COLUMBUS, Ohio – While abortion, gun violence and the economy will affect the results of Ohio’s governor and US Senator elections, let’s not forget to address how candidates view the future of education in Ohio. Education is the cornerstone of our democracy. Through public education, students learn how to be good citizens. They also learn the importance of making good decisions that affect their lives and the state and country as a whole.
Horace Mann, the father of American education, famously wrote: “Education, then, beyond all other means of human origin, is the great leveler of men’s conditions – the balance wheel of the social machine.”
We’ve learned through the pandemic that Ohio schools offer more than just education. They provide places of support, safety and encouragement. They ensure that children receive nutritious meals. Schools are tasked with meeting the educational and physical needs of all children. Teachers encourage children’s imagination and creativity, essential skills for the development of Ohio’s economy.
Our teachers work hard to ensure their students are prepared for the future generation of Ohio professionals, politicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors and parents who will shape Ohio’s future. The teaching profession is the profession that will shape the future of our country. The quality of education matters. Federal and state politics and resources help shape it. The quality of Ohio’s education system will influence further economic investment in our state and will affect the standard of living and quality of life of Ohio residents. Education should be an issue in every election.
I urge the public to take this election seriously. Ohio’s economic needs and educational options for students and families should be discussed in this and every election cycle. It is important to understand that candidates’ views will differ. In a democracy we must respect differences but use our voices to communicate the educational future we want.
We must guard against educational platitudes and divisive and exaggerated political language in election campaigns. Throughout history there have always been tensions between the educational needs of society as a whole and the individual values and interests of families. Those who advocate “family values” must also recognize that values vary from family to family. School districts must recognize that families in their community may not all agree on the purpose of education in their district. We need educational policies and practices that respect such differences and can help educators meet the needs of all children.
You may not find candidates who agree with you on all points. But in a democracy, you can vote for candidates who best reflect your values and concerns.
While some see change as a threat, others see opportunity. Let’s elect officers who understand educational opportunities for all Ohioans. We need politicians willing to think outside the box and bring everyone with different viewpoints around the table. Our officials must be able to reinvent a public education system that can accommodate the needs of families and students. This is the means to provide a thorough, equitable and efficient education system in new and creative ways. Let’s vote for candidates who understand that education will be key to our state and America’s future.
We need leaders at the national level to help restart an stalled education agenda. We need state leaders to invest more in education from elementary through 12th grade. Investments must eliminate funding inequalities. They must support quality curriculum and instruction. Such improvements are required in order for Ohio to receive business opportunities with the assurance of not only a well-qualified workforce, but an excellent quality of life.
Let us prepare to elect officers who understand educational opportunities so they can play a role in the future of our state and country.
Susan Tave Zelman is a former public education superintendent in Ohio and author of the forthcoming book,The Buying and Selling of American Education.”
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