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Westside Democratic Club Meeting

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On Tuesday, September 11th, our event for the day was a meeting of the Westside Democratic Club held at the Western Cuyahoga Lodge on Center Ridge Road. We wanted to attend because our very good friend, Ms. Meryl Johnson, State Board of Education District #11 Member and Host of "It's About Justice" on WRUW-FM 91.1, would be speaking there.

During her presentation, Ms. Johnson explained that the Ohio State Board of Education consists of 19 members (8 of whom are appointed by the Governor) whose purpose is to make recommendations to the Ohio State Legislature regarding education, review license appeals, and hire or fire the Superintendent of Public Instruction. On the latter point, Ms. Johnson smiled and said that Mr. Paolo DeMaria, the Superintendent, knows that she is his boss.

In terms of ideology, Ms. Johnson, while identifying as a Democrat, contended that she and her colleagues are all so focused on helping the students that political party affiliation doesn't really matter. Along these lines, she defended the performance of fellow school board member Ms. Lisa Woods, a Republican, by maintaining that, even though they may disagree at times, Ms. Woods is really doing a good job.

As for recommendations to the legislature, the state launched its educational strategic plan, entitled “Each Child, Our Future“ in 2017. The plan’s stated goal is “ensuring that each student is challengedprepared and empowered for his or her future by way of an excellent prekindergarten through grade 12 (preK-12) education.”
The full plan can be explored at: http://education.ohio.gov/About/Ohios-Strategic-Plan-for-Education

Ms. Johnson devoted a large part of her speech to reasons that many children are underperforming in school which she partly attributed to the "toxic stress" of their surroundings often associated with poverty and the fact that, despite several several rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court,  so much of the school funding is still reliant on property taxes  which has produced a lot of inequities. She suggested that everyone there familiarize themselves with an article by Mr. Thomas Suddes that appeared on Cleveland.com on August 18, 2018 titled "Ohio Voters Must Demand Equitable Funding of Public Schools" which can be found at https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/08/ohio_voters_must_demand_equita.html

To be sure, Ms. Johnson also cautioned us about current efforts regarding further privatization of education and shared facts with us about the ECOT scandal which, for us, seems increasingly shady with each news report.

As we have written before, Ms. Johnson is a very good friend of ours and, along with Ms. Margaret W. Wong, we actively supported her election to the Board of Education in 2016. A couple of days before she spoke at the Westside Democratic Club, we had asked her about educational assistance for immigrant children and she responded by forwarding to us an all-encompassing fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education that "provides information to help education leaders better understand the responsibilities of States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in connection with such students, and the existing resources available to help educate all immigrant students-including children who recently arrived in the United States.”
(see https://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/unaccompanied-children.pdf and https://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/unaccompanied-children-2.pdf)

The issue of immigration also came up during the course of the evening when it was brought up that U.S. Congressperson Bob Gibbs (Republican-Ohio, District 7) had introduced a bill that would require people to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Needless to say, virtually everyone (if not everyone) in the room had ominous feelings about the proposed legislation because they were concerned that it would ultimately prove to be a barrier to voting for citizens who may have to dig to find the right documentation (i.e. birth certificate, passport, naturalization certificate, consular report of birth abroad, etc) rather than preventing fraud. Many are worried about similarities between this kind of legislation and laws designed to suppress black votes in the South that Civil Rights leaders struggled against.
(see https://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2018/09/rep_Bob_Gibbs_introduces_bill.html and https://gibbs.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/gibbs-introduces-ensuring-american-voters-act-safeguard-elections)

Sadly, of course, this day was the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and, as was said by Mr. Vern Long, the coordinator of the Westside Club, we all could remember where we were and what we were doing when we received the first news reports concerning the catastrophe even though it took place close to 20 years ago.

On a lighter note, Mr. Long supplied a bit of history when he let us know that September 11th should also be remembered as the day that Mr. Stephen Foster's classic song, "Oh, Susannah! was performed in public for the first time. The rendition took place in a saloon in 1848 and Mr. Foster was awarded a bottle of whiskey for his efforts.

Justin Faulhaber