Preview: Push for Cleveland schools levy

CMSD School Levy

CLEVELAND - Cleveland voters will face a Cleveland Municipal School District levy in November.

Voters initially passed the measure back in 2012 and, if it passes again, it would extend the tax levy for another four years.

According to the district, the levy would generate up to $60 million a year. That’s 20 percent of the district’s operating budget.

The district says this revenue is needed to carry out what’s called The Cleveland Plan. They say they’re gaining momentum and they want to continue recent improvements, like an increase in the graduation rate and a rise in enrollment.

The campaign to get voters to renew the levy got underway in earnest today.

Voters will have to decide in November whether to keep or scrap a Cleveland Schools Tax Levy from 2012.
Supporters say the Cleveland Plan levy is crucial to keep Cleveland schools on track.

The campaign to renew the $60 million levy boasts the following:
-smaller class sizes.
-increase in preschool programs
-new and restored buildings
-teacher training
-gains in attendance
-14% graduation improvement
-More than half of all graduating seniors going on to college.

"It's a fact that these students are achieving better under the Cleveland Plan in the district," said CMSD Levy Campaign Manager, Terry Butler. A case in point, he says, is 17-year-old Jak'i Respress.

He’s  a senior at John Adams High School and on track to be a mechanical engineer. Respress was part of a national championship robotics team last year. A product of the “Close the Achievement Gap” or “CTAG” program, made possible by the 2012 levy.

"We give them goals they have to meet and draw up contracts identifying roadblocks and solutions to them," said Brian Simmons, the CTAG coordinator at John Adams High school.

"CTAG", he says is turning the tide for at risk youth who like Jak’i, are on track to graduate.

"I remember first meeting Mr. Simmons and he said you aren’t going to be a slacker. I'm going to build you and mold you into something great," said Jak’I Respress.

"It won't increase any taxes but it will continue the many activities that have gone on as part of the Cleveland plan since 2012," said Butler. Butler says 38,000 Cleveland school students depend on it.

Below is a fact sheet from CMSD: 

What is the CMSD Renewal Levy?

• CMSD’s levy on the November 8th ballot is a renewal of Issue 107 from November 2012. This renewal is a 15 mill operating issue and it will not raise taxes.

• This renewal will continue the reforms and improvements from Mayor Jackson’s Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. This issue is critical for continued progress in our schools.

• CMSD educates 38,000 students in 100 schools across the city. CMSD is the second largest school district in Ohio, serving Cleveland, Bratenahl, Linndale, Newburgh Heights and parts of Brook Park and Garfield Heights.

What is Mayor Jackson’s Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools?

• Mayor Jackson’s Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools and Issue 107 funding allowed our schools to:
o Add 21st century materials, textbooks, computers and technologies to prepare students for college and good jobs.
o Increase student graduation in every neighborhood.
o Better prepare graduates for college, careers and the workforce.
o Replace failing schools with new, high quality ones.
o Attract and retain excellent teachers and leaders.
o Provide disciplined classroom environments where students learn every day.
o Provide real world experiences in local businesses.
o Make the school year longer for students who need it most.
o Base teacher and principal pay more on performance.
o Help fund high performing charter schools with guaranteed accountability.

What improvements have the schools made since 2012?

• In the last four years, the district’s graduation rate increased by 14%.

• More than half of all graduating seniors are now going on to college.

• The schools made improvements in elementary math and reading scores last year, outperforming other large urban school districts on the Nation’s Report Card.

• More than 86% of third graders passed the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

• With the PRE4CLE initiative, CMSD has added 1,200 more high-quality preschool seats across the city, helping more young learners prepare for kindergarten and elementary education.

• CMSD has eliminated 10 low performing schools by closing or replacing them with new models. We continue to review and reduce low performing schools that are not providing the education our students need.

• CMSD enrollment has increased for the first time in years, showing that families have more trust in our schools.

• CMSD has opened 18 new high school programs, offering programs like science, technology, the arts and college credit classes.

• CMSD will construct or renovate more than 40 schools over the next four years.

• CMSD is one of only three out of 21 large urban districts that improved in all four areas of the Nation’s Report Card: 4th & 8th grade reading and math scores.

• African-American males and special education students closed their achievement gap in 4th grade reading.

• More than 72% of citizens believe our schools are improving.

• 88% of citizens believe our schools are worthy of continued investment.

How will levy renewal funds be used?

• This issue will continue improvements across the school district. Those improvements include:
o Enrolling more 4-year olds in quality preschool
o Increasing classroom computers and technology
o Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and principals
o Bringing quality schools to every neighborhood
o Preparing students for jobs, college and life

What happens without this levy renewal?

• If this fails, more than 38,000 students will be impacted. The schools will be forced to cut $65 million annually from the budget.
• Those cuts will include teachers and staff, and programs that impact our students.

Election Day is Nov. 8 and early voting begins Oct. 12.


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