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

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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

Education – Historical Overview

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

EDUCATION. The early history of education in Cleveland paralleled developments in Ohio and America, since education was a state initiative and local efforts reflected those of the state. The immigration of the 1830s and 1840s aroused feelings of nationalism and patriotism. The Catholic population grew rapidly and provided for a separate system of education during the 19th century. Many reform movements sprang up, focusing on such causes asABOLITIONISM, women’s rights, temperance, prison reform, and education. Education provided the unifying, homogenizing element needed in the society to deal with this diversity. Reformers such as Horace Mann in Massachusetts, Henry Barnard in Connecticut, and Samuel Lewis in Ohio led a simultaneous movement to establish a common school–not a school only for the common man, but a school for all, publicly supported and controlled, to train people for citizenship and economic power and to provide suitable moral training. The first state education act was passed in 1821 (though there are records of schools as early as 1803); it provided for control and support of common schools in the state. The language of the law was permissive, not mandatory. In 1825 a second law became more specific, providing for taxation for the use of schools, a Board of County Examiners, and the employment of only certificated persons as teachers. In 1837 the state passed a law establishing the position of state superintendent, to which Samuel Lewis was appointed. In 1853 a stronger law provided an augmented school fund, established a state education office, and strengthened local control. School enrollments began to increase, from a total of 456,191 in 1854 to 817,490 in 1895. The length of the school year also increased.

The first school reported in Cleveland was opened in 1817 and charged tuition. The CLEVELAND ACADEMY, built upon subscription, followed in 1821. When Cleveland was chartered in 1836, the first school supported by public money was opened. Two sections of the law related to schools allowed taxation for their support and gave the council the authority to fix the school year and appoint a board of managers to administer the schools. These schools were to serve only white children at the elementary level. The first school for Negroes was opened in 1832 by JOHN MALVIN† and was supported by subscription. The Board of Education built its first 2 schoolhouses in 1839-40. The first high school, CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, was opened in 1845, with ANDREW FREESE† as principal. Superintendence of the schools began in 1841, and some of the notables included Freese, HARVEY RICE†, Luther M. Oviatt, Rev. ANSON SMYTHE†, and ANDREW J. RICKOFF†. The Board of Education was appointed by the council at first, but by 1859 it was elected, becoming fully autonomous in 1865 to levy and expend its own funds. Following the act of 1853, there were attempts to unify schools. A system of grades and classification of pupils was instituted, including a graded course of study, the adoption of methods of promotion, and the use of suitable graded textbooks. Students were often tested monthly, and records of their progress were kept. Even then many educators questioned this practice and whether it allowed for the individuality of the child. In 1877 the school board established a school for disruptive students. At this same time, the state passed a law compelling parents to send children ages 8-14 to school a minimum of 12 weeks a year.

At the turn of the 20th century, as the city grew and became more industrialized, the bureaucratic ethic and cult of efficiency prevailed and influenced school practice. The schools used a pediocentric approach to students. An interest in education as a science was precipitated by the work of G. Stanley Hall, Edward L. Thorndike, and Sigmund Freud on a national level. The fledgling science of psychology provided an understanding of child growth and development. John Dewey and his colleagues at Columbia Univ. wrote of the needs of individual students and the importance of experience as it relates to education. It was within this context of ferment that the education system in Cleveland grew. A program in manual training for high school students began in response to many of these events, and also to a growing pressure from the business community for more practical programs. This program later moved toCENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL and the Manual Training School in 1893. In 1887 a course in cooking was added, a first in the country. By 1909 the first technical and commercial high schools were established. The school system met the needs of many of the immigrants by providing a place where they could learn English and civics. The board hired its first truant officer to enforce the compulsory attendance law of 1889. After passage of a state law mandating the education of disabled persons, the board opened Cleveland Day School for the deaf, and provided for the gifted by establishing the major work classes in 1922.

Further response to outside forces moved education beyond the traditional classroom. The schools offered children’s concerts in cooperation with theCLEVELAND ORCHESTRA beginning in 1921 and used RADIO (WBOE) as a means of instruction in 1931. By 1947 all grades in public, parochial, and private schools used this service. As a result of the strong influence of the field of child psychology, Louis H. Jones, superintendent, established 6 kindergartens from 1896-97. Prior to this time, the YWCA had founded the CLEVELAND DAY NURSERY AND FREE KINDERGARTEN ASSN., INC. in 1882, with a free kindergarten in 1886. By 1903 the schools started vacation schools and playgrounds to keep children off the streets and involved in physical activity. They also opened a gardening program for both normal and problem children and added medical services to the system in 1908. By 1918 the schools enrolled over 100,000 students in their many specialized schools and programs to provide an education best suited to each child. Citizenship training was studied by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in 1935, which recommended that public education be involved in training citizens about economic conditions. As a result, teachers toured industrial plants and attended lectures to see the application of business to their own classrooms.

