If Education pays?

More thoughts from yesterdays WSU Regional Summit:

Considering you can’t teach at WSU without a PhD. I find it refreshing that the person they put in charge of all higher education for the State of Ohio doesn’t have a PhD- and when I said that- you could hear the snickers in the crowd. But, I like Eric Fingerhut (full disclosure- I used to eat lunch in HS with his little sister Lisa) and think he’s on the right track.

Ohio is reclaiming its heritage as a center of innovation, Board of Regents Chancellor Eric D. Fingerhut said Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Wright State University’s second annual summit on the region’s future.

“As we reclaim our leadership in higher education, we will be the engines of growth that build the next great Ohio century,” he said in presenting the University System of Ohio’s Master Plan to about 160 state and regional leaders.

Fingerhut: Education fuels Ohio’s future.

However, to me it seems we need the education chancellor to go from Pre-K to Post Grad. For one, it’s a lot cheaper to teach toddlers to read, than to try to teach advanced math and languages to kids who can’t. Every dollar invested in pre-k is worth a whole lot more over the course of a complete education. Eric agreed with me on that point, but, Ohio still can’t comply with the Ohio Supreme Court mandate to fix our inequitable school funding system.

So- later, it gave me great pleasure to ask former Lt. Governor and Head “Economic Development Officer” of the State, Bruce Johnson– why is it that “economic development” plans almost always offer property tax breaks which hurt school budgets. In typical Republican double-speak he started talking about how they only cut taxes on the “Improved value” so it’s really not cutting- just maintaining, and that companies are supposed to make “payments in lieu of taxes” to school systems.

Well, two gotcha’s there Mr. Econ Development (yet failed econ 101):

  • If the business brings new jobs, residents- and hopefully – school age children to town (as all good “economic development” projects should) the schools get increased enrollment and costs with no increase in revenue. This is called an unfunded mandate.
  • The Mercer County Combined schools person that came up to me afterward and told me the second part: it used to be that the “payments in lieu of taxes” weren’t counted toward their income- so money wasn’t deducted from State aid. Which gave the schools/State a win-win. Now, they deduct the payments. Yeah, Republican doublespeak hard at work.

If, as Bruce Johnson says- “education pays” – why aren’t we offering $56 million to the schools instead of to bail GM out for being idiots? Wouldn’t those dollars invested in kids- give us the bigger better workforce of tomorrow, instead of investing in a company run by highly paid idiots? (I’m going to write something else about this later – so more to come).

If we’d been spending money on our schools, if we’d provided subsidized day care for the lowest wage earners to help make sure those kids aren’t stuck in the cycle of poverty, or if we actually changed our school year to longer, year round (because we’re not producing farmers anymore- kids don’t need to work the farm in the summer time like they used to)- we may actually work our way out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into.

Or not.

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