heal alone. And yet so often when we gather, we are gathered in ways that hide our need for help and portray us in the strongest and least heart-string light.” Whether the purpose of gathering is to bring people together to create peace in the world or to celebrate a family birthday, this book is a valuable read.