Guess we’ll have to fund schools ourselves

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We had hopes that when Gov. John Kasich talked of equalizing school funding around the state, southern Ohio would get a break.

The governor said that those districts that had lower property values would receive more under his new formula. Unfortunately, as the details have emerged, that is not necessarily the case.

The governor is pushing for more income tax cuts, but the General Assembly is balking at expanding sales taxes to pay for the cuts, so there may be less state money overall, and folks who want to continue good schools may have to provide the money locally.

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Or not.

But the “or not” is not a very good option.  Yes, as a former public school teacher, I’m biased, but as such, I can’t help speaking up for the need to continue good schools.

Think about your own life.  If you went to a public school, you probably learned to read, write, do math, and a host of other things from those great folks called elementary school teachers.

Wow!  The difference they make in the lives of children.

And that’s true for middle class kids as well as kids from homes that don’t have much in the way of money. My wife is an elementary music teacher, so I see first hand how hard they work.

We are really getting our money’s worth, as she works essentially all the time to create a great experience for her students.  Nights and weekends, you can usually find her preparing lessons, putting together a musical production, with all that entails, or grading papers for more than six hundred students.  By the way, she’s retiring soon, so this column isn’t about her paycheck.  It’s about the value of an education.

And I’ve been around Ohio schools enough to know that most elementary teachers work much of their “free time” — time when they don’t have classes—on school related things.  Not that middle school and high school teachers are loafers.

The fact is, when you’ve got a bunch of kids of whatever age in a room, you cannot ever take it easy.

But it’s a tough world out there today.  Young people need ever more education, and the public schools provide that.

I have to say, too, that in spite of all the negativity in the media about public schools—their test scores don’t meet the politicians’ artificial standards—schools today are generally much better than they were when we went to school.

Teachers are better prepared, more subjects are taught, and more students are graduating. It’s a good thing, because in today’s world there aren’t many jobs for anyone without at least a high school diploma.

No, we don’t always come in first when you compare test results with other countries.  But most other countries don’t offer sports, music, dances, and other social activities.  We want our kids to grow up to be good human beings and good citizens, not just workers.

The proof is in the pudding.  People come to America from all over the world, to get an education, and when you get a chance to talk with young people who have gone to school in another country, and then go to school here, they don’t want to go back.  They say our schools teach them to think, and to be creative, which some foreign schools don’t.

Even if you don’t have kids or grandkids in school yourself, remember that students we help today will be taking care of us in our old age.  They’ll be the nurses, doctors, and yes, governors in a few years.

Let’s make sure they have schools that will jump start their careers—for their sake and ours.

I’m sure proud of our schools, which teach so much and provide so much, and help bring us all together.

Our cities, such as Ironton, are diverse places, where young people learn to get along in a nation and world that is very diverse and “smaller” every day.  The diversity of our public, city schools is one of our great strengths.

If we can’t get the governor to fund them fully, I guess we’ll have to continue to do it ourselves, locally.


Jack Burgess is a native of southern Ohio and a retired teacher.