LWV endorses passage of CH-UH school levy Issue 69
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland (LWVGC) endorses passage of Issue 69, a proposed 4.8 mill continuing tax levy for current expenses of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.
According to the district’s most recent five-year forecast, the district is in financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant and unexpected reductions in state funding, along with newly projected reductions in district property tax collections and interest income. In addition, the district is severely impacted by the state’s EdChoice voucher program, which increased deductions from the district’s state funding despite no decrease in district enrollment.
In the 2020 primary election, voters narrowly defeated a 7.9 mill levy. Considering that defeat and the current economic situation, the board of education reduced the requested millage and has implemented substantial reductions in employee health and retirement benefits, imposed a freeze on wages, and made other cuts in expenses.
The group opposing the levy has demanded that the board request a performance audit by the state auditor. Ohio school district performance audits are typically initiated by the state at no cost to the district. A district-requested audit would be costly and, with school operations disrupted by COVID, untimely. Our school board and administrators, who are knowledgeable about student needs and community culture, are better positioned than the state auditor to recommend economies. We believe that this demand should be dropped. The board has shown its commitment to substantial budget reductions. Postponing or defeating the levy at this critical time would do irreparable harm to the schools, the students and, ultimately, the community.
Positions of the League of Women Voters (LWV) underscore the importance of public education for our democracy, support sufficient funding to ensure a quality public education, and assert that responsibility for that funding rests with both the state government and the local community. Furthermore, LWV maintains that public funds for education must be accountable to publicly elected officials, and thus does not support the use of public funds for private schools.
The Heights LWV urges residents to vote for this levy. At the same time, we urge all citizens, regardless of where they stand on Issue 69, to contact Ohio legislators and advocate for changes in both the EdChoice program and the current school funding system, that would benefit both our public schools and local taxpayers; and, to contact Ohio’s U.S. congressional delegation (representatives and senators) and urge support for federal assistance to states and local governments, to compensate for the tax revenue losses and increased expenses arising from the COVID pandemic.
A more detailed statement is posted on the Heights Chapter page of the LWVGC website. Other LWV positions, and information on its advocacy for public education, can be found on the websites of LWVGC (lwvgreatercleveland.org) and LWV of Ohio (lwvohio.org). Additional information on ballot issues can be found at VOTE411.org.
Maryann Barnes is chair of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.