Our children are grown and live far away, but my husband and I will be voting for Issue 109, the Heights School Levy. We believe supporting our community’s children is a responsibility and a privilege.
Our high school students can study advanced chemistry and physics, a range of foreign languages, advanced placement Calculus, and computer programming. They can play in a marching band, a symphony orchestra or a jazz combo, take a class in sculpture or jewelry or photography, participate in the theater, and play a range of sports. Our community has understood these opportunities as necessities, and our levy dollars pay for them.
Our state—copying a Jeb Bush plan in Florida—rates school districts by students’ test scores. Rich Exner of the Plain Dealer explains that although though the state presents school district grades as though they reflect the quality of the schools, standardized test scores, in the aggregate correlate with family income. It’s perfectly clear that the state is negatively branding mixed income communities like ours and encouraging the public to believe that homogeneous, wealthy communities are the best place to live and raise children. There are lots of reasons to challenge such an assumption, but these days our society rarely questions it. The state’s school district grades are a form of educational redlining that encourages metropolitan segregation by income.
School districts depend on the state for roughly half of their funds, and our state has let us down. The Plain Dealer describes the plight of Ohio’s municipalities and school districts—caused by a 10-year rash of state tax cuts. In 2011, Gov. John Kasich and the legislature cut the local government fund in the state budget by 25 percent for 2012 and 50 percent for 2013. Former Governor Bob Taft and the legislature had eliminated a tangible personal property tax on income and equipment that had helped fund school districts and replaced it with a Commercial Activities Tax, which was then slashed by Kasich and the legislature in 2011. In his 2011 budget, Kasich abolished the estate tax. At the end of 2014, Kasich and the legislature “streamlined” Ohio’s income tax, a plan taking effect in 2016 and further reducing state funding for schools.
The state also forces our school district to redirect a significant portion of our district’s education dollars away from our local schools. Last year our district lost $3,263,638 to charter schools; and $2,791,845 for various kinds of private school vouchers—for a total loss of $6,055,483.
Issue 109 is a 5.5 mill levy, the smallest levy request in more than 30 years. It will protect the important school programs and services that our community values.
Our neighborhoods, our children and our community depend on passage of the Heights School Levy on November 8th.