26 Jan 2011, Posted by admin in Stories, No Comments.

Economic, District Status Worries Voters

Story by Emily Wendler

A survey of Hamilton County voters suggests the economy and the state of the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are the two most important factors influencing voter’s decisions regarding Issue 52 on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Issue 52 is a renewal levy proposed by the school district to fund existing operational expenses. If passed, it would the owner of a $100,000 home about $250 a year. The levy is a renewal and will not raise taxes. However, a CPS levy that passed in March 2008 raised taxes by 7.89 mills.

More than 60 percent of the people surveyed rated Cincinnati’s public schools as poor or fair, while only 30 percent evaluated them as good.

“Clearly if I thought every child was going to a school of the quality of Indian Hill Public Schools I would question spending my money,” said Melissa Lusk, a mother who home-schools her children, “but this is not the case.

“I’m not sure that continuing to throw money at the system is going to fix anything, but what else can I do?” she added.

Half of the people who took the survey said the amount of their taxes going to CPS should not change. Twenty percent felt that the school system could use more of the taxpayer’s money, and 30 percent thought the school received too much money.

“I don’t have a problem paying taxes as long as it benefits us,” said Evanston resident Jerry Cofield. “When they’re cutting things like football and drill team, it’s obvious why kids are dropping out. We need these kids in school.”

Almost half of people surveyed still don’t know whether they will vote in favor of the CPS levy on Nov. 3 or not. According to the survey, 46 percent of people plan to vote yes, and another 46 percent are not sure.

A third of those who responded said that jobs were the most important issue in their neighborhoods, with schools being second to that.

Colleen McTague, a political geographer and geography professor at the University of Cincinnati agreed that the degree of dependence on the public education system and the socioeconomic characteristics of individual neighborhoods determine how the vote will turn out in each district.

Nearly two-thirds of voters surveyed said they had attended public school, but only one-fourth of them said they have children in the Cincinnati Public School system. According to McTague this creates a disconnection from the system, resulting in voters who are less likely to pass the levy.

“Local school levies are essential,” said McTague. “We have to have school levies until Ohio really addresses the equitability of funding schools.”

She was referring to Ohio’s system of funding school districts through the state’s general fund. Most other states support school districts evenly through the state government.

If the levy fails, CPS will lose 15 percent of its budget for the 2010-2011 school year. Sports teams will be cut, teachers will go without raises for another year, and the bussing system will suffer, according to Katie Hoffman, the collective bargaining chair for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

“The first people who are going to get nailed are art, music and physical education teachers,” she said.“We’re doing whatever we can to make it through and provide what we can for our kids.”

NMB reporter Harrison Kreimer contributed to this story.

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