Imagine schooling in Ohio without the 1851 Constitutional provision for a thorough and efficient system of common schools.

The 18th and 19th century public officials set forth education policy with future generations in mind. The Land Ordinance of 1787 set aside the 16th section of each township for the support of education. It took a couple of decades after statehood for Ohio officials to get their education act together. They mismanaged (wasted) the revenue-raising capacity of the 16th section of each township and, for the most part, merely granted charters to local libraries, literary societies and charities to provide a modicum of schooling.

In the early 1820s some political leaders became serious about establishing a common school system that would endure in perpetuity; but it wasn’t until the adoption of the 1851 Constitution that the statewide common school system was set in stone. Although the state was directed to perfect a thorough and efficient system, much of the impetus for expansion and improvement came from local citizens and educators. Three more constitutional amendments were adopted by Ohioans (two in 1912 and one in 1953) to enhance educational opportunities for contemporary and future generations.

The common school system has both a facilities and operational infrastructure in place that accommodates contemporary and future generations. This infrastructure belongs to the public for now and the future. Governance within the parameters of state and federal regulations is provided by the school district community via locally elected boards of education. This structure guarantees ongoing community ownership.

Without the constitutional provisions for a state common school system, there would be no publicly-owned infrastructure for education. The facilities dedicated to education would be mostly privately-owned. The education operations would most likely be deregulated.

If the privatization of public education continues unabated, tax funds will increasingly be shifted from public to private ownership. Therefore, future generations of children will not be guaranteed access to publicly-owned school infrastructure. They will be at the mercy of private operators.

William L. Phillis, Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding