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April 24, 2011
Salem News

Adding facts to dialogue over teachers in Ohio

To the editor: Over the next several months, the heated debate and passions concerning public school teachers will continue to rise throughout the state of Ohio. As the dialogue continues, I wanted to offer some facts and data to temper the heated conversations. Political rhetoric can be enticing and provocative, but I hope that as a democracy we will not fall into this trap and that we will focus our decisions and discussions on data, not emotional responses. First, let's look at the issue of teacher pay. As I listen to the conversations I am consistently hearing that teachers get paid too much, they only work a part time job and that, for what they do, they have it made. Again, we could have an emotional debate on this, but let's look at the facts. A teacher earning $20,000 (which is the proposed minimum starting salary in HB 153) is being paid $0.53 cents per child per hour in a class of 30 children. This is estimating only working 7 hours a day for a 180 day academic calendar year. By the way, if you can do this math yourself, be sure you thank one of your former teachers for this ability. Also, please note, this figure does not include preparation time and the after-hours grading that consumes much of our teacher's lives. Without question, this is a high estimate. Fifty-three cents per hour! Ladies and gentlemen, I pay much more than that for a babysitter to watch my two children. Additionally, I don't expect my babysitter to teach my children to read, do calculus, or educate them on the scientific method. Let's be frank and honest, teachers are not paid what they are worth. Following this logic, let's say we pay them $4 an hour per child. This is a very reasonable rate for a babysitter, wouldn't you think? At this rate teachers would earn $151,200 a year. I would suggest that if we pay them at this rate we let them find their own health insurance. I don't think they would mind that too much. So, the debate that teachers are overpaid is just not based in fact, logic or even market reality. I realize I am being extreme in my example and that it would be difficult to pay teachers at this rate. However, the Economic Policy Institute has noted that nationally public school teachers earn 12 percent less than workers with similar background and educational experience. Simply stated, teachers are not getting paid equally based on their required level of education. Second, another passionate debate that has surfaced over the last several years is the argument that choice and market competition, as seen in the form of charter schools, will improve education. Again, in theory, this sounds like a logical idea. However, the facts just don't add up. When looking at reality, according to the New York Times in 2007 53 percent of the charter schools in Ohio were listed on Academic Watch or Academic Emergency. During the same time period, 43 percent of the larger urban schools were listed within these categories. Simply stated, charter schools were being outperformed by inner city counterparts. Does this mean that all charter schools are bad? No. However, it does suggest that the charter school movement may not necessarily be the panacea to fix public education. Educating children is a difficult and costly endeavor with no easy fixes and/or quick solutions. So, how do you create a better public education system? Many around the world are looking to the success of Finland's public schools as a model for best practice. Currently, Finland's public schools outperform many other countries in the world including the United States, Japan, Germany, and England. What do they do that is different than in Ohio? First, in Finland, there are no state-mandated standardized tests to measure student achievement throughout various points in one's educational career. Make sure you read that standardized tests.In Ohio, standardized testing has become the norm and is the sole driving force behind our curriculum decisions, the professional development of teachers, and the consumption of enormous amounts of our local and state funding. Apparently, testing is not necessarily the answer to good schools. Second, in Finland, teachers and local communities are in control of the curriculum decisions. The idea is that educational professionals and local community members know what is best for their children and that neither group will compromise quality. In Ohio, curriculum is driven at the state level with limited input from local teachers and community members. Third, in Finland the teacher's professional union is exceptionally strong. As a matter of fact even Finland's student teachers have their own separate union called the Student Teachers' Union of Finland. In Ohio, we have Senate Bill 5. The rhetoric that all unions are bad and that you can't have a quality school system with a union is just not accurate. I could continue with other examples of the differences between the two locales, but to simplify, in Finland teachers are viewed as educated professionals that are trusted and honored for work in the study of human learning. In Ohio, we have, through political rhetoric and action, de-professionalized our teachers and have not allowed them to work in the way that is consistent with research on best practices in student learning. This must stop. It is time to stop politicizing the education of our children. A fundamental requirement of a healthy democracy is a dynamic educational system that values and supports the education of all of its citizenry. The devaluing and de-professionalization of teachers is not the right step to take. Politically, it may accomplish an agenda. But the cost to our children and our democracy is not worth the minor political win. Often, when I speak to community groups across the country, I start my talk by asking people to list the ten most influential people in their lives. Without question, in most people's top ten list, there is usually at least one educator. For most, that educator is in the top five. All of us have teachers, coaches, principals or guidance counselors that have had a tremendous influence in our lives. Somehow in the negative political rhetoric that we are living in today, we have forgotten what our schools have meant to each of us over time. We have let the negative politics of the moment influence the reality of our own lives. In a democracy differences of opinion should be valued and honored. So, I am not asking you to agree with everything in this piece. However, in a successful democracy, honest and respectful public deliberation on facts is a critical requirement of our system. As the debate continues over the next several months about the roles and responsibilities of public school teachers I implore each of you to consider the facts and not the emotional political rhetoric being presented on both sides of the debate. Republicans are not evil and mean people. Democrats are not socialists trying to destroy our way of life. We are all citizens of this great nation trying to do what each of us thinks is best. Examine and analyze the evidence for yourself, regardless of political leaning and join the conversation in a civil manner..and by the way, if you know how to examine and analyze the evidence for yourself, you should probably thank that really good teacher that helped you develop this skill.

