Letter to the editor:
I can remember as a student at Bryan City Schools in Bryan, Ohio, when my parents put up signs in our yard supporting the school levies. No one likes budget cuts in schools, and a failed levy often meant school programs being cut, such as art, music or sports. As a member of Students for Education Reform at Ohio State University, I am concerned about the state of Columbus City Schools and I understand how important it is that all schools are funded in a way that gives every student the opportunity to obtain an excellent education.
When it comes to the Columbus City Schools levy pending a vote on Election Day, there needs to be rigorous discussion about whether an increase in property taxes will result in higher achievement for students. In the last 40 years, the United States has more than doubled its per pupil spending on public education accounting for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, yet student achievement has remained stagnant. It is clear that more than just an increase in funding is needed to improve the outcomes of our students.
However, I believe the CCS levy is different as it provides a few specific recommendations that gives it definite potential to increase student achievement:
First, the levy increases funding to recruit, train and retain the best teachers by empowering school leaders to make personnel decisions and pairing the district with human-resources professionals to build a talent pool of great teachers and principals.
The CCS levy also provides more funding for preschool education. The evidence on preschool education shows that the earlier we invest in students, the more of an impact it has on student learning.
The levy grants more funding to high-performing charter schools. Providing more funding to high-performing charters gives an incentive to lower-performing charter schools to improve and rewards the highest-performing charter schools so they can expand and replicate in order to serve more students who are trapped in failing schools.
The final aspect of the CCS levy that will lead to higher levels of student achievement is the measure that will establish an independent auditor of the CCS district. Amid allegations of changes to attendance records and test scores, it is becoming increasingly important that CCS strive to be more transparent so the public can obtain detailed financial data and information on schools that can be easily understood.
Instead of assuming that schools need more money to solve all of their problems, it is essential for voters to determine whether their money is being spent in a manner aligned with research and evidence that the increased funding will help kids. As Mayor Michael Coleman said when he visited Ohio State Oct. 1, “This isn’t a levy. This is reform.” And I believe this reform is one step in the right direction to ensuring that every student in Columbus has the opportunity to receive a great education.
Member of Students for Education Reform
Second-year in economics and history