A year ago, the Akron Public Schools came agonizingly close to winning passage of its proposed levy, falling short by a mere 197 votes. Now the district is back. It is asking voters to approve Issue 61, a 7.9-mill property tax increase, or an additional $20 per month for a house valued at $100,000. The case for approval is compelling, as this page will attempt to show during the next week, highlighting how the system is getting better and the crucial role it plays in all of our lives.
We strongly recommend a vote “for” Issue 61 on Nov. 6.
The case starts with the simple concept of need. The district needs the money. This hardly rates as a unique pitch. What is new is the depth of the problem. The system has been cutting budgets. It has ended programs, laid off teachers, closed buildings, squeezed benefits, slashing $19 million in expenses this past year alone. If the levy fails, the district must cut another $27 million.
And if the levy passes? It still will face reducing spending by an estimated $9 million.
Put another way, the district has stepped up to do its part in achieving efficiencies. Now it is asking voters to do their part, recognizing the difference the additional resources can make, whether in preventing larger class sizes or preserving those elements that help so many students get closer to realizing their full potential.
Those elements include necessary upgrades to technology, or fresh textbooks or competitive salaries for teachers, no small factor for the district.
Know that an independent evaluation by Ohio Education Matters of KnowledgeWorks applauded school officials for their effective management, rating the district the best in its class. More, officials continue to tap the local business community for expertise in improving operations.
The financial challenge largely has come from the state, the legislature and the governor opting to cut deeply into funding for schools as a key part of balancing the state budget. Recall that federal stimulus money protected schools in many ways from the downturn in revenues due to the harsh recession. That money no longer is available. For the Akron schools, the gap between the spending level supported by the stimulus and current funding totaled $12 million the past two years.
The district has gone six years without new money from an operating levy. That rates as a fairly long time in view of how the funding formula works and the rugged financial terrain. What school officials have done is take care to stretch their dollars. Now they ask credibly for voters to join again as partners in ensuring the district has what it needs to perform its indispensable job.
ON FRIDAY: Reason No. 2 - Bad teachers are getting the boot