Today, I have only one request, and it's an easy one. 

There are two really exciting conversations happening on the Commons right now, one related to the Akron Beacon Journal's "America Today" project, and the other related to one of the most important school reform efforts in the nation. 

If you haven't checked them out yet, you're missing something pretty exciting. 

The conversation about the Cleveland Schools Transformation Plan is engaging legislators and parents, the district CEO and philanthropic leaders, principals and teachers. Very often in these conversations (because our community members are so damn smart), someone brings up an aspect or perspective that really opens my mind. In this case, it comes courtesy of Piet van Lier, with a question about an aspect of this I'd grown so accustomed to I'd stopped asking about. 

One of my big unanswered questions about the Cleveland plan is how it works financially. The district faces a shortfall of $65 million this year and $40 million next year. 500 layoffs have already been announced, along with shorter school days, cuts to gym, music, arts, etc.

If the Cleveland plan passes the state legislature, as seems likely (although key charter school related aspects are in doubt), the district plans to go for a levy in November. Even a high-end levy of some 10 or 11 mills would barely erase the first-year's shortfall.

How does this plan help create a sustainable district? Advocates suggest it will save the district money and keep it solvent, yet the plan calls for investments in pre-k, technology, and other areas. Since some 85 percent of the district's budget goes to salary and compensation, is cutting pay for teachers, letting more senior teachers go and hiring lower-paid rookes the only way this is going to "work" financially?

How does this all fit together financially? Why aren't we pushing the state on funding?

Indeed. Why aren't we? If you have an answer, or a thought about why we should, we'd like to hear it. Or if you'd like to start a petition demanding that legislators take it on, do it. 

In the "America Today" conversation, your neighbors, at the Beacon Journal's invitation, are just engaging in a simple civil conversation about how some very simple questions: 

  • How did we as a nation get in trouble economically?
  • Who do you blame? 
  • How do we as a nation solve our economic problems? 
  • What are you doing differently to get through the downturn?

Your neighbors' responses make for some really good reading, especially, I thought, Kathy Smith, who responded to the final question, "I'm working on better business practices--making sure our business is doing business well, ethically, honestly." It's simple, and it gives me hope. 

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Copyright © 2012 Dan Moulthrop; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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