The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio politicians eye ‘cold-coded’ barriers
Two of the most important things we can teach our children is to be honest and to treat everyone fairly.
That’s what children are supposed to learn in school – whether through the life lessons on the playground, or by studying history in the classroom.
Ohio has offered hope and opportunity for people across race and place, but despite our best efforts to join together, a handful of rich and powerful people have been pitting Ohio’s Black, brown and white communities against each other.
Many Ohioans came together to help enslaved Black people find their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Former slaves and their families fleeing the South after the Civil War chose Ohio, hoping they could be safe here and thrive. They found freedom from slavery but also endured racial backlash and violence.
Our families came here seeking a better life. Prentiss’ grandparents moved to Dayton from the Mississippi Delta, where they worked as sharecroppers. His parents found union jobs that paid good wages in factories such as the old General Motors plant in Moraine.
Caitlin’s grandparents fled civil war and oppression in Ireland. Her grandmother worked as a maid and her grandfather found a low-paying job in one of Cleveland’s many factories. Yet racism embedded in our public policies — like redlining and unequal funding for public schools — created more barriers for Prentiss’ family to overcome.
Color-coded barriers persist today, and some politicians are trying to create new ones. From the recent egregious attacks on our fundamental freedoms to vote and protest — to the abject refusal to acknowledge the Jan. 6 attacks — certain politicians keep working to undermine Ohioans’ right to thrive.
And now, a handful of Ohio politicians are stoking fears about our schools. They’re trying to dictate what teachers say and prevent children from learning our shared stories of confronting injustice.
Right now, the Ohio General Assembly is debating the 2022-23 state budget which would finally address another difficult part of Ohio’s history: our legacy of an unequal school funding system that short-changes Black and brown students and harms children living in poverty.
Ohio’s unconstitutional school funding system was created and maintained by politicians who use this system to drive resources away from children in low-income neighborhoods while providing more resources to the wealthiest among us.
Some of the same politicians trying to force teachers to deny our history have prioritized tax giveaways for the wealthy few and big corporations while starving our public schools of textbooks, technology and learning resources.
Teachers can’t do their jobs when certain politicians and special interests want to force their personal views onto kids. They certainly can’t do their jobs well in underfunded schools.
If our leaders truly care about protecting our children’s future, they will drop the political games and finally marshal public resources to ensure our kids become honest, upstanding citizens who want to make the world a better place.
Prentiss Haney is the co-executive director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. He is from Dayton originally and lives in Cincinnati.
Caitlin Johnson is Policy Matters Ohio communications director and a board member of the OOC. She lives in Shaker Heights.