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Voters Still Skeptic About Columbus City Schools Levy

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Voters Still Skeptic About Columbus City Schools Levy
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Columbus voters remain skeptical of the proposed school levy they’ll vote on in November. The 6.92 mil bond request aims to add 325 staff members to the 119 buildings that serve 51,000 students in hopes that foreign-born students, gifted students and students with disabilities and/or chronic home stressors can receive more personalized attention.

The Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) hosted a forum on the subject last week, moderated by KidsOhio Founding President Mark Real and featuring a panel of speakers including Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good, Education Director for the City of Columbus Department of Education Rhonda Johnson and Girls & Boys Clubs of Columbus CEO Rebecca Asmo.

The three engaged in a collective plea to forum attendees to support the children by voting for the levy in November.

“Our kids need you,” Asmo said. “And they need you as volunteers. They need you as investors. They need you as advocates. They need it all. It can’t just be one thing or the other.”

Johnson expanded on this sentiment by laying out the shortcomings of the current staff size and building operations, noting that many students coming from low-income areas rely on the school nurse for the majority of their healthcare. Should the levy pass, 16 registered nurses would be hired on as well as 25 social workers intended to help address nonacademic barriers to education.

“I’ll give you an example,” she said. “We have a fifth grader in an elementary school who’s responsible for getting his second grade sister to school every day. So if the fifth grader is sick, the second grader stays home. We have to help families to remove those barriers so they can get to school every day.”

Good said the efforts need to be specific and adaptive. Each neighborhood will have different needs, and even within those neighborhoods, certain streets’ needs may differ.

Still, critics of the levy and the school system are weary about adding another $250 to their property taxes (on a $100,000 home) when in 2014, Columbus City Schools received a D for its performance index and an F for its four-year graduation rate of 74 percent.

With millions of taxpayer dollars already being hemorrhaged to support the state’s failing and shady charter schools, people remain discouraged that throwing more money at the problems the public school district is facing will solve anything.

Comments on a previous CU article on the levy being placed on the November ballot show a general distrust of school administration to use the funds they get from this levy for the purposes they’re laying out now.

“When the 99 percent already have to carry the burden for the wealthiest 1 percent,” said one commenter. “We aren’t too interested in having more money hijacked for a horrible school district.”

Good addressed this concern of “throwing good money after bad money. So that’s haunted me for three years, thank you,” he said. He mentioned budget restructuring and cost-cutting, including a $50 million budget reduction a little over a year ago.

”We looked at ‘was there a measurable effect size as a result of implementing that program, and was it sustainable and even scalable’ and where it wasn’t we began to reduce those programs and found opportunities to reinvest in programs where we do get an effect size, like Boys & Girls Club.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus is a non-profit organization with locations in several neighborhoods aimed at repurposing students’ off time from school. They offer recreational and educational programs, including a summer youth program, programs in education and career development and others.

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