Support our children and our community
The first time I took part in a school levy campaign, I was a toddler and my mom was holding a neighborhood meeting in support of the levy in our backyard on Bradford Road. From the time I could walk, I was knocking on doors and handing out literature in support of the levy.
My mom, a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School herself, impressed on me from an early age how deeply important it is that public education be free and excellent, and how crucial our public school system is for the health and strength of our community. Even when I attended Hathaway Brown for middle school, we went door-to-door as a family, campaigning for the levy.
I returned to public school my freshman year of high school, graduating from Heights High in 2011, and I would not trade the experience for the world. Heights prepared me in a way that private school never could have: it taught me about community and about my own stake in ensuring that everyone in the community has what they need to thrive. It taught me how to relate to people with a range of life experiences wholly unlike my own. It equipped me with a quality education that allowed me to start college with a number of credits already completed, and it led me to community organizing, which is my profession and my passion today. It is what motivated me to move back to Cleveland Heights and put down roots here, to sit on the Heights Schools Foundation board, and to write this.
As I write, I am sad and angry. The way our schools are funded was determined to be unconstitutional 23 years ago, before I even started school, and throughout my entire life we have had to fight back against ongoing attacks and disinvestment in public schools on a state level. EdChoice is just the latest, but it is particularly vicious; next year, HALF of the money Heights public schools should be receiving from the state will be used to pay for private school scholarships. My youngest sister will graduate from Heights this spring, and I worry about the devastating impact this loss of funding will have on the children coming after her.
I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I will send them to public school in Cleveland Heights. However, this isn’t just about how this loss of funding will affect my future family; this is about how every child in our community deserves access to a quality education like the one I received. I want to live in a community where every child is supported and able to unlock their full potential, regardless of how much money their family makes, regardless of whether their parent has the time or capacity to be able to navigate the voucher system and put them in private school, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how they learn.
It isn’t fair that we have to make up for this immoral and disgusting disinvestment on the part of state politicians. It is even less fair that our children will have to pay the price for it. I believe in supporting our children and our schools. If you believe the same, I urge you to vote yes with me for the levy on Tuesday, March 17, and to join the fight against EdChoice and all of the state policies that harm our children, our schools, and our community.
Rachael Collyer is a professional community organizer, a Heights Schools Foundation trustee, and a 2011 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School.