Don't be fooled by levy opponents' misleading claims

Several [opinion] articles in last month’s Observer cited so-called “facts” about the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school levy (Issue 109). We are writing to correct just three of the false or misleading arguments of levy opponents.

First, levy opponents love to compare graduation rates from 2006 to today, but they do so in misleading ways. They don’t explain that they're comparing 2006’s five-year graduation rate with today’s four-year rate—and so today’s rate is understandably lower. They omit [mentioning] that, in 2007, the state made the graduation test significantly harder, which lowered graduation rates across Ohio. And they simply ignore that the district's four-year graduation rate has gone up four years in a row to 85.7 percent—much higher than the 83 percent statewide average.

Second, levy opponents love to cite inflated cost-per-pupil figures. Their figures include millions in “expenditures” that are not, in fact, expenditures on district students—including the combined $6.1 million the state diverts to charter schools and voucher programs; the $1.5 million spent on busing independent and parochial school students; and expenditures on business-like services for which the district is paid (such as rent paid by third parties at the old Coventry school). The Ohio Department of Education adjusts these figures to calculate a $15,023 cost-per-pupil figure. That number is not small, but it is reasonable—and not inappropriately inflated.

Finally, levy opponents claim that most school districts do not seek approval of continuing levies every 3 to 5 years. This is false. Voters in our district are periodically asked to approve additional operating levies because the dollar amount of school property taxes collected cannot increase without voter consent—notwithstanding inflation or increases in property values. Our district, like most in Ohio, periodically seeks additional continuing operating levies. This November, Bay Village, Fairview Park, Mayfield, North Royalton, Olmsted Falls and Westlake are all seeking additional continuing levies. It is primarily challenged districts, like Parma, that resort to temporary school levies.

When deciding how you should vote on Issue 109, don’t be misled by levy opponents’ so-called “facts.” Cast your vote for strong community schools.

Jayne Geneva and Ryan Routh

Jayne Geneva is chairperson of the Lay Finance Committee for the Cleveland-Heights University Heights City School District. Ryan Routh is co-chair of Citizens for Our Heights Schools. Both are longtime residents of Cleveland Heights and parents of current or former CH-UH students.

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Volume 9, Issue 11, Posted 12:22 PM, 11.01.2016