How do school vouchers affect our public schools and taxpayers? a forum on 3/14/19

The Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of
Greater Cleveland present a forum:

How do school vouchers affect our
public schools and taxpayers?

Thursday. March 14, 2019, 7 pm
Heights Libraries Lee Road Branch
2345 Lee Rd in Cleveland Heights
The flyer is here
Here is the video from the forum

This panel will present information on how Ohio’s school voucher policies impact the Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools, as well as other schools in Cuyahoga County and beyond.

Panelists include:
Susie Kaeser, LWVO Lobby Corps and Heights Coalition for Public Education

James Posch, Cleveland Heights-University Heights (CH-UH) Board of Education

Scott Gainer, CFO/Treasurer, CH-UH City School District

Meryl Johnson, Ohio State Board of Education, District 11 Moderator:

Jayne Geneva, past chair Lay Finance Committee for the CH-UH Board of Education

Cosponsored by Heights Coalition for Public Schools and the CHUH Council of PTAs

Ohio’s school report cards: What do they really tell us? a forum on August 29, 2018

The Plain Dealer preview story is here
The flyer is here
Here’s the video from the forum

Wednesday August 29, 2018 7:00-8:30pm

“Ohio’s school report cards: What do they really tell us? What should they?: 
A discussion about how we evaluate our schools”
moderated by Patrick O’Donnell, Plain Dealer Education Reporter

Chad Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy | Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Dr. Talisa Dixon, Superintendent Cleve Hts/Univ/ Hts Schools

Stephen Dyer, Education Policy Fellow, Innovation Ohio

Lisa Woods member Ohio Board of Education (Medina area)

Cost: Free & Open to the Public
Cleveland Heights High School Small Auditorium
13263 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Patrick O’Donnell

Cosponsored by
Cleveland Heights University Heights PTA Council, Case Western Reserve University Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland, Dealer

Corporate sponsor: First Interstate, Ltd.

Early childhood education still the best ticket out and up for poor, inner-city Cleveland youth: Brent Larkin 9/18/15

Early childhood education still the best ticket out and up for poor, inner-city Cleveland youth: Brent Larkin

Silvana Ferri, adult at center, receives a group hug from kids at the Cleveland Children’s Academy in October 2010 after the surprise announcement that she’d won a national $10,000 Early Childhood Educator Award.

(Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer, File, 2010)

In his powerful eulogy of Louis Stokes, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. repeatedly marveled that the longtime congressman was able to “rise above his circumstances,” escaping a life of poverty for one filled with memorable accomplishments.

The single most important requirement to rise above those circumstances, to earn that ticket out of life in the projects, was education.

Lou and Carl Stokes both spoke often of their mother, Louise, and her relentless focus on the subject.

“My mother had scrubbed floors, cleaned clothes and served dinners in order to make a life for us,” recalled Stokes, in an interview at his home just a month before his death Aug. 18 at the age of 90. “When you felt those cold hands and calluses, you began to understand what she was trying to say to us in terms of getting an education.”

It’s a common theme, especially among successful minorities who grew up poor.

Former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes, the last of eight children born in a segregated Memphis, talks similarly of his mother — “she was a great lady; to this day, I miss my mother” — sending her children north, where they would have a better chance to earn an education beyond high school.

And though a mother’s obsession with the future of her children is hardly unique to any culture, for children who grow up in poverty — especially black children — history tells us that education is pretty much the only way out.

The evidence is overwhelming. Consider the most successful black elected officials of the last 50 years:

Virgil Brown, Lloyd Brown, Charles Carr, Forbes, Marcia Fudge, Frank Jackson, Leo Jackson, Perry Jackson, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Peter Lawson Jones, Arnold Pinkney, the Stokeses, George White and Mike White.

Every one of them went to college. Most earned two degrees. Lawson Jones went to Harvard. Mike White was the first black student body president of Ohio State University.

