Education confrontation

Parents to school district: get on my lawn!

By Sarah Sidlow

If your house were just a stone’s throw away from a better school district, what would you do? If you’re Kevin Kinlin, you petition the Ohio Board of Education to transfer your house into another district. When Kinlin and his wife Pamela purchased the 1820-square-foot home in 2004, the Serene Place address fell in the Columbus school district. Concerned about the quality of the education, Kinlin recently asked for his home, which borders the Westerville (read: better) district, to be re-attributed. How’d that go? The Ohio Board of Education handed down a unanimous, “sure, why not?”

Basically, the state board considers 25 factors when deciding on requests to move school district boundaries, including whether such a transfer would cause financial damage to a school district. Since one house doesn’t exactly qualify as a grave financial burden, at least not in this case, the board philosophy is generally to permit that type of transfer.

State Board member C. Todd Jones notes the board’s approval is indicative of a “philosophical shift” of the board to allow such maneuvers that would not have been considered several years ago. When asked if he’s concerned that this new philosophy may open the floodgates to petitions to switch districts, Jones says, “I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The decision is also reflective of the dramatic increase in school choice options available to parents in recent years. School choice proponents are basically those who argue that your geographic location shouldn’t be the sole determining factor in where your kids go to school. They often argue that the school choice sentiment promotes competition in public education, which may encourage schools to improve their overall performance. School choice-ers also argue that parents who invest energy in choosing a school will be more likely to be involved in their child’s education.

But there are other parents who are saying, “um, rude,” and argue that parents like the Kinlins should not be allowed to simply petition for a change in school district boundaries to suit their needs. There are lots of other options for choosing a school district, they argue, and many parents base their initial housing decision on what school district it happens to be in—overlooking outdated kitchens for increased academic ratings. Those parents who thought ahead are now feeling a little cheated to find out they could have petitioned to have the school’s lines re-drawn. Moreover, parents left in a crappy school district still have other options: private school, charter schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, or, you know, moving.

Additionally, they argue, this kind of decision does have the potential to open the floodgates to others looking to butt in to the better school district for whatever reason: better educational ratings, neighborhood friends, more competitive sports teams, etc. And there are those who aren’t too keen on the whole school choice thing. Some argue that if parents are allowed to cherry-pick districts regardless of their address, public education will be altogether dismantled. Schools will be run as businesses, they say, and both the districts and their teachers will be judged as successes or failures based on data generated by those all-important standardized test scores.

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Question of the Week: Should parents have the right to petition to have school district lines changed to benefit their kids?


 Mama knows best

Parental instincts will find a way

By David H. Landon

Is there any human instinct more primal than that of a parent protecting their child? That protective instinct can come from any number of triggers that will put a parent on full alert that a dangerous situation is confronting their child. An unknown adult hanging around children is such an example. Your child hanging out with sketchy friends whose own parents are missing-in-action would cause warning bells to go off for most parents. A child’s inability to appreciate the inherent danger in certain patterns of behavior will cause parents sleepless nights as they worry about the ability of their child to make sound decisions. These are all good examples of immediate situations that will trigger that protective instinct of a normal parent.

There can also be long-term concerns about their child’s future that can bring out that protective instinct. Every caring parent wants their child to have the tools they will need to be successful in life. For many parents who can’t afford private schools, it means trusting the local public schools to provide those tools. A strong educational foundation can prepare a child for a trade or higher education. For many parents, living in a district where there is a failing school can feel like their children are trapped and their futures are in danger.  That’s why Kevin and Pamela Kinlin petitioned the Ohio Board of Education to transfer their property from the Columbus City School District into the Westerville City School District. As parents they were worried about their children’s future. Can we really blame them? Columbus City Schools ranked 725th based on test scores in Ohio. Westerville City Schools ranked 190th. The Kinlins were looking out for their children.

These parents have a reason to be concerned. American public education is struggling to keep up with the rest of the world. American students can’t keep up with the students in other countries, and the average U.S. fourth grader doesn’t even have the most basic proficiency in common school subjects. Students are not faring well on national assessments. In some recent assessments, less than one third of U.S. fourth graders are proficient in reading, mathematics, science, and American history. U.S. 12th graders ranked 18th out of 21 countries in combined mathematics and science assessments.

So what’s wrong with our public education system? Some are quick to suggest that if we could throw more money at the problem we could address some of the student performance problems. That ignores the reality that some of the best performing school districts spend thousands less per student than most of the worst performing districts. For example, Dayton City Schools are near the very top of all Ohio schools on expenditures per pupil. Unfortunately, Dayton schools are currently ranked third from the bottom in student performance and received an “F” on their last report card from the State of Ohio. That’s out of over 613 public schools. If things don’t dramatically improve over the next two years, the State of Ohio will likely take over the Dayton City School District.

A well-functioning public school system is critical not only for the children attending those schools, but for employers, business owners, and local government within that school district. They all depend on an educated workforce capable of performing the jobs of the 21st century. There needs to be accountability for underperforming schools. The dilemma we face is that we want local control of our public schools, but what happens when the local schools are failing the students and the community? We are faced with the prospect of a state agency taking over the local school district.

