As children, many of us searched for buried treasure. At the beach as pirates or maybe in the backyard as early settlers, natural curiosity pushed us onward for a number of expeditions. But what about real treasure — that which does not rust, wear out, and is absolutely priceless? I reference not gold, silver, or ancient artifacts, but our children.

At one point they are young and restless, precocious and inquisitive, full of life and love, but all too soon they’re breezing through kindergarten, junior high, and high school — in a flash.

What, quite frankly, do we value and hold dear more than our very own children? What would we give to have this “treasure” close and nearby throughout the remainder of our lives?

As a high school teacher for nearly three decades, I watched each spring as our new graduates received their diplomas and dispersed to the Armed Forces, college, tech school, or for jobs elsewhere. Though many stayed in the area, the gradual exodus of our treasure, year after year, decade after decade, in northeast Ohio and in other rural corners of our state is now readily apparent.

In times gone by, it would have been nearly impossible to attract some of our youth to return. Jobs were on-site and the type of jobs that many desired were not found easily in our midst. But that, to a large degree, has changed with technology.

The internet, that vast system of instantaneous communication, offers us a ray of hope to attract and retain our children and grandchildren. Why is this so and how might we create the conditions to bring some of our treasure home?

In today’s world, a good number of jobs are centered on the practice of “telecommuting.” Online, wired, instant productivity from one’s home is quite common. Almost anyone is able to work from anywhere in the world, and from their own home. Certainly, this was not a viable option for many even a decade ago.

So what might we do to bring our most precious resource home? How might they be encouraged to return? And what might be our cost to open this window of opportunity?

Broadband connectivity throughout all parts of Ohio is the necessary first ingredient to this complex formula. Rural areas, pockets in urban areas, more bandwidth in other areas — all must be addressed. This is precisely why, at your Statehouse, I voted for a bill to incentivize the “last mile” completion of broadband for many of our residents.

On a grander scale, I also support a far more encompassing bill that would encourage a public-private partnership to bring “business speed” broadband to almost all of Ohio. With the network fully in place, our young can move to the locations of their choice — and some won’t have to move at all.

Second, in addition to the draw of their own family, young parents are looking for quality schools. Your grandchildren deserve this, our state will be better served by this, and our nation certainly needs this. But as you know, school funding for quality education has been cut severely by the current administration. This challenge must be addressed head-on which is precisely why I founded the Education Funding Caucus four years ago. The caucus has recently morphed into the School Funding Workgroup — a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators, school superintendents and treasurers, and other interested parties to determine how we can fund a “thorough and efficient” system of public schools that is “adequate and equitable.”

The reality is this: families will locate where schools are providing the best education possible.

Third, young families, especially millennials, are also looking for potential places to live with respect to a quality of life. Educational opportunities such as museums, visual and performing arts venues, recreational opportunities like trails for biking, waters for kayaking, and parks for rejuvenation all rank high on their list.

We in the 99th District are so blessed to have access to the Cleveland museums of international quality and local museums of historical interest. The Cleveland Orchestra, Blossom Music center, Playhouse Square, and our local venues from Conneaut and Ashtabula to Chardon; our metroparks of Ashtabula and Geauga Counties; our three scenic rivers and two harbors; and finally our wineries, Lake Erie sunsets, rich forests, snowy winters, covered bridges in the fall, and the greening fields of the springtime all lend so much to our unique quality of life!

The point is, there is much hope and a greater chance that with increased broadband, improved funding for world-class schools, and continued access to those events and activities which enrich our lives, we can, and will, become an even more attractive place to bring our treasures home. I, for one, will continue to work toward that goal.

For in the end, what would we do to live near, work with, and mature alongside that which is most dear to us — our children and grandchildren?

Legislative Update: The treasure beneath our feet