Over time, Mayor Frank Jackson’s school reform plan — with a huge assist from the Cleveland Foundation, the Gund Foundation and corporate leaders — will bring incremental improvements in student performance. There are more good schools in Cleveland today than there were four years ago.

Last year’s statewide report cards showed that Cleveland school students were learning a bit more. Nevertheless, Cleveland still ranked a dismal 607 out of the 610 districts.

That same report card showed that nine of the state’s 14 worst-performing school districts are in Northeast Ohio. Six of the 14 are in Cuyahoga County.

This year’s statewide report cards are likely to provide more documentation that efforts to fix Cleveland schools are enjoying a degree of success. But expecting “transformational” results anytime soon is unrealistic, especially given Cleveland’s daunting poverty rate.

The 1970 census found that 17.1 percent of Cleveland’s 750,903 residents lived below the poverty line. A census update issued last year estimated that 35.4 percent of Cleveland’s 389,521 live below the poverty line.

So, while the city’s population is barely half what it was 45 years ago, its poverty rate has more than doubled.

I’ve been on this soapbox for a decade now, but the single best investment Cuyahoga County can make in its future is a massive investment in early childhood education.

Free, high-quality preschool for needy 3- and 4-year-olds, coupled with intensive parental mentoring and effective programs to reduce the alarming rate of births out of wedlock, might be the only way out.

History tells us County Executive Armond Budish is no risk-taker. But I believe Budish has concluded that a huge expansion of early childhood education should be his signature accomplishment as county executive.

If Budish wants to leave a legacy of change and accomplishment, he’ll ignore his cautious instincts and seize the moment.

So staggering is the cost of our underinvesting in the education of poor children that economists of all political persuasions, including Nobel laureate James Heckman, have concluded that quality preschool will, over time, save taxpayers trillions.

And Port Clinton native Robert Putnam, former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, argues in his phenomenal best-seller, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” that “to ignore these kids violates our deepest religious and moral values” and “undermines our democracy and perhaps even our political stability.”

“Our Kids” should be required reading for every elected official. Members of Gov. John Kasich’s administration should have read it last year, before squashing a budget proposal by state Sen. Peggy Lehner to increase funding for high-quality preschool by $100 million.

That’s the Team Kasich way. If it’s not their idea, it can’t possibly be a good one.

“Of all the things we can do, the biggest single one is early childhood education,” Putnam said in an interview this spring.

With it, thousands of Cuyahoga County’s poor kids might just have a shot. Without it, most probably won’t.

A proud man, Lou Stokes enjoyed all the deserved attention that came his way late in life. But my guess is he’d gladly take his name off all those buildings that bear it in exchange for an investment that offers the poor kids in Cuyahoga County an opportunity to rise above their circumstances and lead better lives.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

To reach Brent Larkin:

THE OHIO BOARD OF EDUCATION aka The State School Board a forum on Monday Sept 25


aka The State School Board
How can they help us? How can we help them?

NEW DATE: Monday, September 25, 2017 7–8:30 pm (formerly Aug 22)
Free & Open to the Public Shaker Heights Main Library
16500 Van Aken Blvd, Shaker Heights, OH 44120

The flyer is here   Library link is here

Video from forum is here:

Meryl Johnson, Member, Board of Education

Peggy Lehner, Ohio Senator (R-6) Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Education

Mary Rose Oakar, Former Member, Board of Education

The purpose of this program is to let parents and the entire community know what the State Board of Education does, its relationship to the Ohio legislature and most importantly, how the public can help our elected officials, on both the State School Board and the legislature be more effective.

Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland and Shaker Heights Public Library


From Desegregation to School Choice: How the Civil Rights Era Influenced the Cleveland Schools of Today Ideastream 11/15/2017

From Desegregation to School Choice: How the Civil Rights Era Influenced the Cleveland Schools of Today- Ideastream 11/15/2017

The link is here

For millions of children across the country, where they go to school is largely determined by where they live. Public school districts have historically assigned students to schools located in or near their neighborhoods.