Although the public school reforms of the Progressive Era, geared to the needs of the industrial commercial life of the times, were apparently beneficial to society and children, these efforts often were developed to limit the emerging political threat of the immigrants and the poor. These efforts continued, even though there were those such as Prof. Wm. Bagley of the Univ. of Illinois who warned early on of the social stratification created by separate vocational schools, and others who cautioned against the undue expansion of the public schools into areas that should be served by other institutions in society. Investigations of the schools were also part of the efficiency cult, with commissions studying student dropouts and new facilities. In 1905 SAMUEL ORTH†, head of the school board, appointed an education study commission. Its report recommended a differentiation in the functions of the high schools and the establishment of separate commercial high schools. A much more significant study followed between 1915-16. The Ayres School Survey, sponsored by the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, criticized the school system as inefficient and unprogressive and recommended a more centralized administration. In response, new superintendent FRANK E. SPAULDING† developed new junior high and vocational programs and instituted a department of mental testing and a double-shift plan to relieve overcrowding and differentiation among students. Many felt an educational revival had occurred, though others argued that these new systems only served better those they had always served well.

Following World War II, the launching of Sputnik affected the curriculum of the schools, emphasizing a turn to the study of languages and the hard sciences. Neoprogressivism then followed, where schools were asked to stop demanding the right answers from students, to stop being repressive, and to move to a reemphasis on the child as reflected in the informal classroom movement. This period was also one of growth, with many buildings being added to school districts, notably those in Cleveland led by Superintendent Paul Briggs, who was appointed in 1964. Focus was also placed on the inequitable features of American education and the racial caste system the schools had maintained. Opportunity for education was to be made available to all youngsters, without regard to race, creed, national origin, sex, or family background. The nation had been alerted, and it was necessary to act once again through the schools, even if that action took the form of court cases. Such was the situation in the Cleveland schools. The Cleveland School Desegregation Case (Reed v. Rhodes) was filed in the U.S. District Court on 12 Dec. 1973. The trial began before Chief Judge FRANK J. BATTISTI† on 24 Nov. 1975 and concluded on 19 Mar. 1976. An opinion was issued in which state and local defendants were held liable for policies that intentionally created and/or maintained a segregated system. In Dec. 1976, the court issued guidelines for desegregation planning, to begin by 8 Sept. 1977. The state and local boards appealed the case to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Battisti felt that the Cleveland school officials were resisting the court order, and several desegregation plans were mandated, rejected, and resubmitted. By Dec. 1977, the court ordered the establishment of a Dept. of Desegregation Implementation responsible only to the court; it was terminated in 1982. In May 1978, the court established an office of school monitoring and community relations to monitor the schools, an unprecedented action. In June 1978, a final desegregation plan necessitated the closing of 36 schools and the transportation of students. By 23 Aug. 1979, the 6th Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s decision of the board’s liability and the remedy, which included educational remedies such as special reading programs. Desegregation began and often met with resistance, but busing was implemented peacefully, and it appeared that the educational aspects of the remedial order were positive. The system continued under the court order, facing many challenges with a record number of superintendents by 1995 when Judge Robt. B. Krupansky ordered the state to take over management of the district.

