Pencils, paper not optional equipment

Johnson City Press • Feb 7, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Knowing that many school children go without the basic tools needed to learn is heartbreaking.

We continue to believe that better access to education is the most critical component in making American society work for all citizens, regardless of family wealth and social status. Unlike many other nations, as a culture we have committed to the moral notion of educating every single child. Despite best political efforts to diminish that obligation, public education remains the linchpin of our prosperity.

But our commitment is not as strong as it should be. Public schools are forced to raise funds from events and sales to supplement what the state supplies. Most teachers spend money from their own pockets to equip and stock their classrooms.

Despite additional funding in recent years, Tennessee continues to rank near the bottom among all states in public school financial support. Education Week’s 2018 Quality Counts Report calculates the national average for per-pupil expenditures at $12,526. Tennessee spends just $9,605 on average, and that figure is adjusted for regional cost differences.

If Tennessee truly wants to compete with other states for better paying jobs, it must have a competitive workforce. Citizens should be encouraged by new Gov. Bill Lee’s promise to improve career technical education toward that end, but the funding lag cannot be ignored. Tennessee must dig deeper. Throwing money at education won’t necessarily solve any disparities in quality, but leveling the field would be a good start.

Meanwhile, school districts continue to solicit private support just to help all pupils with basic needs.

This week, the Elizabethton City School System issued a plea for sponsors and volunteers for its “Back-2-School Bash” set for August. The annual event provides backpacks, school supplies and other items to students. The event is a community festival of sorts with obstacle courses, inflatables, lunch, giveaway items and a family resource fair. The fair is open to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and municipal agencies that provide resources that sustain families throughout the year.

This year’s Bash is set for Saturday, Aug. 3, from 9-11 a.m. at Citizens Bank Stadium at Elizabethton High School. To inquire about sponsorship, applying for a resource fair space or volunteering, call 423-547-8000 or email [email protected].

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