The Cleveland Metropolitan
School District (CMSD)
wants voters to approve Issue 68—a crucial 15-mill
renewal levy with a 5-mill increase on the Nov. 3, 2020
ballot. The ten-year levy, first passed in 2012, is critical
to future functions, because it expires at the end of the year.
The levy and increase would raise about $98.1 million per year.
According to the superintendent, the levy and increase would
cost the average Cleveland homeowner an additional $7 per month.
If voters defeat the levy, CMSD would immediately lose $67
million in annual revenue, based on current collection rates--
about 12 percent of the school district’s annual operating
Voters first passed the levy in 2012 and approved it again four
years ago, each time by a solid margin. However, COVID-19
and an associated economic downturn make its election outcome
much more uncertain this time around. So might a longer term and
a levy increase. Losing the levy vote would mean devastating
cuts to staff and programs that are
critical to continuing the district’s success.
Top CMSD administrators insist the levy is crucial to continue
progress on the Cleveland Plan, including a 4.4 percent
improvement in K-3 literacy since 2014, promotion of more than
85 percent of students to fourth grade under Ohio’s third grade
reading guarantee, and four straight years of a Continuous
Improvement designation on the state education report card.
The four-year graduation rate has climbed 26 points since 2011
and now stands at 78.2 percent, the latest in a series of record
That includes a 77 percent graduation rate for Latino students,
which represents a 23.3 percent increase since 2011. CMSD’s top
brass claim the
district has “carefully controlled” expenses and has invested in
its classrooms during that time.
“We know this is a particularly difficult time to ask for an
increase, and because of that we have worked to keep the amount
as small as possible,” CEO Eric Gordon recently said.
“But we believe the need to build on our eight-year record of
progress, combined with the new educational needs created by the
COVID-19 pandemic, make it necessary.”
The levy has a unique aspect. Charter schools that partner with
CMSD share 1 mill from the existing levy and would divide an
additional half-mill from the increase. The
Cleveland Plan, a customized blueprint for education
reform in the city, calls for giving every student access to a
high-quality education, regardless of the provider.
Cleveland voters to “say yes” to CMSD so its upward
progress can continue. Latino students are being put in a
position of success, as are all CMSD students, giving them an
opportunity to become successful and productive adults and
citizens. A track record of success is now being shown—and
voters should look at the levy as an investment in the future of
the community. Children deserve—and need—the tools necessary to
live their best lives.