Paralleling the events in public education were strong private, parochial, and alternative school initiatives. These movements evolved out of political idealism and the goals of parents who wanted more control over the governance of schooling for their children. Early 19th-century reformers saw the common school as a vehicle to mix nationality, socioeconomic, and immigrant groups. Their vision often did not coincide with the wishes of their constituency. Cleveland’s Catholic population followed the prescriptions of the bishops, who began as early as 1825 to question public education, which they deemed to be Protestant-oriented. By 1884 the 3rd Plenary Council of Baltimore required schools for Catholic children to be built next to each church. The first Catholic school in Cleveland opened in 1848, and by 1884 there were 123 PAROCHIAL EDUCATION (CATHOLIC) with 26,000 children enrolled. By 1909 several significant schools were added by Bp. JOHN P. FARRELLY†, including CATHEDRAL LATIN SCHOOL. Catholic education was organized under the Diocese of Cleveland; the first superintendent of schools was Rev. Wm. A. Kane, appointed in 1913, and the first school board was appointed by Bp.JOSEPH SCHREMBS† in 1922. Other religious groups followed. The first Lutheran school was established in 1848; by 1943 there were 16 more. Other nationality and religious groups also ran schools, often meeting after the public school day had finished or as Sunday schools.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS were an important part of Cleveland’s educational history, evolving from the academic movement of the 20th century. A Mission School for poor children became the Ragged School in 1853 and then the CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL, from which the CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY developed in 1858. One of the early private independent schools, UNIVERSITY SCHOOL, was started by Newton M. Anderson in 1890, as a result of a perceived overcrowding in public schools and a desire for new trends in education. LAUREL SCHOOL began as Wade Park School for Girls in 1896, and HATHAWAY BROWN was founded in 1886, its forerunner being MISS MITTLEBERGER’S SCHOOLHAWKEN SCHOOL was founded in 1915. Reflecting the 1960s political milieu, parents started the alternative-schools movement. These ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS ranged from theURBAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL, founded in 1968, which was neoprogressivist in philosophy and served a multicultural population, to the Cleveland Urban Learning Community (CULC), a school without walls whose classes occurred in the community, that appealed to nontraditional students. In addition, many public schools developed alternative programs on the model of a school within a school. These programs emphasized individualized approaches geared in nontraditional delivery formats. The alternative-schools movement was supported mainly through foundation funds which provided for initial costs; however the schools could not be sustained on this basis and began to experience financial difficulties, forcing several to close. Some, though, continued by garnering ongoing support or by affiliating with established institutions.

The Western Reserve area can also claim credit for efforts in TEACHER EDUCATION with the organization of the Ohio State Teachers Assn. and theNORTH EASTERN OHIO EDUCATION ASSN. (1869). The CLEVELAND TEACHERS’ UNION, an affiliate of the American Fed. of Teachers, was founded in 1933. Some of the early academies, such as Wadsworth, were institutions similar to high schools and prepared students for higher education and/or teaching. This area became known as a source of teachers for the state. In 1839 the Western Reserve Teachers Seminary opened at Kirtland, founded only 2 years after the first normal school in the U.S. Superintendent Andrew Rickoff inaugurated a week-long teacher-training institute in 1869 and a normal school in 1876 at Eagle Elementary School. He also proposed a merit pay system. Subsequently, the Cleveland School of Education, Western Reserve Univ., and the Board of Education offered courses for teacher in-service training. In 1928 the university established a School of Education, a merger of the Cleveland Kindergarten-Primary Training School, a private school founded in 1894, and the Senior Teachers College. Secondary teachers were prepared at WRU. Later, in 1945, the university established a division of education, responsible for providing the professional education courses required for state certification, and a graduate program, which was discontinued in the 1970s.

The first CLEVELAND UNIVERSITY had a brief rise in 1851 and a rapid decline in 1853. Cleveland had already established its first medical school in 1845 when 6 doctors seceded from Willoughby Medical College and reorganized in Cleveland as the medical school of Hudson’s Western Reserve College. Other institutions established were the Western Reserve College of Homeopathic Medicine in 1850, lasting for several decades, and a School of Commerce, also in the 1850s. In 1880 Case School of Applied Science was founded to offer an engineering curriculum, the first west of the Alleghenies. Western Reserve College, originally founded in Hudson, OH, moved to Cleveland. AMASA STONE† provided for endowment and buildings for the move, stipulating that the college be renamed for his son, Adelbert, and located close to Case School. In 1888 the trustees created a separate women’s college, eventually named Flora Stone Mather College. It was the first coordinate college in the country. At the end of the 19th century, WRU added a graduate school, law school, nursing and dental schools, school of library science, and school of applied social sciences. CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY resulted as a merger of the two institutions in 1967. BALDWIN-WALLACE COLLEGE in BEREA was founded by Methodists in the mid-1850s. These private colleges were primarily Protestant-oriented. The growing number of Catholic immigrants at the end of the 19th century sought another environment. St. Ignatius College was established by the Jesuits on the near west side of Cleveland in 1886. It was later renamed JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY and moved to UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS in the 1920s. The first chartered women’s college in Ohio was founded by Ursuline sisters in 1871. The Sisters of Notre Dame established an academy in downtown Cleveland in the 1870s, and later NOTRE DAME ACADEMY. The YMCAsponsored evening college-level classes for working students. By 1923 they added day classes and a cooperative plan whereby students held jobs related to their business courses and engineers pursued courses at Fenn College. In the 1920s, Cleveland College of WRU was established in downtown Cleveland to serve the needs of the employed population. DYKE COLLEGE resulted in 1942 from a merger of one of the nation’s oldest private commercial schools, Spencerian, with Dyke School of Commerce, dating from 1894.

