Federal Official Leads Citizens' School-Funding Drive

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Valentin Obregon, a U.S. Justice Department official, says he would not be surprised if people in Middletown, Ohio, think he can "walk on water."

As coordinator of a little-known federal intervention program, Mr. Obregon was instrumental in helping citizens of the small city save their school district's bus service and spring sports.

The program, which relied on the intensive efforts of a group of students, parents, and other residents, was so successful that Mr. Obregon hopes to turn it into a model for other districts that are having trouble raising local support for school levies.

The initiative could be an especially important example for other districts in Ohio, where voters have shown a reluctance in recent years to approve school tax mea4sures. In elections held last month in the state, only 41 percent of school levies were approved.

Facing a $1.4-million deficit after three money issues were turned down by local voters last year, Middletown was just such a district.

The school board was forced in December to reduce bus service to the minimum level required by the state, eliminate sports, music, and other supplemental programs, and stop evening use of school buildings for extracurricular activities, according to Harry E. Eastridge, the superintendent.

The cutbacks enraged local community members. "They really blasted us," Mr. Eastridge said.

Critics complained that the cuts discriminated against disadvantaged and minority students, who are less likely to be able to afford their own transportation. A group of parents sought the help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit against the district to block the cutbacks.

The n.a.a.c.p. then turned to the Chicago branch of the Justice Department's office of community relations, which dispatched Mr. Obregon to Middletown.

His welcome there was far from friendly, he recalled.

"Community members and school-board members were not even speaking to each other, much less to me," he said. "All they could do was call each other names."

"A lot of school officials were fearful of a federal authority's involvement in the issue," Mr. Eastridge observed.

Soon, though, Mr. Obregon had managed to "build a few bridges" and form a group called Citizens Are Responsible for Excellent Schools, despite what he said was resistance by local officials.

Cares launched a public-awareness campaign to raise local money for the schools. Efforts included a door-to-door canvass by students, who asked voters to pledge support for a 5.2-mill school levy that will be on the ballot in May.

Members of the group also raised about $160,000--enough to restore transportation and sports programs and ensure that buildings stay open for after-school activities.

District officials described the campaign as a rare success story of cooperation between a community and federal officials.--lj

Vol. 08, Issue 23

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >