Local schools find themselves on the short end again

The Ohio House is at it again, and while the cuts are less than those proposed by Gov. John Kasich, Washington County schools stand to lose a total of $1.7 million over the next two years. The only school district which will see an increase is Belpre City Schools, who will see about a quarter of a million more in state funding over two years. These figures are according to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper who report that the decline is related to enrollment.

What are local schools going to do with less money? The answer is unknown and does not seem to be the topic of much discussion locally. Such as discussion will not be easy but the alternative is a continued decline of programs, buildings and tax base as fewer businesses choose to locate here because the schools are “just not that good.” Please be clear readers, Washington County is blessed with some dedicated teachers, administrators and board members but they cannot do it alone. Everyone, yes, you–John Q. Public needs to care about the condition of local schools and demand that a long — range plan be undertaken to work together. Competition is fine in business but standing by while local districts go under one by one is not an answer that anyone should be satisfied to support.

An open meeting with House legislators on April 28 is a good starting point but they are not going to solve Washington County’s problems of declining enrollments and aging buildings. These challenges, coupled with a growing drug problem that see more children in foster care; is an alarm bell that calls for innovative programing.

Some school districts in the state have taken advantage of the dollars for community schools, designed to serve specific populations; i.e. at-risk, low income, etc. These districts by managing the community schools themselves have been able to save dollars while creating innovative approaches to address the needs of students who are falling through the cracks. Such innovation works, but only if everyone comes to the table; and if leaders are open to significant changes. The county cannot afford to simply drift. The financial plight of local schools may be the canary in the coal mine but they can also be a catalyst to help bring Washington County into the 21st century.

Teresa R. Porter, of Marietta, is a local education advocate with Education Works SEO and may be reached for comment at educationworks@suddenlink.net.

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