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Start of school is right around the corner

It is that time of year again, when, to the dismay of students everywhere, the local Sunday newspaper starts to come to the front door stuffed with fliers advertising “Back to School” sales, parents drag their kids to the store to buy new clothes and school supplies and teachers begin to ready their classrooms for the start of another academic year.

While the annual trek back to school is dreaded by many young people still enjoying the rest and relaxation of summer vacation, education is not only critical to their development and future success but the foundation of our state’s workforce and economy.

Ohio’s public schools are not perfect, and work continues to strengthen standards and provide greater resources for our students and teachers, but it is important to mention that the state has made significant progress in this area over the past decade.

In 2009, Ohio’s 4th and 8th graders outperformed the national average in reading, math, science and writing, and our state’s high school students on average scored higher on both the SAT and ACT college entrance exams than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Further, according to a report last year by the National Education Association, Ohio is 15th in the country for the average public school teacher salary, and our state is 7th nationally for the number of educators who earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In addition, Ohio leads the nation in school facilities construction.

Since 1997, a total of more than 760 buildings in 169 school districts have been built or renovated, representing a total state investment of more than $10 billion, which was financed using Ohio’s portion of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

These are all promising statistics, and show that the state’s actions to bolster support for our schools over the years have produced some positive results, but what is really important is how your son or daughter is doing in the classroom.

School children are not statistics but individuals who we love and want to do well.

It is critical that parents and guardians support the efforts of students by letting them know that their studies are important.

Teachers and administrators should be allies as parents work to make sure their child receives the best education possible. Do not be afraid to ask questions or advocate for your student if they need extra help or would do better in another classroom.

It is also important for the community as a whole to show as much respect as possible to educators while holding them accountable at the same time.

We as parents have to hold our children and ourselves accountable as well.

I am a critic of Governor Strickland’s “evidence-based” school funding model because it takes resources from the classroom and mandates that school districts hire certain staff, such as extra social workers.

With many school districts forced to work with extremely tight resources and some having to lay off teachers in recent months, now is not the time to force schools to choose between educating students and providing social services.

Learning shouldn’t stop when students are done with their school day. Our local libraries, for instance, have resources available, including computer access and other educational tools, at no charge.

I will continue to do everything I can during this difficult financial time to ensure that our schools have adequate resources and our students are getting the education they need to be successful.

I hope all the students, parents, teachers, administrators and other school employees in the 17th Senate District and across the state have a happy and productive year.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.