If you need a good reason to vote [x] yes on your local public school levy, please read to the end of this column.
If you're looking out for number one (if you don't-who will?), remember this law of real estate: Property values rise and fall with the performance of your local schools. It's a Catch 22, since taxes will certainly go down if your schools begin to fail and property values drop. In other words, you'll definitely want to support your local schools in every reasonable way in addition to voting for basic renewal / operational levies.
If you have deep convictions as a Christian, ignore the scaremongering political propaganda "they kicked God out of our public schools"- it is a bold lie. Church members are free to volunteer or seek employment at public schools. Many local public schools have regular prayer groups organized by students and mentored by local church members. Nobody can kick God out of our public schools, unless you stay home watching scary TV news and do nothing to change creeping godlessness. Which is to say, "they" didn't kick God out; you did! Perhaps you must be the light in these kids' lives, unless you forget Ohio's motto, "With God, all things are possible."
Besides, Romans 13:1-2 instructs us to support our public authorities that he ordained to lead society. Clearly, God does not hate our government and would not endorse an anti-authority political movement (sorry Tea Party). We need to pray for our government leaders on a daily basis and publicly voice our support of them, because "a house divided will fall."
All the same, if you are very concerned about the accountability of public school funds, and you should be, you need to know how horridly the new "free market" online charter schools are performing. Charter schools across the U.S. are failing students at a much higher rate than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Each course failed by an online student must be repeated at double the cost! That's correct; for example, Ohio taxpayers are paying double to a Virginia-based K12 corporation for roughly half of the students failing to graduate from the (online charter school) Ohio Virtual Academy.
Even more insulting, sneaky charter schools claim to be non-profit in order to collect Ohio public school funds, then turn around and send 90 percent of operating funds straight out-of-state to charter school management firms, such as K12. No wonder Wall Street hedge fund managers are salivating like the Big Bad Wolf over public school reform. This is why they finance powerful PR firms to discredit public schools. Sadly, our nation's anti-public sector zeitgeist has dulled our senses to overlook this abominable abuse of public funds. Worse yet, America's schoolchildren are the big losers in this scam.
Approximately a quarter of a million U.S. students have left public schools to attend online charter schools, representing almost two billion tax dollars public schools forfeit each year. Before irreparable damage is done to our public schools, we need to raise our red flags and make sure all accountability measures aimed at public schools apply equally to "private sector" charter schools.
One USA Today study concluded that the nations' five largest online schools spent about $100 million in public funds on charter school advertisements aimed at children over a 5-year period. One charter school CEO quickly countered, "Parents need to know there is an alternative (to public schools)," but then he failed to explain why such TV ads regularly targeted The Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon or why internet ads for charter schools have handed over our tax dollars to www.VampireFreaks.com, which claims to be "the largest online community for dark alternative culture." Meanwhile, your traditional public school must have a bake sale and a pancake breakfast to raise sufficient funds for levy signs. Every Ohioan should be outraged!
Finally, if you believe our public schools represent society's best effort to nurture social skills, character, and citizenship in our children, all while enabling them with the academic skills needed to lead our nation in the future, then you must wholeheartedly support those entrusted (teachers) with society's most valuable resource (our children). At this pivotal time in history, America can hardly afford to play politics with our schoolchildren simply because the Big Bad Wolf convinced them to stay at home alone - while parents are at work -staring at computer screens between twitters and tweets among freaky vampire friends!
In contrast, allow me to reveal what's really happening in our public schools. You may be wonderfully relieved to learn that Howland High School, where I teach, has dozens of excellent character-building before / during / after school programs. For example, our Interact Club, supervised by a great science teacher, Ms. Andrea Ferenac, is very popular with the student body and regularly involves about 25 percent of the school. The club motto is "service above self" and just last year this club amassed a total of 7,000 hours of community service, plus the kids raised and donated $1,000 to World Vision, $250 to The Marisa K Foundation, more than $5,000 (plus a busload of food) to Second Harvest Food Bank and local food pantries, $500 to the American Heart Association, and they organized 100+ donors for an in-house blood drive with the American Red Cross. These donations and services, even at the bargain rate of minimum wage, surpass $60,000 in caring for our community.
And it only gets better because our entire school district is busy caring for our community every day and, therefore, Howland's public schools are worth infinitely more than a mere $60,000! I can honestly say, "Every single day Howland students are learning priceless lessons" because our staff is guiding them into lessons that bring out the core of humanity in our society; and, God knows, this is what society today seems to be missing the most!
So come next Tuesday and please pause before voting and consider one or all of the above reasons to vote [x] yes on your local levy, but especially remember from the core of your humanity how every precious child in every public school is more than reason enough.