Cleveland is trying a different approach by integrating school choice into its district model, but you could say the city’s school choice movement began in the 1960s, a time of racial tension that led to the Cleveland school system we see today.

Cleveland Leadership in the 1960s

George Forbes is one of the most prominent names in modern Cleveland history. Elected to city council in 1963, Forbes was one of several black politicians who led Cleveland through the nation’s Civil Rights Era, and through the fall out of desegregation in the city’s schools.

“I hadn’t been in office, but three or four months and we were confronted with this big issue of equality in schools,” Forbes said.

At the time, there were nearly 135,000 students in the district. Black schools throughout the city were overcrowded, but instead of integrating school populations, the district chose to build new ones – keeping black children isolated.

“The Board of Education had taken the position that they were going to build new schools and decided that Stephen E. Howe was one of the places they were going to build schools,” Forbes explained.

During its construction, Stephen E. Howe Elementary School, in the Glenville neighborhood that Forbes represented, became the site of protests led by civil rights activists.

On April 7, 1964, 27-year-old white protestor Rev. Bruce Klunder was killed as he and others laid themselves in front of and behind the tracks of a bulldozer at the construction site.

Klunder’s death slowed the school’s completion, but it didn’t stop it, and racial tensions grew, Forbes said, as African Americans protested and boycotted more black schools.

“It came from people, the groundswell,” he said. “We don’t want the school. We’re not going to go there.”

More than a decade later, a federal court ordered Cleveland to bus kids into other neighborhoods to achieve racial balance in the schools.

School Choice Comes to Cleveland

Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said the decision resulted in the first instance of school choice in the city: white flight and wealth flight from the district into the surrounding suburbs.

“It was a tough form, right?” Gordon said. “I had to make a choice as a parent whether I would send my child to the assigned school across the city for integration purposes, or whether I would choose to pay for a parochial or private school, or whether I would choose to move out of the city.”

“It was absolutely a form of choice,” he added.

The exodus of white, middle income families led to a massive decline in enrollment in Cleveland schools. Between 1980 and 1990, CMSD went from 92,000 to 69,000 students. That decline strained resources and concentrated poverty in the district.

After years of mismanagement and financial turmoil, legislation in the mid-90s led to the introduction of school vouchers in Cleveland—one of the first cities in the country to incorporate the form of choice that give children public funds to attend a private school.

Then came charters, which Gordon said led to the departure of another 10,000 kids from the district.

“All while the school district was saying we will assign you to xyz school,” Gordon said. “You don’t have any choice inside the district.”

Then Comes ‘The Cleveland Plan’

Gordon’s tenure as CEO and the implementation of a new education reform plan—known as The Cleveland Plan—marked a change in that culture.

Implemented five years ago, The Cleveland Plan allowed parents to send their children to any school in the district, including CMSD-sponsored charters.

District enrollment is up for the first time in 40 years, Gordon said, to 39,000 students and achievement is starting to follow.

“Families were choosing. They had been choosing for decades. The only place they weren’t choosing was CMSD because we were saying you shouldn’t be allowed to choose and we were saying we will assign you where you will go to school, very much like traditional school districts across the country have always done,” Gordon said.

“Our notion was, if families are choosing, let’s get into the choice game, let’s compete, let’s be part of the choice,” he added.

Does Choice Lead to Academic Success?

In the majority minority district, CMSD’s scores on state report cards are up, but its overall grade is an F.

The four-year graduation rate has increased and so has the number of K through 3rd grade students reading at grade level, but when you break down the scores by race, the numbers tell a different story.

A quarter of African American students in the district are meeting English Language Arts learning goals compared to about half of their white peers. The rates are almost identical when it comes to math, and only marginally better for the district’s Hispanic population.

Dr. William Sampson of DePaul University does not believe choice leads to academic success for minority students. Nationwide, Sampson said vouchers, charters, and other forms of choice have resulted in a new surge of segregation in the education system that’s fueled poor academic outcomes.

