Accountability with fewer resources?

Published 12:49 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

One election issue that is coming to the forefront this week is education.

As it always does, education gets thrown into the mix because it is a quality of life issue — everyone wants quality education for their children.

And there’s always one word that comes along with the debate.

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When it comes to good sound bites, political figures always have a safe out with the words: “We have to have accountability in education.”

Well, sure. The only problem is, there’s no good way to gauge it, and no good way to penalize those who do not meet the government’s one-size-fits-all standard of expectations.

There are some hard truths to face for some school districts in poor areas. It’s no secret that students in more affluent school districts perform better than students in poorer school districts on average.

Some argue the reason is because children who grow up in poverty begin their educations with one strike against them. They are typically not as prepared as other students for various reasons.

Others argue that it is the lack of resources in poor districts that prevent them from providing the kinds of education that some of their richer counterparts enjoy.

Still others believe the place to start when it comes to underperforming school districts is the quality of teachers. Critics argue that teachers unions prevent school districts from having the kind of flexibility they need to rid themselves of teachers who do not perform.

With all that thrown into the mix, there is still more to the puzzle. Each state has its own way of funding schools and in Ohio’s case, it does so unconstitutionally, as the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled multiple times.

With a system that relies too heavily on property taxes, guess which ones perform better?

Why imagine, it’s the districts that rest inside areas with higher property values.

So how exactly does the government try to bridge the gap between affluent districts and poorer districts?

Of course, it demands accountability!

With less qualified students and fewer resources, the current system throws in mandated testing that penalizes poorer districts if they do not meet acceptable levels of performance.

But a real question is why do some teachers and districts get overlooked when they do remarkable work with less qualified students?

In no way is that a suggestion that poor students cannot learn. They simply need the same opportunities enjoyed by other students and that can only occur with investment.

In other words, rather than penalizing districts financially that already have the odds stacked against them, why in the world have we not realized that those are the very districts that need the most investment?

That kind of commitment into pre-kindergarten programs and the like would level the playing field for all students.

As both candidates continue the debate on eduation, they should understand their efforts to make America competitive in the global marketplace cannot be achieved as long as public education is mired in mediocrity.

America’s system of public education should be gauged on how it educates across the board. The poster child for American education should be the student who performs at the highest levels from the poorest school district.

Then, and only then, will America have a suitable system of education.

Until then, educators will continue to be pressed for accountability with one arm tied behind their back.