Colleges did not grow in any major way until the sudden increase in the number of young people of college age in the 1960s. Formerly the emphasis had been on private colleges, but after World War II, there was a steady increase in the percentage of students attending public institutions. The CLEVELAND COMMISSION ON HIGHER EDUCATION, a coalition of college presidents and business interests, completed a study in the 1950s recommending that some type of public higher education be offered in Cleveland. In 1958 the Ohio Commission on Education beyond the High School was established, making recommendations for the founding of 2-year colleges or technical institutes financed by the state, local funds, and student fees. That led to the founding ofCUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE in 1963, and later to its 3 campuses. In 1964 CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY was established to provide a public university education in the downtown Cleveland area. It included the old FENN COLLEGE, a law school, and science and health structures, among others. Higher education has experienced significant growth, but as it moves toward the end of the century, it will increasingly deal with the effects of a declining traditional student population and institute programs to attract nontraditional student groups, such as older students.

Sally H. Wertheim

John Carroll Univ.


Alternative Schools

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

The link is here

ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS. The alternative-schools movement began in the 1960s, when parents began to demand choices in the schooling of their children. Specifically, alternative schools were institutions, often not state-accredited, serving the traditional school population but privately controlled and supported because the traditional systems were not meeting the needs. Cleveland has had several alternative schools. In 1968 Rev. and Mrs. J. David Brostrom started the Calvary Neighborhood School in the Calvary Lutheran Church, using the Montessori approach, with 2 preschool classes serving 50 children. Tuition and funds from the AHS FOUNDATION and Hudson Montessori Ctr. provided financial support. In 1969 these 2 classes, along with an additional class in the Chambers area, incorporated to form United Independent Schools of E. Cleveland (UISEC). Its goals were to develop independent learners and social awareness. By the fall of 1972, there were 7 classes, ages 3-10. The 141 students were predominantly black but integrated economically, socially, and racially from the suburbs and inner city. The Urban Community School, located on the near west side of Cleveland, educated multiracial and multicultural inner city children growing up in a poor environment with substandard housing. It was founded in 1968 when St. Patrick’s and St. Malachi’s merged into an independent, nonprofit, interdenominational community school. In the public and parochial schools these children, some with learning and emotional problems, faced language barriers and overcrowded classes. In contrast, UCS provided a creative, experimental education, using the near west side community as a learning resource. UCS was nongraded, but primary, intermediate, and junior-high levels were maintained. Many children were Puerto Rican and Appalachian. Children were admitted on a first-come basis, with tuition on a sliding scale. Initially, UCS was operated by the P.M. Foundation, Inc., and supported mainly by a single benefactor. It was still in existence in 1993.

The Street Academy came about as a response to the high number of dropouts in Cleveland’s lower-income neighborhoods. The URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND decided to replicate the street academy program that was operating in New York City. The program had 3 stages: street-academy level, which emphasized basic skills; transition level, which presented a more formalized style of learning; and precollege level, which focused on college preparation. In Mar. 1970, with funding from 3 major foundations and community organizations, the first street academy was opened inGLENVILLE. By November, 2 street academies, a transition academy, and the Circle Prep Academy were in operation. Because of financial difficulty, the Street Academy consolidated in 1972 into 1 site at E. 83rd St. and Euclid Ave. Although the Street Academy lacked state accreditation, diplomas were granted through St. Joseph’s High School. The program was structured to provide maximum individual experience, enabling students to graduate in half the required time by eliminating study halls, by requiring only those courses necessary for graduation, and by offering a full summer program and counseling. The Street Academy was absorbed by the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS in 1975 and in 1978 was merged into the work-study program at the Woodland Job Ctr.

The Cleveland Urban Learning Community (CULC) was an alternative school approved through St. Ignatius High School. CULC was known as a “school without walls” because of its philosophy that learning should take place in the community. Fr. Thos. Shea, SJ, was its first director. The main objectives of CULC were to develop more self-direction, responsibility, and an increasing ability to make independent decisions. Working with a resource person, students designed their own courses around real interests, needs, and state requirements. CULC was located on E. 4th St., central to the library, transportation, and other resources. Students were chosen on a lottery basis and did not pay tuition. The school closed in 1982 because of lack of funds and interest. In 1970 a group of Cleveland Hts. professional parents, in the belief that the public schools were inflexible, founded the Friends’ School on Cornell Rd. The school developed to serve nonconforming students who were ill served by the existing public schools. There was an individualized approach, with small classes of about 8 students. Later the school moved to Magnolia Dr. and became known as the School on Magnolia. In 1982 it became part of Child Guidance Services, and in 1984 it was renamed the Eleanor Gerson School in a new downtown location at 2055 E. 22nd St. It served emotionally disturbed youth and worked with parents to develop student responsibility for learning. In addition to these schools, there were others that were less successful. The Sunrise Community School opened in 1971, serving 25-40 children with a focus on open classroom, individualized instruction, and an interdisciplinary approach. The Learning Community school also opened in 1971, with a focus on open classroom and individualized instruction, serving about 35-40 students.

