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Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding

FY2014-FY2015 State Budget: Some public education enactments in HB 59 undermine the primary function of public education

August 2, 2013

Fully aware that this is a voice crying in the wilderness, the primary function of public education is being undermined by HB 59 and other current education legislation. The efficacy of public education cannot be authentically assessed by a grading system (A-F or whatever) wherein the test scores dominate the outcome of the grading process. Test scores are important but the availability of educational opportunities is likewise extremely important. Opportunity gaps are relevant to the assessment of outcomes.

The primary function of education is democratic citizenship. Public education is about developing societal capacity, a social compact, and a democratic community. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson said, "The influence over government must be shared by all men." In the state education budget process, a very few (no doubt, less than a dozen) choice advocates, with deep pockets for campaign contributions, had more influence on the education budget than the entire public education community combined. This is the kind of situation Jefferson sought to avoid.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 set aside one-thirty sixth of each township for the support of public education. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 required government to encourage schools and the means of education. The founding fathers (and mothers) recognized that the purpose of education goes beyond "college or workforce readiness." It is about democracy.

When the function of public education is reduced to a private benefit without regard to the public good, the social compact is broken and democracy fails. Fortunately, the founding fathers got it right when they instituted the public common school. Democracy would have failed without it. Can democracy survive if the corporatization of public education succeeds?

State officials need to be educated about these matters.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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