We must not allow anti-tax agitators to harm our public schools
As people start voting, it is important for everyone to have a clear picture of our school district’s finances. It is easy to get lost in the weeds when anti-tax agitators try to stir up confusion.
There will always be people who want to cut public services, whether it’s schools, libraries, or the post office. They will advocate for funding cuts, then blame the resulting financial crisis on wasteful spending and call for further cuts. That looks a lot like what is going on with our public schools.
First of all, our school district’s spending is not “out of control.” The Ohio Department of Education calculates each district’s effective cost per pupil, allowing for apples-to-apples comparisons between districts. Compared to the other districts in the county, Cleveland Heights-University Heights is in the middle of the pack [in spending], and is significantly lower than Shaker Heights and Beachwood. What is unusually high, though, is the proportion of students with special needs or economic disadvantage that our district serves. It should be a point of pride for our community that we have strived to provide quality education for all.
But quality education for all in the CH-UH district is under threat. The district’s five-year forecast shows where the problem lies. Adjusted for inflation, salaries and benefits have been flat for years, and are even projected to decline slightly, with all other expenses declining significantly in today’s dollars. The problem is not “wasteful spending” by the school board; the problem is ballooning payouts for EdChoice vouchers and state budget shortfalls leading to funding freezes for education.
Last spring, we, as a community, voted to stop supporting our schools. Now we need to throw our schools a lifeline, and pass Issue 69 so we can keep giving all the kids of our community a chance at a great education.
Jesse Berezovsky is a professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, and the parent of a Boulevard Elementary School student.