Legislators may need to hit the books

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If recent reports hold any truth, some Ohio Legislators need to go back to school and walk a mile in someone else's sneakers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Sunday that some lawmakers and education officials believe legislators could be making higher-education funding decisions based on their own educational attainment.

Among Ohio legislators, 75 percent hold college degrees. But one in three

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House Republicans never went to college, the paper reported. That would be fine in and of itself but the problem is that some fellow legislators are claiming that this lack of education equals a lack of a priority to fund education.

If that is truly the case, these legislators need a lesson or two in common sense. While college is not for everyone, to place a reduced emphasis on it because of your own individual values of higher education would be down right ludicrous.

Gov. Bob Taft's plan cut 26 institutions. The House has gone a step farther.

Under the House version of the state's $51 billion budget, 33 colleges and universities would receive cuts, from a 4-percent reduction to the Northeast Ohio College of Medicine to a 0.12-percent cut to the University of Akron, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Higher education would still receive zero additional money in 2006 under the House plan, mirroring Taft's zero-growth proposal.

Do these cuts have anything to do with the education levels of the legislators? We have no idea, but House Democratic leader and college graduate Chris Redfern thinks so.

''I'm a big supporter of travel and tourism because I live on Lake Erie. If I hadn't lived on Lake Erie, maybe I wouldn't be,'' Redfern said. ''By extension, those of us who have spent a bit more time in education are going to understandably see more value in it. Absolutely, your personal experience makes a difference."

Many of the legislators in question contend that the education decisions are made in subcommittee and that the education attainment has nothing to do with funding cuts.

Breaking party lines, Clyde Evans, one of Lawrence County's two representatives and a former college provost at Rio Grande University, agreed that many in his caucus remain unconvinced that investing in higher education makes a difference.

''I will say that there are legislators who believe we can win this global knowledge war by just cutting taxes alone - and that would be a view quite opposite of my own,'' Evans said.

Regardless of the motivation, our elected leaders must fund higher education if Ohio is ever going to return to the front-line of technology and industry in the 21st Century. Education at all levels will be the key to the future of not only our great state, but our entire nation.

It doesn't take much of an education to see that.