Alternative schools gained initial support from foundations and tuitions. Sustaining this financial support became a problem. Furthermore, interest in alternative schools waned as the country became more conservative, causing many to close, though some programs were adopted by public schools. As an offshoot of the alternative-schools movement, some public schools developed alternative programs, or schools within a school. Examples of these were the Concept I program at Beachwood High School, the Roaring 100s at Berea High, Education through Inquiry at Parma High, the New School at Heights High, and Catalyst at Shaker Hts. High. These programs provided alternative choices where students and teachers worked as communities and took more responsibility for learning, and where out-of-school experiences and interdisciplinary programming were encouraged. They also provided excellent models.


Cleveland Urban Learning Community (CULC) Records, WRHS.


History of the Cleveland Public Schools from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Written by Edward M. Miggins

The link is here

CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Cleveland’s public schools are rooted in the campaign to provide a tax-supported, compulsory system of education that began with Horace Mann in Massachusetts and Henry Barnard in Connecticut during the late 1820s. They and other reformers in the antebellum era fought to create a legal and financial basis for public education and to include secondary schooling in the system. Between the Civil War and World War I, America’s public schools expanded their role, attempting to compensate for their students’ deficiencies, instituting programs for vocational-technical students, immigrant and needy children, adult learners, and the handicapped. Between this period and World War II, public education developed extracurricular activities, psychological testing and tracking of students, and expanded adult and vocational education. After the war, America’s inner-city school systems were burdened with both a declining tax base and a growing student population as southern blacks migrated north, while also having to deal with the effects of poverty and racial discrimination. The federal government played a larger role financing and controlling public education, especially school systems under a court desegregation order. Through these periods, the schools have always expected to build good character, promote mobility and social harmony, and educate the general public. Every generation struggled and debated how best to achieve this mission amid socioeconomic change and political conflicts.

In 1836 the state legislature of Ohio incorporated Cleveland as a city and allowed it to organize a tax-supported public school system. The city council appointed a board of school managers, which took over a school located at the Protestant Bethel Union Chapel on Superior Hill. The BETHEL UNION provided free education mainly for poor children who attended its Sunday school. Most parents employed tutors or sent their children to private schools such as the CLEVELAND ACADEMY, a secondary school established in 1821. The public saw no need for schooling beyond the basics of “the 3 Rs” in a rural economy.

To accommodate 800 students, the city built separate schools for boys and girls in each city ward and purchased the Cleveland Academy in 1837. By 1842 there were 15 public schools enrolling 1,200 students. Public education had a difficult time overcoming the image of being a charity organization, since many students were housed in rented, overcrowded, and inadequate buildings. Faced with cuts from state funds, the managers reduced teachers’ wages and shortened the school year. Nevertheless, progress and reform occurred. The board prescribed a uniform system of textbooks, and teachers, required to take competency tests and evidence good moral character, divided their schools into as many classes as possible, and all students, regardless of their backgrounds, were to receive a common education. In 1844 school manager CHARLES BRADBURN led the crusade to establish the first public high school against those decrying higher taxes and the failure of the elementary schools to enroll the over 2,000 children of school age not in attendance. One critic also questioned whether a citywide high school would qualify as “a common school,” since the council had the right only to lobby for district schools in the city’s wards. Bradburn and his supporters proudly opened CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL on 13 July 1846–the first public high school west of the Alleghenies.

In 1847 the state authorized the election of a board of education to control all schools in a single district. In 1853 Ohio established school levies to eliminate student fees and authorized local school boards to organize primary and secondary schools. The newly appointed board chose ANDREW FREESE, the first principal of Central High School, as superintendent. In 1859 the state allowed each of the city’s 11 wards to elect members to the school board for a term of 1 year. Freese attempted to grade and classify the schools by dividing the elementary system into 3 divisions and introducing a course of study for each grade. The Brownell St. School, enrolling 1,386 pupils its first year (1865), was indicative of the city’s growing population, as factories expanded during the industrial era; Superintendent ANSON SMYTHE‘s 1866 statement that the public schools, with 9,270 students, could compensate for a lack of moral culture and religious instruction, indicates the schools’ perceived mission.

