There are many issues currently facing our schools and their students. As I continue my campaign for Cincinnati School Board, I wanted to share with you my perspective on a few of these issues that have driven me to ACT.
Children Living in Poverty
In the city of Cincinnati, almost half of children are living below the poverty line (under $20,000 for a family of 3), propelling our region to 4th nationally in child poverty rates. Cincinnati Public Schools educated 35,000 students in the last school year with 82% of those students coming from financially disadvantaged families, which qualifies them for free or reduced lunch. Unfortunately, more funding is desperately needed if we want to have the greatest impact on how those truly disadvantaged in our community live and learn. We know that a quality education can play a critical role in breaking this cycle of poverty, but it will take time to have the sort of lasting impact that is genuinely needed. In the short term, educating a population with such a high rate of poverty brings a host of additional challenges to our schools.
A Difficult and Uncertain Funding Mechanism
The school district is funded through two primary sources: per-student distributions from the State’s budget and local community funding from property tax levies, which must be approved by the public. The State has cut significant amounts from our school district over the last decade which has led to over $70 million less being distributed to our schools in just the past year alone. The future level of funding from this source is uncertain at best and at worst in danger of extreme cuts if recent actions by the State’s current Administration is any indication. In part as a response to this uncertainty, Cincinnati residents have been very supportive of the school tax levies, most recently approving Issue 44 last November to support $33 Million in operating expenses and $15 Million for the district’s new preschool initiative The Preschool Promise. However, each levy must be re-approved for funding renewals to continue on a regular basis (they are on the ballot at a maximum of 5 year intervals) and there are no guarantees that the public will continue to support these levies with increased demand from social services and other worthy causes vying for increases of their own. Tax levy funds also vary concurrently with property values which can fluctuate with market dynamics and adjustments in tax rates and the implementation of new tax abatements. Not only are these funding sources continuously at risk and constantly decreasing, neither source has increased with inflation while the costs of continuing to educate a growing population have risen steadily.
Effective Evaluation Metrics
Experts agree that evaluating the performance of schools will help hold schools accountable and should produce better results over time. However, the methodology to do so can add a significant burden and increase costs for schools and, in effect, for students. There are also challenges with evaluating schools that have very different student populations; some students are setup to succeed while many others have momentous hurdles to overcome. The amount of money spent on student testing in the US grew 400% between 2002 and 2012 with an estimated $1.7 Billion now being spent on student testing nationwide. There is not a simple answer to the difficulty of easing the student testing burden but we need to work with the State Board of Education to minimize the challenge that testing places on our schools and their students. With my background in finance and analytics, this is a challenge that I am excited to tackle. Studies have shown that there are metrics that can also be effective proxies for evaluating school outcomes that do not involve separate testing systems. Some of these metrics include dropout rates and graduation rates, the percentage of the student population taking AP classes and the percentage of the students who find success after graduation, either through secondary education enrollment, military enlistment or employment.
I will be highlighting other issues and my plans for increasing Accountability, Collaboration, and Transparency as I seek to show why I deserve your vote for Cincinnati School Board.