Issue 44 will help CPS combat poverty

Voting for Issue 44 will help alleviate the strains of poverty for thousands of children in our city.

Nov 2, 2016 at 12:27 pm

This column space is typically about local policy and its impact on childhood poverty.

I’m going to diverge only slightly to explain in full why voting FOR Issue 44  — a tax levy on the Nov. 8 ballot — will help alleviate the strains of poverty for thousands of children in our city. 

Conversely, I will discuss why failing to pass Issue 44 will set our city back decades. 

First, some statistics to help frame the conversation:

• Sixty-five percent of all jobs now require a post-secondary education.

• Seventy percent of all jobs will require post-secondary education in the near future.

• More than 40 percent of Cincinnati children live in poverty.

• More than 40 percent of children enter Kindergarten not ready to learn.

• There are not enough quality preschool seats available to fill the need. 

• Ninety percent of the brain is formed before age 5.

• Ninety percent of public spending goes to education after age 6.

Those last two stats should have you scratching your head. 

If you are like me and truly despise wasteful spending — and don’t just use that term as a clever sound byte every time a levy is on the ballot — then you will want to vote for Issue 44. 

We need to invest in early education and our public school system now or the future will be anything but bright.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has made significant progress during the past few years for students and families. Graduation rates are increasing, ACT and third grade reading scores are up, and there are now no less than 42 school-based Community Learning Centers in the district that are committed to educating the whole child and family.

This levy is partly composed of $33 million annually for K-12 education and will provide enough quality teachers to meet students’ needs and improving college/career readiness. 

Issue 44’s passage will enable CPS to provide up-to-date educational technology to enable educators to break the digital divide that is holding back far too many students. 

Also significantly, Issue 44 improves neighborhood schools by adding more robust programs and quality teachers and by encouraging more parental involvement.

The levy also includes $15 million annually for preschool expansion through CPS and community-based providers. This is important because research shows that children who attend high-quality preschool have improved elementary reading levels, behavior and social skills and are more likely to graduate from high school. 

This early education investment will positively impact approximately 6,000 children per year by the fifth year of implementation.

An important note regarding the mils associated with this levy — CPS did its best to keep taxes as low as possible while also ensuring students receive the best education possible. 

To do this, CPS opened its books to the business community, which led a financial review of the district that showed fiscal accountability and validated the need for a transparent and accountable CPS operating levy. 

This levy did not come to fruition without much deliberation and careful attention to financial detail. 

Another point that I think is important — CPS’s strategic plan, called Vision 2020: My Tomorrow, is amazing. 

To quote Superintendent Mary Ronan: “It’s important to strengthen our neighborhood schools as a matter of equity. There currently is high demand for many CPS elementary magnet schools and our specialized high schools, such as Walnut Hills and the School for Creative and Performing Arts. 

We also want to make our neighborhood schools popular choices for families by adding special focuses that fit well with their communities’ interests and priorities.”

What that means is CPS understands that supply needs to catch up with demand. Families want to send their children to CPS schools, and the model already exists to make all schools desirable, effective and diverse. 

To implement Vision 2020: My Tomorrow, CPS needs this levy to pass.

The CPS Board of Education has made equity a major focus of its work. Board members have given the following as direction to the district: Focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence in education. 

The Board has outlined five major goals for the district as well: create great schools, great communities, great learning choices, great systems and great learning environments. 

CPS is well-positioned to make all of this happen, and it is also well-positioned to be the system to combat childhood poverty most directly and effectively in our city. While we scratch our heads and try to figure out what kids need to climb out of poverty, CPS is making it happen. 

If you want your property value to increase, and if you want your public dollars invested wisely, then you should vote for Issue 44. 

Without it, we will continue to waste money on costly remediation and on unnecessary incarceration. 

Please don’t be confused — without this levy, significant cuts in teachers, programs and student services will be necessary. Preschool expansion will not be possible, and childhood poverty will continue to get worse. 

As a former teacher, assistant principal, student of business and active community member, I have not seen a more significant ballot issue designed to combat childhood poverty than Issue 44 during the 19 years I have lived in Cincinnati. 

If we do not pass this levy it will be a sad indictment of our priorities as a city. Join me in enthusiastically voting for Issue 44 on Nov. 8.   

MIKE MOROSKI is the executive director of UpSpring, a nonprofit working to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education. Contact Mike: [email protected].