ANDREW RICKOFF, superintendent after the Civil War, had a great impact on public education, classifying students into 12 grades and 3 divisions (primary, grammar, and high school), a major step away from one room of mixed grades and the basis for placing students in graded curriculum according to their age and ability. Rickoff expected teachers to fit their students into a new prescribed course of study each term, semiannually promote students, and eliminate the separation of boys and girls. In 1872 German became part of a bilingual program to attract the city’s German children who were attending private schools. The superintendent and board had far greater control of the public schools after the state reduced the city council’s authority to approve new school locations and buildings. In 1874 a normal school for training teachers was founded. During Rickoff’s 15-year tenure, the schools expanded from 9,643 to 26,990 students and from 123 to 473 teachers. National acclaim came to the educational exhibits of the Cleveland public schools at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, but local newspapers attacked the schools’ unsanitary and overcrowded conditions and the political manipulations of the school board. BURKE HINSDALE, president of Hiram College, criticized the mechanical nature of the educational environment. A newly elected, school board appointed him as the next superintendent. He encouraged teachers to return to grounding each student in the essentials of a good education. Like his predecessor, though, Hinsdale and his Republican friends on the school board were defeated by a new political coalition.

In 1884 an after-school program called the Manual Training School opened, including classes in carpentry, woodturning, mechanical drawing, machine shop, and cooking. The school board opened West Manual Training School and added a 2-year business course to the secondary curriculum. Evening schools increasingly focused on helping immigrants learn English and civics to pass naturalization exams as a heavy influx of people from Europe arrived in the city. In 1889 the school board hired its first truant officer to enforce the new compulsory-attendance law requiring children of school age to attend 20 weeks a year.

In 1891 reformers secured the passage of the Federal Plan, allowing the public to elect a school board of 7 members as a legislative branch and a school director as an executive branch. Andrew Draper, appointed superintendent, tried improving the teaching staff, and opened a manual training room in Central High School and a school for deaf children. Louis H. Jones, his successor, opened the first kindergartens in 1896 and began a medical inspection program. In 1904 the state abolished the Federal Plan and allowed 5 members to be elected at large and 2 by wards for the school board, which appointed WILLIAM H. ELSON superintendent in 1905. He pioneered vocational education by opening a technical high school in 1908; fashioned general education courses to the demands of the business world and established a commercial high school in 1909; and assigned each teacher a group of students to counsel in a homeroom. In 1909 an industrial school opened for nonacademically talented children who dropped out of school after the 7th or 8th grade, which devoted a half-day to academic work and the remainder to industrial work, home economics, and physical education. This program became the basis for the junior high program.

As part of the progressive movement at the turn of the century, America’s public schools expanded their role in society. In 1903 Cleveland’s public schools opened playgrounds and summer vacation schools. It also expanded the physical education program and instituted a school gardening program. In 1908 the first medical dispensary in public education opened at Murray Hill School. In 1910 the Cleveland Dental Society began inspecting children’s teeth in the public schools. Elson instituted luncheon rooms in the high schools, classes for the blind, social centers, and a normal school at UNIVERSITY CIRCLE. Despite his innovative reforms, Elson and his supporters were defeated at the polls amid charges of fraudulent school contracts awarded after the COLLINWOOD SCHOOL FIRE killed 172 students in 1908, and complaints about school, overcrowding, with 64,409 students in 1912.

In 1915 the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION conducted a comprehensive survey of the public schools, criticizing the system’s inefficiency and lack of programs to deal with the children’s needs, with two-thirds of the student population leaving school before the legally required age. In 1917 a new school board chose FRANK E. SPAULDING to implement the survey. He centralized decision making and expanded the junior highs to retain more children in the middle grades. Guidance counselors, testing, and grouping students by ability were also introduced to reduce the failure rate. The public schools increased their efforts to Americanize immigrants and their children, dropped teaching German, and required a loyalty oath of teachers. The Smith Hughes Act of 1917 provided federal funds to expand vocational education. By 1918 the school population numbered 106,862, with 4,715, almost half the secondary enrollment, in the commercial-technical high schools.

ROBINSON G. JONES, the deputy superintendent who organized 15 junior high schools during Elson’s administration, became superintendent in 1920, serving 15 years and supporting music education and services for crippled and mentally deficient students. The schools initiated extracurricular activities, such as glee clubs, school newspapers, student council, and sports programs to develop “the good character” of pupils. Nine elementary curriculum centers organized an ungraded program for the least capable students and attempted to individualize the curriculum according to each student’s abilities and needs. Responding to the decline in the neighborhood around Central High School and to the arrival of black students who had been denied access to a decent education in the South, a clinic was established to study and remedy the educational and social problems of the neighborhood’s youth. In 1922 the school board approved the creation of the Major Work Program of special classes for gifted children. Reduced fees increased adult education enrollment to over 10,000 students by 1927. Aided by the Bing Act (1921), requiring attendance until age 18 and graduation from high school, daily enrollment expanded to 144,000 students. Between 1920-30 the school system spent over $18 million to construct 32 buildings.

