Stranglehold on Education
As if school districts weren’t already trying to do more with less, along comes an unseen enemy that paralyzed the already laboring system. A virus, a submicroscopic infectious agent that has single-handedly caused the modern world to come to a standstill and create dire straits for school districts nationwide. Is public education sustainable?
The United States received its first known case of the coronavirus on January 21, 2020 and the flood gates began to open in quick fashion. A month later (February 21, 2020) there were 34 confirmed cases in the United States and then the WHO (World health Organization) decries a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 sending societal norms into a spiral. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine closes all schools K-12 on March 16, 2020 and the action is mirrored throughout the country. Schools scramble to enact contingency plans and facilitate distance-learning methods in an effort to salvage the remainder of the current academic year. Non-essential businesses are forced to shut down at an alarming rate causing a surge of more than 3.2 million unemployment claims across the United States by March 21, 2020. Small businesses that don’t provide groceries, health or financial support, or utilities are closed and government coffers begin feeling the budget woes. Without workers, there isn’t revenue.
School districts have seemingly been hit the hardest as the budget cuts were dispersed. In Ohio alone, Governor Mike DeWine pulled back $475 million in funding to schools. Many individual schools seeing nearly one million dollar decreases in annual operational funding. As if schools haven’t already been forced to be resourceful enough, yet another devastating blow has landed. In previous years, small deficits could be overcome by the placement of educational levies which counted on taxpayers to fund. However, this time the taxpayers are unemployed and unable to assist. There doesn’t appear to be a lifeline in sight and an already over-burdened staff will be facing almost certain layoffs.
School districts have continually been inundated with additional regulations, standards, and protocols mandated for inclusion into their exhaustive educational responsibilities. Typically, these increased requirements come at a cost and become another draw on the budget. Increasing utility costs, busing and fuel costs, and personnel costs are imminent. There are expenses incurred for the Educational Aids that work individually with students suffering from learning disabilities, individual education plans, or difficulty with social interaction. No matter where you look, the need for funding is essential to the survival of public education.
In recent years there has been a need for hardening of school security due to the scourge of Active Shooter incidents. The FBI reports that there have been 277 Active Shooter incidents in the United States between 2000–2018 resulting in the deaths of 844 people. Additionally, there were another 28 incidents occurring in 2019 resulting in 97 more deaths. Much of the violence within the schools can be attributed to the decrease in mental health and the increasing rates of anxiety, suicide, and depression among school-age children. In response, schools have been forced to increase expenditures on security items like School Resource Officers, access control, critical incident training, and classroom protection with devices like the Bolo Stick door barricade (www.bolostick.com) to prevent unwanted entry during critical incidents. Safeguarding staff and student life is essential to every school district, but it requires substantial funding.
There are as many remedies and theories about the best way to fund public education as there are stars in the sky, but the bottom line is that funding is necessary. Restricting funding for schools is counter-productive and will serve as the catalyst for even farther-reaching catastrophes in the very near future. When you limit education you effectively limit the opportunity of future generations to succeed.
In closing, please remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together.
Be aware, proactive, and safe.
Bill Barna, President, Bolo Stick LLC
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