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Panel aims to shed light on disparity of education

Students and members of the Ohio State community are set to have conversations about issues in education through the lens of social justice at “Education Reform: A Social Justice Issue,” a panel style discussion hosted by Students for Education Reform-Ohio and StudentsFirst-Ohio.

SFER-OH is the OSU chapter of SFER, a national student organization started at Princeton University in 2009. The group aims to “foster campus conversation about the achievement gap and promising solutions” and focuses on other aspects of higher education, according to its website.

StudentsFirst is a national nonprofit organization that “engages with communities around the country to raise awareness about the shortcomings of our education system and advocate for evidence-based solutions,” according to its website.

Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican, and Rep. Bill Patmon, a Democrat, will be two of the panelists in attendance on Thursday in Great Hall Meeting Room 3 of the Ohio Union.

Other panelists will include Laura Justice, executive director at the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, and Justin Schulze, an educator at KIPP Columbus charter schools.

The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy is “a college-level research center dedicated to conducting high-quality, empirical research on how to improve children’s learning and development in the home, the school, and the community,” according to its website.

SFER-OH media director Arjun Subramanyam, a first-year in finance, said the event will act as a forum for students and community members to discuss education policy and education as a social justice issue.

“(In) education right now, there are disparities within the education people receive. Like in inner-city areas, students don’t receive as good an education as a student in suburban areas. There is a gap in opportunity, and our event hopes to highlight this opportunity gap and get a high level (of) perspective on it,” Subramanyam said.

SFER-OH events director Sarah Fitzpatrick, a third-year in neuroscience, will be one of the panel moderators for the event and said what will make the panelist discussion distinct is that each panelist offers a different perspective of education.

“What’s cool about our (panel) is we have a teacher, someone who is doing research on the ground, and we have two legislators, so we have almost every level in the system and we’ll be able to ask them each from their own perspective what’s the situation, how can we make a difference, and what are the solutions you see,” Fitzpatrick said.

The panelists will discuss topics of education disparities based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation and the quality of education, Subramanyam said, adding that he hopes discussing these issues will start the process of fixing these issues.

“Often times I think the reasons why these disparities in education exist … is because people just don’t know they’re not connected to the issue, and in order to connect people to the issue we need to shine a really, really bright light on it, and we need people engaged and we need people to be connected to the issue,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said the event offers students and community members a chance to make a difference and said she hopes people use the event as a way to get their voice heard.

“This is the first step in getting students and getting the community engaged,” she said. “There’s this big opportunity gap in schools and everybody knows that the state of education is not where it should be right now, and in order to ever make a difference we need people’s voices to be heard.”

The Education Reform: A Social Justice Issue event will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and students and community members unable to attend the event will be able to ask the panel questions via Twitter using the hashtag #OHedSJ.

Subramanyam said he wants people to walk away knowing more about the importance of education .

“I hope people can come away with (the idea that) education is a fight that regardless of where you are in life, it’s (a) fight that we must all be engaged in and it’s one that matters,” he said. “Education provides a better life for all people and (is) important for the future of our country, and I also hope people can come away with their voices being heard.”

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