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Published: Sunday, 3/20/2011

Education matters

When Ohio lawmakers enact the next two-year state budget, it probably will look a lot like the proposal Gov. John Kasich unveiled last week. Austerity will be the order of the day for local governments and school districts, including Toledo Public Schools.

The net result of the governor's spending plan would be deep cuts in many school budgets caused by a loss of state aid. But that belt-tightening also could encourage self-examination and discussion that can lead to better schools for area children.

Mr. Kasich's answer to those who ask how school districts can cope with further spending cuts: Economize. Share services. Be more efficient.

Even before the governor introduced his budget, TPS officials had launched a plan to transform the school district. It includes painful spending cuts to meet balanced-budget requirements.

More positively, it calls for student-centered changes such as replacing middle schools with K-8 community schools, requiring that every freshman have a plan for graduation and beyond, and expanding academic choice by making courses available through distance learning. The hope is that parents who fled the district for private and charter schools will bring their children back.

But the discussion that needs to occur about how to educate Toledo's young people does not stop at the Board of Education's door, nor should it. School administrators, teachers, community leaders, parents, students, and taxpayers all should be part of the conversation.

That's why Block Communications Inc., through The Blade and Buckeye CableSystem, are sponsoring a new initiative called "Education Matters." As part of the project, The Blade will report from time to time on how schools in this area are doing — how they are succeeding as well as where they fall short.

The newspaper will monitor the progress of TPS' quest for what board president Bob Vasquez calls "total transformational change." To help stimulate discussion, The Blade plans to invite speakers from school districts that have made major improvements to come to Toledo and share their experiences.

Education is the key to a better future for Toledo as well as for the region, state, and nation. Every day that Toledo's children spend in classrooms that are not as good as they could be constrains their dreams and narrows their opportunities for success.

It's time to talk seriously about how to give Toledo students the high-quality education they deserve at a price the community can afford.

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