Education can’t be a one-size-fits-all prescription for all schools and districts. And yet, for most students, that is exactly what they receive in a public school. Gifted students are often not allowed to excel as they take the same classes as students who need remedial help. In some smaller school districts, advanced placement (AP) course work is rarely offered.  Good teachers aren’t given a chance to be creative because they are forced to follow the plans that have been laid out before them. And in the end, it is the children and our society that suffer from the one-size-fits-all teaching style.

In a classic example of Washington trying to make one size fit all, the No Child Left Behind Act had good intentions when it was passed. Under this law, schools were forced to place extreme emphasis on test scores. If student scores fell below a national standard, punitive financial measures were enacted by the Department of Education. What’s worse perhaps is that school districts have been forced to train students for NCLB tests rather than simply educating them. We are teaching to the test while failing to actually educate our students. There is virtually no evidence that NCLB has done anything positive since its inception.

So parents are looking for alternatives to sending their children to the same failing schools.  Some are trying charter schools. Some struggle to find a way to send their children to private schools. For Kevin and Pamela Kinlin, the answer seemed simple.  Their backyard butted up against the Westerville City School District, a district that was producing better results in the test scores for the children attending. Parental instincts will find a way.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Progressives are idiots

The ramifications of the Ohio State Board of Education’s decision

By Mike Snead

A fundamental precept of progressive thinking is that consequences are irrelevant. For this reason, it is appropriate to label almost all progressives as idiots. Idiots step into traffic without looking, text while driving, get hideous tattoos, smoke in bed, search for the meaning of life with illegal drugs, and, as Ohio State Board of Education member C. Todd Jones decided, say it’s just fine to let people pick what school district they wish to have their residence be a part of.

The case being discussed is the Board’s decision to grant a request for a homeowner, Kevin Kinlin, to have the adjoining school district boundary redrawn to include his home. (I presume Mr. Kinlin would pay the homeowner’s school taxes for the new district.) To this, the Board unanimously said, “sure, why not?” To explain the idiocy of this decision, let’s explore the ramifications—ramifications to which Mr. Jones said, “I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Public school systems in Ohio are a delicate balance of local tax funding, community expectations regarding the quality of the school system’s education program (e.g., student-teacher ratios, curriculum choices, and school facilities), parental engagement in their children’s education, and public respect for the school system’s educators and administrators. Educators and administrators, in successful systems, have won the respect and admiration of their community by the quality of the educational product they provide year after year. In response, the community, as a whole, sacrifices some measure of their standard of living to pay the taxes to fund the schools. The educators, administrators, and community as a whole find a balance that provides the community with the quality of public education desired at a cost they can afford.

Mr. Kinlin, rather than moving to the adjoining community to fairly share in the benefits of the quality of the adjoining school system, decided to seek progressive approval to just confiscate the benefits he wanted. The adjoining school system’s student-teacher ratio increases, more facilities and supplies are needed, busing routes must be extended, etc. A progressive, like Mr. Jones, says one more family certainly cannot hurt. How about two families? A dozen? A hundred? A thousand? On what logical basis would the Board deny such a request by 1,000 homeowners with children in Mr. Kinlin’s old school district to “move” to Mr. Kinlin’s new school district? In truth, Mr. Jones’ statement, “I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” is, in progressive-speak, his way of blowing off such consequences—a clear sign of progressive idiocy.

Now, let’s flip the coin over. If a homeowner can decide to “join” an adjoining school district to gain a better education for their children, why couldn’t a homeowner—who homeschools, for example, or is retired or has no children—choose to leave a higher taxing school district to “join” a lower taxing school district simply to save on their taxes? There would be no cost to the new district, just a loss of tax revenue to the old district. Lower-cost school districts might even “recruit” such homeowners. According to Mr. Jones’ logic, certainly one such household leaving the district couldn’t hurt. How about a thousand? Clearly, the entire concept of community-supported public schools would be placed at risk. Mr. Jones may be expected to express the view that the Board would not support such moves to reduce personal taxes, but would a court agree? Courts may support reciprocity in a homeowner’s freedom to choose. The Board’s decision on Mr. Kinlin’s request would appear to effectively negate the entire concept of school system boundaries. Order would be replaced by the chaos of a hodgepodge of the community’s homes being in various school districts, entirely at the behest the homeowner. Consequently, a community’s “ownership” of their public school system would disappear.

Across the United States and around the world, progressivism is failing. As Bernie Sanders shows with his idiotic promises, when one set of progressive policies fails, their only new solution is to move left to embrace increased socialism and advocate even more taking of what others have earned through their accomplishments. Despite what the likes of Mr. Sanders and Mr. Jones say is truth, there is no free lunch and no right to simply have what one desires but has not, through their own efforts, justifiably earned. It is a disastrous public policy to place our entire approach to public schools at risk by letting homeowners decide where to draw school system boundaries.

 Mike Snead is a professional aerospace engineer focused on advanced human spaceflight and energy systems. You can reach him at MikeSnead@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Sarah Sidlow
Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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