CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is asking voters to renew a 15-mil levy originally passed in 2012 with an additional 5 mils that would cost the average Cleveland taxpayer an additional $7 a month.
CMSD Superintendent and CEO Eric Gordon said the COVID-19 pandemic has left Ohio businesses, families and schools in a bind.
“Cleveland has unfortunately the worst record in a lot of places,” Gordon said. “We’re the single highest childhood poverty of any major city in the country.”
The passage of the levy would cost the average voter anywhere from $84 to $240 more annually.
“If we did nothing, the renewal would expire and that’s 12% of our budget,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the financial implications of the pandemic may have some voters feeling unsure at the polls, but said a levy failure would negatively impact students already struggling with Cleveland’s digital divide.
“So I think we have a case record to say even in these tough times, we have to keep investing in kids,” Gordon said.
He said the approval of the levy would improve graduation rates, reading and math curriculum and would allow the district to continue providing more than 30,000 smart devices like tablets for students at home.
“What we have is a community that not only doesn’t have devices but doesn’t have internet,” Gordon said. “The district has provided over 10,000 hot spots to get families connected.”
Gordon said despite the pandemic, he’s confident voters will be willing to fund education improvements because they’ve been doing that since the levy originally passed eight years ago.
“Single highest childhood poverty,” Gordon said. “Mayor Jackson quoted, ‘People are being asked to pay for a tax they can’t afford,’ and they’ve done it. They did it in 2012. They did it in 2016. And we’re counting on them again for 2020.”
Gordon said if voters do not pass the levy, staff and student programs will inevitably be cut when the levy expires later this year.