Respectfully Submitted, David M. Dees, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Kent State University Salem Campus

Upset that the word 'Easter' was removed

To the editor: An "Easter egg" will never become a "spring egg." This year in Munson, Ohio, I read that the trustees had voted to remove the word "Easter" from their annual egg hunt. It was to be changed to a "spring egg hunt" event. There are colorful signs posted in the New Albany, Ohio, area advertising yep, you guessed it, a "spring egg hunt." I am appalled at this and the so-called leaders who subscribe to such nonsense. They are so afraid of the minority that they infringe upon the majority. Easter is a Christian holiday for all those who believe in what it's all about. If the "spring egg" people don't like the term "Easter" then let them have their own little holiday the week before or the week Easter. But no, they want to replace it. Well, I don't think that is going happen. Easter has been around for nearly 2000 years, I think its here to stay. These are the same people or won't bid you Merry Christmas but wish you a happy holiday instead. They want to enjoy all the festivities the holy holidays have to offer but want to remove any significance they have towards Christ. Well good luck with that and Happy Easter to all you. With that said now, I'm going to splurge and eat a little chocolate Easter egg.

JOHN PRIOR, Leetonia

College student worries about economic realities

To the editor: The State of the Union speech given by President Barack Obama was called uninspired and many felt the speech lacked depth. President Obama spoke of innovation, education and competing in a global market. But what is the immediate plan for job-growth for the 9.4 percent of Americans who are unemployed? This statistic doesn't include the amount of workers who are not making enough money to support their families or provide healthcare. Each year hundreds of thousands of college students graduate and join the work force. And many of these graduates expect to find their dream jobs making a great salary. They burden themselves with huge debt to achieve the American dream. I will be a senior after this semester and plan to graduate college in the spring of 2012. I know many students who are staying in school longer than usual because the job outlook for their fields remains low. Each year tuition and fees go up on many campuses while the amount of financial aid drops. And right now many college campuses are experiencing the highest amount of enrolled students they have ever had. President Obama spoke about increasing education in our country in his speech. But who is going to pay for it? What will the graduates do when they try to join the workforce and there is no job for them? Yes, there are scholarships and grants to help ease the burden, but many students do not qualify. The government offers low-interest loans, but with the increase of the cost of living the amount of money students receive isn't always enough. Then these students find low paying jobs to help pay their bills and spend less time concentrating on school work.

There are many students living without health care, including myself. Most colleges offer an insurance plan for a high cost that doesn't always cover what you need. As a college student, I worry daily about the amount of money I have borrowed. And every time I get sick I worry about how I will pay for a doctor's visit or how I will pay for the prescriptions I need. I can only hope by the time the spring of 2012 arrives and I dawn my cap and gown that our country has found a solution to stimulate our economy and create more jobs.


This reader would back Trump for president

To the editor: There has been a lot of talk about the "Trump for President" movement that appears to be gaining some traction. Personally, I would vote for him! But more to the point, I would consider voting for any candidate who exhibited respect for what our "political forefathers" put together, fought and died for. Most all of us are products of generations of patriots (our ancestors!) who paved the way for the freedoms and lifestyles we enjoy today. For any of us to disrespect that, is a shame. For the president of this great nation to disrespect what our forefathers have accomplished is unforgivable! We are the greatest nation the world has ever seen, and it's time we put that out there, and take pride in that fact. Our nation deserves a president who doesn't feel compelled to apologize to the world for what he believes to be indirections of our past. When those nations step up and begin to approach the level of United States sponsored benevolence, perhaps they will have earned the right to critique our country. I want a president that puts no stock in "political correctness" and calls 'em like he sees 'em. I want a president who truly respects and will defend what our country stands for. I, like many others don't believe that we now have that.

