Last updated: August 19. 2014 3:06PM - 666 Views
By - dwacker@civitasmedia.com

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In the coming months, parents, citizens, and politicians are going to be asked to discuss local control in schools and what that should look like - a conversation that, in my view, is long overdue.
Corky O'Callaghan, a consultant who helped the community come together to pass a school levy last year, talked to the Vandalia-Butler Board of Education last week about a book he is writing on the topic. He says schools are at a turning point - and I believe he is right.
“Kids are being over tested, teachers are being overwhelmed, and money is going to places we don't even know,” said O'Callaghan. “It's not just in Ohio - the story is pretty much the same everywhere I go.”
Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Bradley Neavin shares that sentiment, and never fails to bring the topic up when we speak. He believes that a high performing district, like Vandalia-Butler, should have more leeway to make decisions locally about how to educate its kids.
“The legislature can't pass enough legislation requiring Vandalia-Butler to do things that will help schools in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, or Cleveland,” says Neavin. “I think the state should back off and help the districts that need help and leave districts like ours alone. Vandalia-Butler has been providing excellent education to its students for generations and will continue to do so.”
He is right. Cookie cutter approaches to education reform make no sense because the problems in one district aren't the same problems others face.
There is an inherent tension between the state and federal governments and local schools, a tension that will likely never change. Since a certain amount of funding comes from federal and state sources, it only makes sense that there will be some input from these sources in the education of our children.
However, over the past 40 years that “input” has become more of a dictatorship instead of a cooperative relationship. There is a growing notion in many areas of the country that parents and educators are fed up with the never ending - and always changing - standards coming from Washington and statehouses.
Some are upset about the school lunch initiative by Michelle Obama. Unfunded mandates, programs that districts must carry out, yet receive no funding for, grow by the year. Others oppose the new Common Core standards being implemented this fall, so much so that some states have repealed them, including Indiana and Oklahoma.
Two weeks ago, Ohio Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Huffman introduced legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives to repeal the standards - with House leadership's blessing. It's unlikely a repeal will occur - a similar measure wasn't even considered a year ago thanks in large part to Senate Education Committee President Peggy Lehner. Lehner is your senator, and she's the same senator who dismissed concerns about over-testing in an education forum at Butler High School a few months ago.
The question is very simple. Who knows better to make decisions about schools - local educators and school board members or state and federal lawmakers? One only has to look to the disaster that is Washington, DC to answer that question.
Do school districts such as Vandalia-Butler need to have its hand held by the state and federal bureaucracy? Is there evidence that Vandalia-Butler isn't educating its kids adequately? Of course not! The district is regularly one of the top districts in the area, and it excels in almost every area of performance ratings assessed each year by the Ohio Department of Education.
For any change to happen, parents and interested citizens will have to make their voices heard. If legislators don't want to listen, then they should be voted out of office.
If given a choice, who do you trust more with decisions about education? Your neighbor? Your child's teacher, principal, superintendent, and board of education? Or do you trust a politician you barely know in Columbus or Washington?
That answer is simple for me.

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