PHARES: Schools should compete to be the best

Register publisher Last week we printed an editorial on this page supportive of open enrollment in p
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Register publisher

Last week we printed an editorial on this page supportive of open enrollment in public schools. We ran the piece in response to a plan being floated at the state level to decrease funding for students going to districts other than where they live.

Recently, Perkins Local Schools has been in the headlines for the wave of students that flocked to the district when it first accepted open enrollment students this school year. A change in the funding formula would cause them to cease the program.

One of our subscribers contacted me and read me the riot act for not supporting the Sandusky School system and asserted that this type of program was bad for it. They further suggested that the newspaper's position was biased because my children attend Perkins Local Schools, which is benefitting from open enrollment right now. Hopefully that reason alone is not coloring our opinion and in trying to explain this to the reader, I shared my thinking on the issue. After I did so, they suggested to me many of the underlying facts that drove our opinion were not evident in the position we printed, and that they may have felt differently had we laid these points out clearly.

In rereading the opinion piece, I had to agree. So, let me share with you my opinions on the matter bluntly. In all fairness, this is my opinion and not reflective of the entire editorial board. I note this so that you can direct any hate mail right to me.

I'll make three points and leave it to you from there. First, I believe the Sandusky school system is one of the best -- if not the best -- in the region. Some part of this is because of its size. There's a point at which a district is large enough to provide varying levels of education for varying needs, without losing the slower students or holding the more promising ones back. I don't profess to know what the right number is -- but I don't think smaller is better.

Second, I believe the education funding system in Ohio is a screwed-up mess. The Ohio Supreme Court agrees with me. Newspapers and local school boards across the state agree with me and we've called out the governor on the topic. So far, nothing. As it stands, education is held hostage to a constant and fickle cycle of levies that do nothing but distract school boards and superintendents from the very real business of building curriculum and educating our children. Until it gets fixed at the state level, though, there's not much they can do but figure out how to survive within the existing program.

And third, a good way for systems to get ahead right now is to openly compete for students. Perkins figured it out, but there's no reason the others can't get involved. Build a good program, market it to neighboring districts and attract as many as you can. Until the state sends more money, this is one of the few avenues truly open to them.

NOTE: This online version has been edited to contain a paragraph left out of the print version because of an editing error. -- DON LEE, Editorial Page Editor