Donald Trump is on the right track. Ultimately, he may not be the best candidate for the next presidential race. But until someone emerges who exhibits these beliefs, that I consider to be at the threshold of qualifications ... Trump's the man!

ALAN SMITH, Leetonia

Writes in support of United Local levy

To the editor: United Local has always been a conservative, frugal school district. It has always been near the bottom of the list of schools based on wealth, but has done exceptionally well with the resources available. None of these things are likely to change if the bond issue passes on May 3. Critics of the bond issue like to point to "other districts" that have completed an Ohio Schools Facility Commission project and then had financial trouble. When investigating this concern, I found that either a) the district was already on shaky ground upon entering the project, or b.) district officials knew and had told the public when they would need more money prior to the building project. Now that the time has come, people are blaming the building project. In United's case it is: a.) not on shaky ground financially and b.) going to need to renew a Permanent Improvement levy in 2013. United knows how to live within its budget and has done so quite well. From the beginning our school boards, treasurers, and superintendents have over all, been conservative stewards of our tax dollars. Using the best information available, they built sturdy, sensible facilities. They also cared for our facilities in a sensible manner. They kept things maintained and only upgraded when something broke, wore out, or when it became absolutely necessary. In some cases, it is difficult to decide when something is absolutely necessary. The electrical wiring is a good example. With only one or two outlets per classroom, electrical conduit was added to accommodate more electrical need. Now that upgrade is no longer adequate. Electrical overloads and blown fuses are commonplace. Is it time to rewire the entire structure?

Lighting is another example. Soon, the fluorescent bulbs that are currently used throughout much of the building will no longer be manufactured. Should the upgrade be the cheapest available? Or should it be the most energy efficient, best lighting available? If we go with the cheapest available, how long will that bulb be available? How much will the next upgrade cost? How soon will it be needed? Think of our boiler. If it could just be replaced when it dies, that wouldn't be too bad. But replacement wouldn't really solve the problem of one hallway being 88 degrees and another being 65 on the same day. It would involve much more. Plus, there are many more efficient ways to heat these days. How expensive would it be to switch to another type of heating? Unfortunately, due to aging, the list of needs at United is becoming overwhelming. It is common sense that the oldest sections are going to need more expensive replacements, repairs and upgrades as each year goes by. We can spend our local dollars trying to keep up with these, or we can spend them to start new. Choosing to start new, gives us many advantages. The most obvious is the $30 million we will receive from the OSFC. If you had a house that needed everything our school needs and you were offered the chance to build a $100,000 home for only $21,000, wouldn't you'd find a way? The next obvious advantage is age. Even brick and mortar do not last forever. This can easily be seen if you take a look around the older parts of United. Extensive repointing is needed if we are to avoid more crumbling walls. If we build new, in 25 years we will have a 25-year-old building to maintain. If we keep the old, we will have an 85-year-old building to maintain. Which will be more costly? Another major advantage of building new is technology. We just don't have the infrastructure needed to provide our students the tools and experiences needed to compete in today's world. We also can't afford the latest technology without the $30 million we will get from the state.

These examples and more are the very reason the OSFC will not help us remodel. It is more economical and sensible to start over. They aren't willing to waste money to renovate. Should we? The tradition of conservative leadership at United will continue. If the bond issue passes, the new facility will be sturdy. Much of it will be two stories. All of it will have pitched roofs. Sensible, efficient HVAC will be chosen. Designs will be practical, not extravagant. There will be two new gyms, not three, as was previously stated. The school will reflect the values of the community.

While United will remain the center of the community and will continue to be used extensively by the community, it will not become a Salem Community Center. It will not become anything that the community doesn't want! It is our school, our community, our choice. It is also our responsibility. Don't throw away this chance to receive $30 million to help us provide for our students!

JOAN GIBSON, Levy Committee Chair

Chides business for litter on its property

To the editor: As I was driving on South Howard behind the Church Budget warehouse, I noticed that it is such a mess back there. Paper is scattered all over the place and it looks awful. It looks like paper from the company. I was just wondering who is responsible for cleaning up this mess. You would think that the company would want to keep their property looking nice. Just because it's behind the building, doesn't mean that the public doesn't see it. I think someone needs to take a walk out back and look at it!


More trees would add to value, appeal of land

To the editor:,This year we are in the midst of a rather large tree planting here in Lisbon. Trees add to property values through their aesthetic appeal, they clean pollutants from the air and act as a screen from unwanted sights and sounds. If any resident would like to take part by donating so that more trees may be planted, please contact the village mayor's office at 330-424-5503 Option 1849 or my home 330-424-9331.

FRED BRICKNER, Lisbon Shade Tree member



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