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Vince Guerrieri is a Youngstown native and a writer. He tells the history of Youngstown, Ohio, in this post. Governor John Kasich has targeted Youngstown as a school system that will be taken over by the state, with the assumption that its public schools will eventually be turned over to privately managed charters.
But as Guerrieri shows, the problems of Youngstown do not come from the schools. They are the problems of what was once a thriving city that lost industries, jobs, and population. As industries moved elsewhere, as jobs were outsourced, the population shrank and grew poorer.
But the district – and the city – kept hemorrhaging people. The city population, which once peaked around 160,000 and was 100,000 as recently as 1980, is now down to 65,000. With a median household income around $25,000, the city is the poorest in the state and one of the poorest in the country. There are actually a higher percentage of adults in the city without a high school diploma (20 percent) than there are with at least a bachelor’s degree (16 percent). The problems in the city schools go deeper than the board and administration – although they don’t help.
The Youngstown story is a variation of the Detroit story, and a variation of the experience of many other American cities that experienced deindustrialization, loss of population, and a steady deterioration in the economy and in the quality of life.
Politicians think they can cure these deep social and economic problems by privatizing the schools. This is like putting a band-aid on cancer. It makes non sense but they will do it anyway. They will do it because they know how to open charter schools, but they don’t know how to revive cities that lack the resources to provide decent jobs. They will do it because it shows they are doing something. They will do it even though Ohio’s charter schools are among the worst in the nation. They will do it because they lack vision.