League endorses Columbus school levy/bond package
Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- CONTACT:
Amy Pulles, (614) 837-1089
The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus yesterday voted to support Issue 75, the Columbus City Schools levy and bond.
While the nonpartisan organization never endorses candidates or political parties, it does take positions on ballot issues that come before voters. “The League has a longstanding public policy position stating that individual school districts should be required to assume a reasonable share of the financial burden and should retain the option of increasing per-pupil expenditure beyond this level through local taxes,” said Scott Britton, the League’s vice president for advocacy.
Education and education finance are important issues for the League, but the 88-year-old good-government organization examined both sides of the issue before taking a stand. “Right or wrong, many voters look at those who support school levies – teachers, unions, government agencies – and believe that their support stems only from self-interest,” Britton said. “The League can examine the issue from a more disinterested perspective. We believe that, in this case, supporting the levy and bond package is good for the community.”
Britton is aware that some Columbus residents – even those who traditionally support school levies – are leery of the levy/bond combination. “Our assessment of Issue 75 is that the pairing of the levy with the bond was strategic, and will go much further in improving public schools than either of the funding mechanisms standing alone,” Britton said. “The school district will be able to improve operations and infrastructure at the same time, for example, by replacing decade-old computers while building computer labs, and adding science teachers while updating obsolete lab space.”
The League was also persuaded by the fact that the district has honored its promise of not coming back to voters for a new levy until this year and has made significant strides with respect to graduation rates, daily attendance, state report card rating, building construction, and fiscal management. Also, because the bond program, which has been very well administered in Columbus, replaces a previous bond that is expiring, the tax on that side remains essentially the same.
The levy package will restore the shortened school day, restore the PEAK in-school suspension program for older students, and help the district meet new Ohio Core Curriculum requirements for lab sciences. The levy will allow the district to open four new magnet schools, similar to Columbus Alternative High School, that have the best record of success in Columbus. Moreover, in order to draw down 30 percent in matching funds from the state school facilities agency, Columbus must raise 70 percent through the bond.
Britton added that the consequences of Issue 75 failing are dire. “Columbus schools will see immediate cuts of $30 million from a $700 million budget, with even higher cuts in the second year,” he said. “Just as important, it would signal a loss of confidence in the district at a time when academic and fiscal progress is being made, and the community at large would likely see a drop in housing values.”
The League took no position on any of the other local issues on the Franklin County ballot, but the League of Women Voters of Ohio took positions on four of the five statewide ballot issues.
The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League is where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement.