What is Issue 44 about?
The Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has not had a new levy since 2008 and could be facing large deficits in the near future. A coalition of educators and people in the social service sector called Cincinnati Preschool Promise had been talking in recent years about how to pay for pre-school for every 3- and 4-year-old child in the area.
In May, CPS and Preschool Promise came together on a plan that they got on the November ballot – a $48 million tax levy that would split the revenues between CPS, which would get $33 million a year, and $15 million for Preschool Promise. Some of the $15 million would be used by CPS to expand its preschool program, particularly at the Vine Street School, which was recently renovated. The United Way has been chosen to oversee the spending of the $15 million.
How much will it cost taxpayers?
It is a 7.93 mill levy for a period of five years. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $278 per year.
The argument for Issue 44:
In its campaign literature and advertising, Citizens for a Strong Future, the pro-Issue 44 campaign, emphasizes the preschool promise portion of the tax levy and not the part which will fund CPS operations.
The committee has raised about $1.2 million to sell the tax levy to voters.
Preschool promise, proponents say will help prepare 6,000 children ages 3 and 4 for success with quality preschool, prepare 35,000 Cincinnati students for college, expand preschool at CPS, community and faith-based programs; and help strengthen neighborhood schools.
Greg Landsman, a strategic advisor for Citizens for a Strong Future, said Issue 44 "has emerged as one of the most historic and urgent education levies in Cincinnati's history."
"We have an opportunity to provide quality preschool for thousands of three- and four-year-olds who come from families who might otherwise not be able to afford it,'' Landsman said.
And the new infusion of dollars into CPS comes at a critical time, he said.
"CPS will continue to grow without having to endure devastating cuts to teachers and services," Landsman said. "There are hundreds of jobs on the line and a number of schools that could be forced to shutter their doors without this levy."
Campaign web site:
The argument against Issue 44:
While the pro-Issue 44 web site lists over 60 organizations through the city that have endorsed the tax levy, there is but one actively campaigning against it.
That is the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a group that has been battling against various tax levies for over 20 years now.
Brad Beckett, chairman of COAST, said they are opposed because Cincinnati Public Schools "is a failed school system and they don't deserve any more money."
"As far as Preschool Promise is concerned, we have nothing against that, although we think there's inconclusive evidence on whether or not it would work,'' Beckett said.
In September, the Ohio Board of Education issued "report cards'' to the state's 608 public school districts. The grades for Cincinnati Public Schools were not good – "D's" on achievement and "prepared for success,'' and "F's" for gap closing, K-3 literacy, progress and graduation rate.
"This school system," Beckett said, "proudly says 'we are at the top of the bottom.'"
COAST will have very little money to spend on the campaign.
"We've got some yard signs; we have some hand bills to distribute,'' Beckett said. "We're just a rag-tag band of patriots."
COAST web site: