By Charlie Irish
EdChoice, with all of its twists and turns, is highlighting the direction in which education policy in Ohio is headed. Vouchers to attend other schools has cleared a hurdle and is becoming widely accepted, whether we like it or not.
What we are debating now is mostly about a definition of eligibility and the financial impact all of this has on our public schools. The resistance to current legislation appears to be largely focused on a competition for money.
However, there is another major factor that is creeping into the picture beneath our radar while we fight for money, and it is far more significant than what is happening to public school budgets. It is the growing acceptance that education is no longer a community responsibility. Instead, it is a commodity belonging to whichever institution people believe can get the job done.
There is, however, a huge unintended consequence associated with education no longer being viewed as a community responsibility. When education no longer demands that people come together to deliberate, make choices and take action around what they want for their children, it gets removed from the list of things that make a democracy work.
Chances are pretty good that the current debate over EdChoice will prove to be a seminal moment in the role schools and communities assume in the education of our children. As we struggle with what to do, we should ask ourselves an important question.
Are we fighting to preserve an institution, or are we fighting to preserve an idea about what education means in a democracy?
A retired superintendent of the Medina City Schools, Charlie Irish is currently an educational partner of the Kettering Foundation which studies what it takes to make democracy work as it should. He also is a member of the Statewide Leadership Team for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network.