The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is in very serious trouble. Cleveland's population has declined, while expenses have soared. The district ranks 608 out of 611 statewide in academic performance, and was looking at a $60 million shortfall.
Mayor Frank Jackson, a Democrat, knew that bold action was required, and came up with an aggressive plan to save the schools for the city's kids. He immediately found an ally in Governor Kasich, who worked with the state legislature to make it happen. Democrats, Republicans and even the teachers union came together to hammer out a plan that seemed unlikely.
|Governor Kasich and Democrat State Senator Nina Turner (Plain Dealer Photo - Joshua Gunter)|
Governor Kasich said,
"When adults fight, children get lost in the shuffle. In this case, everybody got together and demanded that children be placed first."The bill was sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. For the first time, teachers in the district will be paid according to their performance in the classroom. Tenure is basically gone. Teachers will no longer be assigned to buildings based simply on seniority, but must be approved by a team of the principal, parents and teachers at each building.
The plan is only half of the solution, however. Mayor Jackson still has a major shortfall to cover, and will be proposing a new levy to Cleveland's voters.
Ohio voters have been rejecting levies at a record pace lately. And who can blame them? Many of the same school systems asking for money have been irresponsible with tax dollars, refusing to change their methods.
But in this case, Mayor Jackson and the teachers have put together a plan for change. A plan that says, "Listen, we know we have problems to fix. Here is our plan to get better." They did this before ever asking taxpayers for a dime.
Jackson told a Cleveland news station,
"People aren't gonna vote for a levy if all you can tell 'em is is, to expect just the same old thing," he said. "But now we're able to say to people - you can and should expect a different and a better outcome."It sets a great example. And an example that deserves a chance.
When schools like Lorain increase spending because they got one-time stimulus funds, and then whine to voters that they don't have enough money, voters actually should shoot them down.
But if there was ever a reason for skeptics to support a school levy, the Cleveland plan is it. There hasn't been a levy increase passed in the city since 1996. A successful turnaround in Cleveland would show struggling districts around the state how to do it right, by showing parents and voters that they are willing to change, instead of asking voters to throw more money at the same failing system.
Democrats and Republicans came together to put the kids first. Hopefully, Cleveland's voters will join them. This bipartisan plan deserves the chance to succeed.