Even though I am now a retired educator, I still try to stay abreast of the latest issues occurring in education. Toward that end, I will occasionally receive an email from a former colleague letting me know the latest proposals percolating in Columbus. I recently received such an email that made me feel as if I was watching a rerun of “Groundhog Day” or better yet, “The Twilight Zone.”
This particular update described the efforts of state representatives Robert Cupp and John Patterson to revamp the state’s school funding formula to make it more fair and equitable. Imagine my surprise upon hearing this news, because I was one of several hundred school superintendents who sat in a room almost exactly six years ago, when then-Governor John Kasich, alongside his school funding “experts” and advisers, Barbara Mattei-Smith and Richard Ross, promised to do the same thing.
I remember that day very well, because I was seated at a table with some of my peers, who were encouraged by what they heard. When they expressed their excitement at the governor’s plan, I said in my normal, cynical way, “You guys don’t really believe this nonsense, do you?” In fact, I’m quite certain I used a more colorful term than “nonsense.”
Their response was, “Well, he wouldn’t stand up there and lie to a whole room full of us, would he?” I was quite certain he would and stated as much. But, I had no proof (yet), and I was certainly in the minority.
Many of the superintendents left the room that day downright giddy at the prospects that we had a governor who finally “got it.” They were convinced he was riding in on his white horse to rescue us from decades of school funding plans that had failed to deliver on their promises. Many media outlets were similarly fooled, as can be seen from the headlines from those days.
But I never believed it for one second.
A few weeks later, the state funding projections were released and, lo and behold, the numbers didn’t match the rhetoric we heard that day. In fact, in many cases, the funding amounts reflected the exact opposite of what we had been told. Follow up news articles captured the disparities, and one of the superintendents who sat at my table during Kasich’s production called me upon the release of the projections and said, “Well, you were right. He stood right there and lied to us.”
Yeah, he did.
When pressed on exactly how it could be that the numbers didn’t match the narrative, Kasich was his usual arrogant self. He gave anyone who dared questioned the disparity between what he said and what actually occurred a good tongue lashing. Then, instead of acknowledging that he had no intention of doing what he said, he gave a typically lame political excuse, saying, “Well, I hadn’t seen the actual numbers. I was just telling people my philosophy.”
And, that was supposed to be that, because that’s politics.
That’s what makes today’s media’s obsession with fact-checking President Trump and a select few other politicians so intriguing. It’s as if the media believes the incessant lying began with the 2016 election. Apparently, they have selective amnesia, as they seem to have forgotten President Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” proclamation; President Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations …” vow; and President Obama’s, “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” pledge.
Maybe there is some other explanation besides lying for politicians from the two major political parties appearing on the dozens of political talk shows dominating the airwaves today who give us completely opposite explanations for the same situation. But, I can’t think of any.
Or maybe the media has determined that politicians all have a quota of lies they can tell before we should be bothered by it. One or 10 is okay, but a thousand is not.
I’m sorry, but one is too many.
After personally witnessing Gov. Kasich’s first fib, I really wasn’t much interested in what he had to say the rest of his tenure. He had already proven that telling the truth was optional.
So, pardon me if I react with reticence to this latest news that two of our politicians will fix school funding, even as they promise that school treasurers are driving this particular plan. Others have made the same claim.
And, it has yet to come true.
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.