- "Low-performing schools: The agreement allows the district to quickly intervene in low-performing schools in consultation and collaboration with our unions and clarifies that teachers and employees cannot and will not be fired just because they work in low-performing schools.
- "Differentiated salary schedule: The agreement ensures the development of a salary schedule that factors in performance, specialized training, and other relevant experience and ensures that teachers will not receive pay cuts simply because a new pay schedule is created.
- "Teacher assignments: The agreement allows the district to fill teaching positions in all schools using hiring teams that include principals, teachers, and parents as opposed to simply assigning teachers based on seniority.
- "Teacher evaluations: The agreement protects CMSD’s and CTU’s hard work on a modernized teacher development and evaluation system while expanding timelines and focusing on quality.
- "Tenure and dismissal: The agreement provides the district wider discretion about granting tenure and streamlines the dismissal process for poor performing teachers by focusing on performance evaluation as the primary factor, while protecting the due process rights for CMSD employees.
- "Reduction in force or layoff: The agreement aligns layoff decisions to teacher evaluations and teacher quality; and uses tenure and seniority as tiebreakers when needed.
- "School year calendar: The agreement allows the school district to set the school year and school day calendar for all district schools.
- "Transformation Alliance: The agreement clarifies that the Transformation Alliance must conduct public meetings, provide access to public records and adopt appropriate conflict-of-interest policies."
However, there are still two major issues that remain with the legislation:
1) Letting Charter Schools receive local revenue, on top of their higher per pupil amount they receive from the state
2) There remains no property tax relief, nor any financial partnership from the state
As I've said before, letting Charters (even the successful, collaborative ones to whom the Cleveland Plan would limit these payments) receive local revenue on top of the amount they get from the state -- which equals about double what local districts get per pupil in no small part because the don't receive local revenue -- is extremely problematic and opens the door to a statewide policy allowing Charters to remove a sizable chunk of the $8.5 billion raised for schools every year from local property taxpayers.
To give you some idea of the amounts we're talking about, according to the latest ODE payment report (another one comes out tomorrow, April 13), Charters remove 12.3% of the state's education money to educate about 6% of the state's children. If Charters removed a similar percentage from local revenue, that would be more than $1 billion they would receive on top of the $767.3 million they already get from the state. That would be a huge boon for Charters and a huge problem for local school districts that already rely far too much on local property taxes to survive.
In addition, successful Cleveland schools won't receive similar additional bonus dollars from the state for their successes.
This can be solved by simply having the state adopt a "Good Charter School Fund," which would put additional state money into the successful, collaborative Charter Schools without opening up a Pandora's Box in a state with a colorful history of Charter School funding.
And why the state, which has cut funding to Cleveland by more than 30% relative to inflation since 2000, isn't being asked to contribute a single additional dime to help alleviate the financial mess they helped in large measure to create, is beyond me. Again, the only additional revenue stream the Cleveland Plan envisions is an additional property tax levy, which would have to be in the 10-12 mill range to make up just the first year's projected budget shortfall. That's about $300-400 additional for the owner of a $100,000 home in a community whose median income is barely more than $22,000.
It is clear from the statements made by Gov. John Kasich and other statehouse education policy leaders that they intend to take Cleveland's model statewide to a significant degree. If Cleveland doesn't ask for any state property tax relief, it is all but guaranteed that no other district will receive another dime in property tax relief as well.
As former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick put it in the final decision that found Ohio's system of school funding unconstitutional in 2002:
"... until a complete systematic overhaul of the system is accomplished, it will continue to be far from thorough and efficient and will continue to shortchange our students. The overreliance on local property taxes is the fatal flaw that until rectified will stand in the way of constitutional compliance."I simply ask this: Does the Cleveland Plan, which relies only on more property taxes seem to fulfill the spirit of this constitutional provision?
I hope for the kids in Cleveland that the true promise of this plan to invest in early childhood education, college and career readiness and more community involvement will be realized. However, it is difficult to see how a district that has had to slash those same programs to make up for state budget cuts will be able to realize those ideals without the state helping at least a little bit. After all, we are supposed to be seeing big new revenue streams from fracking and other sources, aren't we?
If these bills that are moving through the House and Senate remain as they are without these two major problems being addressed, I fear the Cleveland Plan's greatest potential success will be greatly diminished if it remains even perceptible. And I fear what this plan's legacy will be for the remaining districts throughout the state if the state's able to say, "Cleveland figured out how to do this without any property tax relief. So can you."
Remember, the Evidence Based Model promised an additional $400 per $100,000 in property tax relief over 10 years to assist districts with those reforms -- about $900 in Cleveland alone. It would have cost the state the equivalent of a bit more than 1% of the state budget each year for 10 years.
So this can be done. We'll see if it is.