By Laurie Paine
What do you think of when you hear that number? As a parent, I can tell you that if that was my child’s grade I would be heartbroken, concerned.
“How can I help?” would be my next thought.
47 percent is roughly how many Oak Ridge students are economically disadvantaged. This is one of the most frequently quoted statistics recently, and sadly, it is often used to justify spending for less-than-stellar results. Rarely, the children behind this number are even given a face or a name…
So who are the 47 percent?
Athletes, dancers, bookworms, musicians. They are also future scientists, soldiers, doctors, welders, and teachers. And guess what?
Four of the 47 percent are my children!
These children are not an excuse for poor performance, they are not a financial burden! They are our future. I am running for the Board of Education to give these children—my children—hope and a voice.
According to the most recent TCAP scores, 41 percent of our third to eighth graders tested below proficient in reading and 43 percent below in math.
Also, around 84 percent of our students graduated last year, with only about 78 percent of our economically disadvantaged students graduating.
They say you get what you pay for.
Is this what we get for over $12,000 per student? Is this what we get for outspending nearly every school system in the state?
Oak Ridge schools are still some of the best in the country, yes. But we can do better. And we should.
To do so, we must work smarter, we must work together, and we must advocate for our teachers against those in Nashville who may think they know better.
We must start making the children our top priority in our community.
I am proud to be an Oak Ridge High School graduate, and I’m proud of one recent and three future graduates.
If elected to the Board of Education, I will work to ensure that we more fairly allocate resources to the benefit of all our students, not just those that will make us look good in the newspapers.
Our students are not burdens, they are our future and the sooner we start pouring into them, the sooner they will pour back into our community.
Never in my life did I imagine I would be a candidate for any type of political office. However, when my family suffered an unimaginable tragedy in 2007, the Oak Ridge community came together in a totally unexpected and heartwarming way.
They supported my family in a very dark time when it was needed most.
I feel that now I have the opportunity to reciprocate that gesture by stepping up and offering to serve on the board. I feel that our schools need quality leaders, and I hope that I can be a part of that.
Paine is a candidate for Oak Ridge Board of Education.