Greater emphasis was given to vocational and special education classes in the 1920s. In 1920 a program permitted students to work as apprentices in trades 4 hours per week. In 1924 the Girls Opportunity School was opened for students who left school because of their inability to perform traditional academic work, with a program including cooking, hygiene, home nursing, English, and math. It later became Jane Addams School, with 1,500 students by 1930. In 1927 Eagle School was converted into a trade school for male students–the basis for the 1957 Max Hayes Vocational School. In 1924 Thos. A. Edison School, the successor to a program for “incorrigible children,”, enrolled male students with disciplinary problems, offering courses in millwork, mechanical drawing, metalwork, and handwork. In 1926 Outhwaite School for Boys, and in 1929 Longwood School for Girls, began special education for students below average for their grades, who were expected to transfer back to regular classrooms after being brought up to their grade level.

The black student population grew from 9,066 in 1923 to 13,430 in 1929. The CLEVELAND CALL & POST a black newspaper, complained on 7 Jan. 1937 that too many black students were enrolled at Longwood and Outhwaite schools, claiming those schools had become a permanent dumping ground for not only average, but also for mentally deficient and slow-learning students, providing only half the subjects offered in traditional high schools, lowering their students’ morale. The black community also complained about the deterioration of programs at Central High School, and in 1936 threatened to oppose future school levies unless improvements were made. Physical repairs were made in the special-education schools, and in 1939 a cornerstone was laid for a new Central High School. Three years earlier,HAZEL MOUNTAIN WALKER became the school system’s first black principal. The Depression decreased the city’s tax duplicate and forced the schools to curtail expenses by reducing programs and staff. Yet the schools fed over 44,000 needy children daily; the medical inspection and health programs increased their efforts; and the federal government paid for adult education teachers. With World War II, the schools expanded their vocational-technical program, training over 50,000 for jobs in war industries. Superintendent Mark Schinnerer contended that that was a permanent priority, as only a minority of students went to college.

Cleveland public schools emphasized “life adjustment” classes in the 1950s to reduce the dropout rate and help young adults find appropriate vocations. The need to provide facilities for the growing student population was the dominant issue during the 1950s and 1960s. Enrollment increased from 99,686 in 1950 to 148,793 in 1963. In 1960 Cleveland ranked as one of the lowest (38) in professional staff per 1,000 pupils. In 1966 BEACHWOOD, a wealthy Cleveland suburb, had 63 staff members per 1,000 students. That same year, Cleveland ranked lowest in Cuyahoga County, with a per pupil expenditure of $480, and with 90 of its 174 schools over 50 years old. Faced with a dwindling tax base because of depopulation and industrial decline, the school system struggled to educate a growing student population, increasingly enrolling low-income and minority students as white middle-class families and jobs fled to the suburbs after World War II. Private foundations and the federal government attempted help.

In 1960 the city’s schools could not adequately house the enrollment of 134,765 students; 14,000 were put on halfdays because of the shortage of, teachers and classrooms, mainly in the city’s east side black neighborhoods. In 1960 the Ford Foundation funded a project at Addison Jr. High School in HOUGH to reduce the dropout and juvenile-delinquency rates among black adolescents. As part of its Great Cities Grey Areas Program, the federal government also supported the Hough Community Project, which included home visitation, work study, and remedial programs. In addition, in 1963 it provided more funds for vocational education. Max Hayes was open from 8 A.M. to 10:30 P.M. and enrolled 796 high school students, 1,250 apprentices, and 1,493 adult education students. To relieve overcrowding, superintendent Wm. B. Levenson proposed renting space from the Catholic Diocese. Lee Howley, vice-president of CLEVELAND ELECTRIC ILLUMINATING CO. and chairman of a citizens’ committee on school finances, campaigned for a bond issue to build more facilities. In 1962 70% of the voting public approved a bond program and levy to improve the schools, but the building plans met resistance from civil-rights groups, led by Clarence H. Holmes, president of the UNITED FREEDOM MOVEMENT (UFM). Pickets, demonstrations, public meetings, and a school boycott protested the continuing segregation of black students. Civil-rights leaders argued that it was better to bus black students to unused classrooms than to build new schools that perpetuated segregation. Violence erupted in the Murray Hill School Dist., and Rev. BRUCE W. KLUNDER, a young Presbyterian minister, was accidentally killed by a bulldozer in 1964 while participating in a protest. The head of the school board promised to bus blacks to integrate the system. The superintendent resigned, andALFRED BENESCH, a veteran of the school board, contended that the present board should resign for interfering with the superintendent.

