INDIANAPOLIS - Last week I planned to extend my discussion of Indiana regionalism, if nothing more exciting comes along. Two referenda on the June 2nd Indiana primary ballot in my area diverted me from that course.

Washington Township Schools, (WTS, Marion County) seeks approval of two school district bond issues. You may have similar matters to decide on your ballot. Because I respect the educators, their programs and results at WTS, I will vote for the Operating Bond issue. This provides $16 million annually for eight years in the WTS budget. Those funds enable both improved compensation of all personnel as well as additional teachers.

However, I will vote against the $285 million Construction Bond issue to revamp and improve classroom, athletic, and transportation facilities.  It is time to think and act big on changing American education. And I’d start at home where good education is already available.

Why? 

Rightly or wrongly, Americans blame schools and parents when children are not adequately prepared as citizens or workers. The consequence: our everyday quality of life (our culture) is diluted.

“A Nation at Risk” in 1983 declared, “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people.”

We talk about reform, but we have achieved too little. I urge opposition to the construction referendum based on our collective, persistent disappointment and our abiding hope for schools nationwide. 

We seem to have forgotten, the job of a school system is to educate, not to entertain students, their parents, grandparents, graduates, or the citizenry in general. The entertainment activities, called co-curricular by WTS, are wonderful in many ways, but they need not be supported by tax dollars.

Football and basketball are the first activities I would have funded locally by booster clubs, alumni, local businesses, and other interested parties. Putting another $285 million into the physical plant of WTS, or any comparable amount into your school district, is not a step forward. It only reinforces the weakened education system of today.

How do we go about changing education? Just as we recognize the importance of pre-, peri-, and postnatal care, we need to extend our involvement with parents and children in their homes and at school.

What would WTS be able to achieve if it had an added $285 million over the course of eight years ($35.6 million per year)? Those funds could support mentoring and tutoring families wanting to see their children achieve higher levels of development.

Today’s education needs to give students the tools to excel in their world, not in the one we know from yesterday. WTS might win fewer championships, but let’s not return to normal. Let’s blaze a trail to an era of excellence.