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Board places renewal on ballot


The Cleveland Board of Education is asking voters to renew the operating levy that made the reforms in The Cleveland Plan possible.

The Board of Education voted 8 to 0 Tuesday to place the renewal on the Nov. 8 ballot. Voter approval would extend the levy for four years but would not raise taxes.

When voters initially approved the levy in 2012, it was the first time in 16 years they had provided the schools with additional money for operating expenses.

Mayor Frank G. Jackson and District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said then that voters could decide in four years whether the schools had achieved enough progress to earn their continued support. The CEO said earlier this month that the District has a long way to go but has made significant headway.

"I am proud of the work we have accomplished over the last four years," he said. "I’m confident that our community has seen the improvements we’ve collectively accomplished, and I’m hopeful that we will have their continued support at the ballot box this fall."

The revenue is critical to carrying out reforms charted by Cleveland's Plan for Transforming Schools, better known as The Cleveland Plan. The 15-mill levy would generate up to $69.7 million a year, or 10 percent of the District’s operating budget, without raising taxes, but CMSD shares 1 mill, or about $4.6 million, with charter school partners.

CMSD's progress includes an increase in the graduation rate from 52 percent to a record high 66 percent since 2011.

The record also includes notable performance on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card. Of 21 urban districts that make their results public, CMSD was one of only three that showed gains on all four parts of the assessment.

Public trust is growing, said Gordon. CMSD’s enrollment has been rising after decades of decline and surveys showed that majorities of nearly 75 percent felt the schools are improving and rated them as fair or better. Once on the verge of insolvency, the District is now on a long run of financial stability.

Parent participation is on the increase. Nearly 91 percent of parents and caregivers had face-to-face contact with their children’s teachers last year.

Gordon noted that the District is not asking voters for a tax increase and is passing up the chance to request the maximum 10-year renewal allowed under state law.

"We’ve made real progress,” he said. “We’re asking for four more years so people can measure us again then.”