Ohio Public School Advocacy Network
It is difficult to come to grips with a problem that is lurking beneath the surface slowly eating away at our way of life. As a result of the shock over what occurred yesterday, that problem is now out in the open and can no longer be ignored. And with clarity comes hope that we can do something about it. While identifying what that something is may not be evident right now, it will become clear at some point down the road. There are no quick fixes to what we are facing.
For months, the debate about opening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic has centered on the question of whether they are safe. In a provocative article in The Atlantic, the author writes that the debate about school safety is no longer relevant: “Except in the few remaining regions with modest rates of viral spread, the transmission risk from and within schools is now beside the point. So many teachers and staff members are sick, quarantining, or have stepped down that many schools trying to remain open or to reopen just do not have the personnel available to do so well.”
In addition to being a retired superintendent of the Medina City Schools and an educational partner with the Kettering Foundation, Charlie Irish serves on the transition team for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network. In a recent conversation with Charlie, he posed a thought-provoking question that has important implications for OPSAN’s grassroots initiative to give Ohio’s citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. His question was: If we take money out of the equation, what do we have to discuss with our state’s elected representatives? Unfortunately, the need for more money for our schools is often the sole focus of our discussions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a discussion with them that wasn’t only about money? I suspect it would take some preparation as they would likely be leery of our motives. Even then, it would likely feel strange since they aren’t used to this sort of interaction.
A report with important implications for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network (OPSAN) was published this month in BBC Worklife. The report’s major message is that embracing contradictory ideas may actually be the secret to creativity and leadership. The insights in this report highlight why it is so important that OPSAN be more than a mouthpiece for school leaders and supporters. To be truly effective, OPSAN must serve as a trusted forum for open and civil discussion among all citizens.
Yesterday, at its annual Capital Conference, the Ohio School Boards Association hosted a presentation of the grassroots movement being led by the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network to give our citizens a stronger voice in shaping statewide education policy. The introductory video that OPSAN created for the Conference gets to the heart of why this movement is so important. The second update is that everyone is invited to join State Representative John Patterson on Monday, November 16 at 6 p.m. in a livestreamed discussion of the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan. The link to participate in the discussion is http://bstntv.com/livestream.
This morning, The Washington Post indicates that President-elect Joe Biden plans to bolster our nation’s public schools through executive action and negotiations with Congress. Here is the link to that report.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
On Wednesday, 46 statewide leaders of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network received a call to action from the creators of Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan (H.B. 305). In a 7 p.m. Zoom call with Akron Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton, Jim Betts and State Representative John Patterson, they explained that the level of legislative support for this major change in how Ohio’s public schools are funded has reached a tipping point. What this means is that there will be a strong push to get this bill over the goal line soon after the November election during the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly.
In his powerful new book, School House Burning: Public Education and the Assault on Democracy, Derek Black discusses the link between the health and viability of our public education system and our American democracy. A legal scholar, Black shows how today’s current schooling trends — the declining commitment to properly fund public education and the well-financed political agenda to expand vouchers and charter schools — present a major assault on the democratic norms that public education represents. For anyone concerned about the future of our country, this book is a must read.