Public education matters

To the Editor:

Public school education matters.

We can say what we want about education, but our country’s future hangs on how well our children are educated. Public school education is the pathway whereby more than 90 percent of us learned to be social, economic and cultural citizens participating in the Great American experiment.

It is fairly well established that wealth creation, or, said another way, what an individual earns in his or her lifetime of work, directly correlates to the quality of education received and individual school performance. Those who perform better do better. Irrespective of the growth in school-choice options, the vast majority of Americans are, and will continue to be, educated in public schools.

Superior education quality and continuous education improvement produces better results—this is indisputable. One does not have to go far to hear and read that, by any measure, American public education is in dire need of improvement. So what about Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools?

We are being asked to support a $134,800,000 capital improvement bond levy to make significant, needed and unfortunately delayed structural changes to the district’s building. There is no question that much of what the Lay Facilities Committee has recommended is long overdue. The building infrastructure needs to be improved and “right sized.”

The “nattering nabobs of negativity” who pollute the blogosphere with endless prattle about CH-UH schools, with a deep-seated antipathy for public education, are distracting us from the more significant issue facing our communities. Where is the commensurate education plan that will transform how education happens in our schools?

We are being asked to make an investment that will cost each homeowner many hundreds of dollars each year. Why would I commit to this investment that, according to the proposers, will transform the district's buildings, if the district is not putting forth an innovative and transformational education plan that changes the education trajectory in the district?    

I think it is important to consider some performance and cost numbers (data from CH-UH sources unless otherwise noted):

In 1987 the cost per CH-UH student: $7,380

In 2012 the cost per CH-UH student: $18,973  

Rate of increase: 157 percent

Increase in CPI (Consumer Price Index) for the same period: 106 percent [Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dept. of Commerce]

Number of CH-UH students enrolled in kindergarten in 1987: 563

Number of CH-UH students in grade 12 in 1999: 479

Class retention rate 1987–1999: 85 percent

Number of CH-UH students enrolled in kindergarten in 2001: 484

Number of CH-UH students enrolled in grade 12 in 2012: 392

Class retention rate 2001–2012: 81 percent

2012 CH-UH graduation rate: 85 percent*

2012 percentage of CH-UH graduates enrolling in post-secondary education: 38 percent*

2008 percentage of U.S. high school graduates enrolling in post-secondary education: 68.6 percent**

2008 percentage of Ohio high school graduates enrolling in post-secondary education: 62.7 percent**                  

Cleveland Heights gross tax rate in 1987: 127.15

Cleveland Heights gross tax rate in 2013: 182.8

Gross tax rate increase 1987–2013: 43.8 percent

Capital levy amount: $134,800,000

Term: 38 years

Interest rate: 4.25 percent

Total cost over the term of the borrowing: $274,059,945

Amortization cost per year: $7,212,104

Cost of capital levy per student based on an enrollment of 5500 students: $1,311/year

*Source: State of Ohio Board of Education

**Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many of us in the district are waiting to hear the plans to transform education in our public schools before supporting a capital levy. Building changes and improvements are only part of the solution.

Education innovation and transformation in the classroom and outside the classroom has never been more necessary, important and immediate. What the district has presented to date is nowhere near sufficient, relative to what we are being asked to invest. It is imperative to change the trajectory of the district!

The opportunities to be derived from success are enormous and the consequences of failure are even greater. If you agree, please send a message to Dr. Nylajean McDaniel, superintendent, at n_mcdaniel@chuh.org and to Mr. Ron Register, president of the CHUH Board of Education, at r_register@chuh.org.

Michael Knoblauch

Michael Knoblauch
Cleveland Heights
Member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors

Read More on Letters To The Editor
Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 12:23 PM, 09.16.2013