White, middle-income parents have the means to take advantage of options, he added, leaving minority and low-income students behind, students who need more resources to succeed.

“It’s not that the presence of white kids has some sort of magic power over the quality of education,” Sampson explained. “Unfortunately, white folks aren’t that great.”

“It’s that the resources typically follow white kids, whether they be financial resources, [or] student support services.”

Choice and Competition in the Classroom

But it’s not just the loss of resources that Sampson said hurts minority students in this era of school choice. It’s the loss of opportunity for a child to compete, Sampson said, and overcome the racism and the inferiority they’re taught by society.

“When you grow up next door to a kid, or in the next classroom or the next row in a classroom, and you’re a black kid and you’re doing better in class than that white kid, then you start to question whether or not you are inherently inferior,” Sampson explained.

“You realize that you can do just as well as this white kid,” he said. “That dispels that self-hatred, and that’s critical in our society.”

That’s what black Clevelanders wanted in the 1960s, Forbes said, a mixing of races in schools that would help all children learn they were more alike than different.

But Forbes said the city’s first experience with school choice—the white flight of the Civil Rights era– is still evident in Cleveland public schools today.

Did Integration Work?

The current state of the district makes it difficult for Forbes to believe that minority students are any better off than they were when he attended a segregated Memphis school during his youth, either because of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision that ended legal segregation in public schools, or the fight he helped lead for integration.

“It didn’t work,” Forbes said of Cleveland’s desegregation struggle. “If I had to do it again, I would not have done it.”

“But this was part of the times,” he went on. “It was happening all over the country. Education was at an apex and that was what black folks demanded, but we did not get…we got the Supreme Court decisions. We got those things, but when you look back at it, it is what it is.”

Gordon disagreed with both Sampson and Forbes. With Sampson on the outcomes Cleveland children are achieving, and with Forbes on the success of the city’s Civil Rights struggles.

“Have we achieved the outcome yet that we desire for every kid? No,” he said. “I would say that the system that I’m running is not yet what I want for every child, a black child, a white child, a Hispanic child.”

“But,” he added, “we are actively working on it because of the really tough decisions that George Forbes and his peers made decades ago.”

Gordon said choice works for Cleveland, but the legacy of segregation, of inequity in the school system is a battle the district could face for years to come.

How to Become an Education Activist in Northeast Ohio 8.19.15

How to Become an Education Activist in Northeast Ohio 8.19.15 

Lyman Millard, Breakthrough Schools
Michele Pomerantz, Cleveland Metropolitan School Dist. (CMSD)
Gregory Hutchings, Supt. of Shaker Heights Public Schools
Mary Rose Oakar, elected member State Board of Education
Moderator: Jill Miller Zimon

Parents and other concerned individuals can be some of the best advocates for education change. This forum covers local education topics and focuses on the ways you can advocate for education and education change. Questions addressed: how to develop and deploy strategies to benefit education, advice to give others on how to influence education policy and whom to influence in matters related to education in Ohio.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cosponsored by
City Club of Cleveland
Cleveland Jewish News Foundation
CWRU Lifelong Learning
League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland

Forum held at CWRU Siegal Facility

Primary and Secondary Education by Scott Stephens

Scott Stephens has been an award-winning journalist for 30 years. He is currently a senior writer with Catalyst-Ohio, a quarterly, nonprofit news magazine that documents, analyzes and supports school-improvement efforts in Ohio’s urban school districts, with special emphasis on Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. Previously, he worked at The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for 18 years, the last 15 covering education. He has written extensively about issues such as testing, charter schools, school vouchers, desegregation and school funding.

Before coming to Cleveland, Stephens worked for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio, and served as a stringer for United Press International in Mexico City, D.F. To many Clevelanders, he was best known as The Plain Dealer’s beer critic, establishing the paper’s first beer column. Stephens was also a long-time leader and activist in The Newspaper Guild-CWA, and served for six years as regional vice president on the board of North America’s largest media workers union.

The link is here