Then tonight I read at the Plain Dealer website that Cleveland is asking for a 15-mill levy. That's right. A 50 percent property tax increase! Does anyone really think that a 15-mill levy will pass in Cleveland? Ever? It took Westerville -- a rather well-to-do suburb of Columbus in which Ohio's Governor resides with a strong base of active parents -- several attempts before they passed a levy less than half of that.
The money will raise about $77 million more per year. You know how much money $77 million is to the state? That represents .3 percent of the state's annual operating budget. This state government couldn't even commit .3 percent of its budget to a plan they claim is the model for future education reform in this state. How about half the cost? An additional .15 percent of the budget, perhaps, so Cleveland could go for a more reasonable 7.5 mills? More galling? The state had about a $250 million surplus this year.
Yet not a penny of that found its way to Cleveland to help its reform plan succeed. So when this likely goes down, what will happen? From an earlier Plain Dealer story:
The district will also shorten its school day through eighth grade by 50 minutes next school year and cut the number of music, art, library and gym classes for those students as part of the shuffling of staff to handle the layoffs.It looks like there is little hope that the much ballyhooed Cleveland Plan will ever reach its promise of turning around Cleveland's public school system. Cleveland's teachers made major concessions to the district, including giving up seniority as a means of determining pay. All so that kids might be able to be helped by the necessary, but expensive, wrap around services the Plan promised.
Now that it looks like it will take a miracle to see any of that. And Cleveland teachers' good-faith efforts and sacrifices are all that will ever come from this Plan, whose legacy appears to be resigned to shorter school days, reduced offerings and larger classes.
I lay little of the blame for this issue at Cleveland's feet. This is a state problem, as it has been for decades. When the state cuts school funding, which it did in the last budget by $1.8 billion (nearly $3 billion if all stimulus money's included), districts are forced to make impossible, desperate choices.
When will the public schools rise again and force the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations? Maybe if the levy fails, media and others will finally take note of the State's failure. But it should never have come to this.
One mill would be reserved for Charter Schools. That means they will split $5.1 million between the handful of Charter Schools that are eligible for the money. Remember that Charters already (because of how they are funded) remove $3 million a year from Cleveland children's per pupil state aid. And also remember that even though Cleveland's Charter Schools receive more per pupil from the state than Cleveland does itself, the Charters that get this local revenue will not have their state aid reduced at all now that they will collect local revenue, unlike Cleveland, which has their state aid amount reduced every year because it can raise local revenue.
I fear for Cleveland's future, and the future of our state's public education system -- the jewel of Thomas Jefferson's vision for this state as laid out in the Land Ordinance of 1785. That seminal document set aside the heart of every community for "public education."
I sure hope the state decides to do something about this, for only it can.