WESTERHOLD: You can't NOT vote for schools

The Sandusky school district is asking voters to approve a renewal levy and a replacement levy on Tuesday's ballot, and some are wor
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010


The Sandusky school district is asking voters to approve a renewal levy and a replacement levy on Tuesday's ballot, and some are worried what the outcome will be.

This song remains the same. In the five-county area there are 10 school measures on the ballot and these school districts cannot function without support from local voters. State funding has been stagnant for decades while hundreds of unfunded mandates and spiraling health benefits programs chip away at the bottom line.

And state lawmakers twiddle their thumbs.

As a reporter I covered every type of government -- from township trustees, library boards to presidential politics -- and what I've learned is school districts, by-and-large, are the best stewards of taxpayer money. Of course they are; they've dealt with years of neglect at the hands of state lawmakers who long ago abandoned responsible legislative action when it comes to school funding. School officials across the state have had a lot of practice cutting, and there just isn't any fat left in their budgets.

I was at Sandusky High School earlier this month to talk with students in Mrs. Katherine Gant's government classes. It's been 33 years since I attended Sandusky High School, but the student desks are the exact same desks we sat in during the happy heyday of the 1970s. More than three decades ago some Sandusky school official chose some very sturdy desks that would stand the test of time. Somehow, that says something about a record of right decisions and prudent spending.

Sandusky Schools Superintendent Bill Pahl is particularly worried about the two levies for his district, which were first approved by voters years ago. And some of that concern stems from John McCain's visit to Sandusky on Thursday. How does presidential politics play into this? Good question.

The Sandusky High School band was unable to attend the campaign rally because the school week was winding up a grading period and students were in the midst of the intense process taking the Ohio graduations tests.

School officials meant no disrespect when the Sandusky High School marching band was a no-show at the McCain rally.

"There was nothing political about it," Pahl told me Friday. "It was academics, not politics."

SHS Principal Dan Poggiali made the call, and Pahl said he supported the decision. But it was not an easy choice. On the one hand, McCain's visit was an historic opportunity to see democracy in action. But the other hand held the testing and the district's academic performance standards.

It's fair enough to question whether it was the right decision, but at least it was made with the best of intentions. Either option had the potential to create naysayers. If the band had been sent out, school officials likely would be fending off accusations of partisan politicking and sacrificing academic performance. Academics is a very important category in the state grading system for schools, and it's a smart move to fight for the very best scores.

Pahl said he wanted to make sure residents knew what was behind the decision, and assure them that McCain was not dissed. For the school district, these two levies are more important than whether McCain or Obama win on Tuesday. That's Washington; this is about Sandusky.

So I'm singing the song I've sung before. If you want to make sure the Sandusky Schools remain strong the only way that will happen is to support the district with your vote.

Vote for Issue 21 and Issue 22. Support Sandusky Schools. It's an investment in community. It's an investment in us.

Residents across the region have the same choice for their local school districts because lawmakers long ago decided to shift the financial burden from the state to the individual school districts. That's why your school districts must come back to local voters. There's no other option until state lawmakers step up and address this problem, and judging by the track record that will happen ... never.

An investment in YOUR community -- Vote YES on:

Issue 16, Bellevue Schools

Issue 17, Berlin-Milan Schools

Issue 18, Huron Schools

Issue 19, Huron Schools

Issue 20, Margaretta Schools

Issue 21, Sandusky Schools

Issue 22, Sandusky Schools

Issue 23, Western Reserve Schools

Issue 24, Western Reserve Schools

Issue 25, EHOVE Joint Vocational School