The United States of ‘Huh?’-merica

Jeff Lombardi and Jeff Lombardi

There is a problem in the United States. Public education is supposed to be open to all citizens in this country, regardless of sex, economic status, race, ethnicity and ability. However, public education in this country is not equal for everyone.

A recent poll carried out by a nonpartisan opinion research group called Public Agenda states that minority students find that a bad school climate contributes to poor education. According to the poll, violence, drugs, weapons and poor school condition are considered aspects of “bad school climate.”

It is obvious that violence, drugs and weapons contribute to a bad school environment, but one does not automatically think of the physical environment as a contributor to a poor educational climate.

There are very good schools and bad schools, especially in Ohio.

One of the best schools in the state is the Dublin school district, located in the Columbus area. They boast some of the best scores in the state, with facilities to match. They are in an area where developers want to be, and companies want to move. Therefore, they feed money through property tax into the schools.

On the other hand, there are schools in Ohio with no commerce anywhere in sight, so the schools are very run down and in incredibly poor condition. No businesses want to be in the bad areas, so they don’t move there. The community needs the business to thrive but don’t get the business because of the bad area. The community stays poor, as do the schools.

Where is the State of Ohio in all of this?

Another portion of the poll states that the achievement gap between high achieving schools and poor achieving schools is widening. I think the widening gap is caused by all of these reasons. Meanwhile, the state pushes for higher educational standards and better teachers to be in place.

Unfortunately, the educational standards are not the problem. The actual problem is that we need higher standards for schools’ physical environment.

Schools do have standards to keep in terms of building safety, but no one enforces them. This is because if the state were to enforce the safety codes, they would have to close many schools and build new ones. This would cost the state a lot of money.

How much money? Well, for instance, Perrsyburg is building a new school that is costing 39 million dollars, and the new PENTA Vocational School has a price tag of around 93 million dollars.

For the state to have to close old schools and build new ones, they would have to stop spending so much money on prisons. The state spends more money on prisons than it does on schools.

In fact, if the state were to focus more money on building new schools and less on building new prisons, the educational systems across the state would be exponentially better, and the need for prisons would diminish.

This is an opinion I am not alone in holding.

We also need to fund schools differently than we do now. Except for a small percentage of state funds that trickle down into public schools, each school district in out state and in other states is responsible for its own funding. That means that richer communities have more money to put into their schools than do poor communities, making for a very uneven education.

As in many of our nation’s issues, we need to take a few notes from our neighbors to the north: Canada.

The way they find their schools is simpler and more fruitful. First, the federal government pulls all their money together and says, “Okay, this is how much money we have for schools this year.” They then distribute the money on a population basis to each province. Each province then distributes all of the money to the schools located in that province on a per child basis. That way, every child in the province, and therefore the country, gets the same amount of money following them in the schools.

This is easier than the way we do it in the states. I suggest that we take a cue from the Canadians, simplify and then improve our public schools.

Send comments to Jeff at [email protected]