Education forum a good start, more work to do

A cloudy Sunday afternoon in Marietta found about 35 people gathered at the Unitarian Church to discuss what is needed to educate a child? As a new school year approaches the topic could not be more timely. The discussion started with remarks from Tony Dunn, superintendent of Belpre City Schools, Lance Erlwein, Belpre school treasurer, and Alice Chapman, founder and director of The Ely Chapman Center.

Dunn shared his belief that “public education has built our country” and the Ohio Constitution itself speaks of “common schools” where children are to be socialized to be productive citizens. He went on to say that while education is often politicized it should be a non-partisan issue. According to Dunn, one problem with school funding in Ohio is that funds for schools are generally “residual”, that is, whatever is left over after other budgetary needs are met. Erlwein explained the way state dollars are awarded to school districts and how the “wealth” of a district is measured; with some districts receiving less money due to the way the funding formula is calculated. He expressed concern that the state pays little attention to how much it costs a district to educate a given child.

Chapman expressed her long-held goal to “treat every child as an individual” but also that children need the “support of the community.” She has put this philosophy to work in the successful afterschool and summer programs for area children. Chapman went on to explain the importance of “respect for the child” and teaching children to “respect themselves.” In summing up the importance of education, she cited her mother’s statement that “education is the only thing we can pass down to our children that lasts.”

Attendees at the forum continued the discussion in two small groups focused on the need to advocate for adequate and equitable funding and the importance of volunteering time to support young people. Both efforts are underway locally and readers are directed to educationworks@suddenlink.net to advocate for legislative action and to Building Bridges to Careers at bbccoord@gmail.com to volunteer to be a mentor to students. The education/economic group of the Unitarian Social Justice Committee may also be reached at www.fuusm.org.

Congratulations to the Social Justice Committee of Unitarian Universalist Church for sponsoring the forum and special thanks to the presenters: Mr. Dunn, Mr. Erlwein and Mrs. Chapman.

Teresa Porter



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