Shop local. Learn local. Choose public.
We are fortunate to have many locally owned businesses in our community. From grocery stores to bookstores, restaurants to beauty shops, there are many people invested in owning businesses in the Heights. My wife and I believe in supporting those independent businesses because, in many cases, the owners are people we know and trust. It’s also convenient to be able to walk to a nearby store instead of having to drive a distance away.
It is distressing to us that many people use local businesses only as a last resort, relying more on giant megastores, both online and on Warrensville Center Road. Large corporations bully suppliers into selling their products at lower prices and pay their workers less than they should with fewer benefits.
The long-term effects of ignoring local businesses in favor of the megastores will be devastating. Short-term gains of “low prices” will harm our friends and neighbors who offer goods and services that are unique to our needs.
Our public schools are a little like these independent stores that I cherish. They reflect the values and interests of the community. They are governed by a locally elected board, paid for with local dollars, and supported by generations of alumni. Public schools are part of the fabric of the community, from supporting the football team to enjoying a concert. Hundreds of volunteers work with the students in our schools and are invested in their success. Schools are often the centers of their neighborhoods and will probably become even more connected after our CH-UH Community in Schools task force makes its recommendations for enhanced wrap-around services.
Private and parochial schools in our community have many of the same attributes. Many of these institutions have served the community for years. There is a tradition and a sense of belonging. I respect the decision of families to send their children to these schools for whatever reason. While it is their choice, it is also their responsibility to support that choice financially. I believe that families choosing non-public options should not receive public dollars to support these choices. Public money should go to support public schools. We vote for this!
There are people and organizations that don’t share this vision of public education. These are the people who see children as dollar signs waiting to be plucked away from traditional public schools and used to pump up corporate profits. Others prey on students with special needs, looking for ways of providing services at taxpayer expense.
We also have online education entrepreneurs, who want money for enrolling students, even if they never turn on their computers. It would be interesting to see a class reunion for one of these online schools. Will students even know one another?
Doug Livingston of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote in August, “An average of 18 charter schools have closed in Ohio annually over the past decade.” In the next line of the article, he writes that there have been 25 charter school closures per year since 2015. Even a charter that lasts 10 years is a relative newcomer to a public system that is well over 100 years old.
There are some effective charter schools around, but they still take money away from public school students in an inequitable manner. They do not have democratically elected local governance, and they lack fiscal accountability to those of us who foot the bill.
I imagine that if we do not pay attention we could end up living in Generica Heights, with nothing but a few big-box stores, chain restaurants and storefront schools. These meager offerings would be supplemented with online shopping and e-schools. Some people would cheer the lower taxes and great convenience. Our choices make a difference.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.