In 1963 the Program for Action by Citizens in Education (the PACE ASSN.), organized with the support of the Cleveland Associated Foundation, and advocated a variety of school reforms: early reading assistance, libraries in elementary schools, a human-relations curriculum, black teacher recruitment, a tutor corps, interdistrict vocational training and summer schools, and the establishment of an agency to promote its recommendations, which became a foundation-supported organization developing a wide variety of programs improving public education, before its demise in 1974. ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS such as the Cleveland Urban Learning Community of St. Ignatius High School, the United Independent Schools of E. Cleveland, and the Urban League’s Street Academy, provided non-traditional options in the 1970s and demonstrated the need for reform. In 1964 PAUL BRIGGS, head of the PARMA schools, became superintendent and the board ended the “dual system” of administration that existed, since 1904 by making the Business Dept. report to him. Briggs announced that the schools would have “a new look” through federal assistance that would expand preschool education and a new center for adult education. The enrollment of adults in literacy classes almost doubled. Antipoverty programs and the Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1965 funded many new programs. Assisted by PACE, 105 elementary libraries opened in 1966. Briggs launched an ambitious building program in 1968 that included a downtown Supplementary Education Ctr. for students throughout the city and an extensive school-building program. The public passed another bond issue to build schools for the over 150,000 students.

After a survey demonstrated that two-thirds of high school dropouts were unemployed, the federal government established a Student Neighborhood Youth Corps, providing after-school jobs. In 1965 the government’s Manpower & Training Ctr. was established, including basic or remedial courses and vocational education. Programs in cooperative and distributive education in high schools provided students with on-the-job work experience. A vocational Occupational Program was to reduce the number of dropouts without marketable skills. In addition, the school cooperated with the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation to provide workstudy programs for boys who qualified. An Occupational Work Experience Program, including a work laboratory with wood- and metal-working equipment, began for below-average high school students. Under contract with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the Woodland Job Training Ctr. enrolled over 1,000 in a factory school in 1968, training hard-core, unemployed city residents.

Briggs recruited black teachers and administrators, appointed Jas. B. Tanner, a black educator, as his assistant superintendent, and helping organize a Master of Arts in Teaching at JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY He declared that the federal government’s Aid to Dependent Children would provide over $1 million in the first 6 months of 1968 to finance 11 new programs for 29,289 disadvantaged learners in 81 schools. But in 1973, the NAACP filed a suit claiming that quality education was not legal or possible in a segregated environment. On 6 Feb. 1978, Federal Judge FRANK J. BATTISTI issued a remedial order as a result of his finding the previous year that the Cleveland school system and State Board of Education were guilty of de facto and de jure segregation of black students in Cleveland. Briggs and the school board, headed by Arnold Pinkney, a black businessman, defended neighborhood schools and claimed that segregation was the result of residential housing patterns they were not obligated to correct. The desegregation case demonstrated that the board’s actions, which included busing, constructing schools, and reassigning students for the purposes of segregation, had racially isolated and violated the 14th Amendment rights of the city’s black children. Briggs predicted the court order, would increase both white flight from the city and the dual system of public education that left schools in central cities with predominantly disadvantaged minority children. His problems were increased when the public rejected by an almost 2-to-1 margin a request for a school levy to remedy the school system’s deficits, and he resigned his position. In Sept. 1978 the system obtained a $20 million loan from Ohio’s Emergency School Assistance Fund. The state also found Cleveland’s public schools below minimum standards and made compliance and the appointment of a financial administrator the basis of a second loan in 1981.

The federal court established a Dept. of School Desegregation Relations to eliminate the effects of prior desegregation and to provide an integrated educational environment. The Office of School Monitoring & Community Relations was established to foster the public’s understanding of desegregation and to report on its progress. Chas. Leftwich, the court-appointed deputy superintendent, had the school department report directly to him. After Leftwich resigned, the court approved the board’s appointment of Margaret Fleming in Nov. 1978. The Monitoring Commission reported to the court that the school system had resegregated black students transported from the Addison Jr. High district and should be held in contempt for obstructing the court’s desegregation plan. The court removed Fleming from her position and appointed Donald Waldrip to head the Dept. of Desegregation in 1980. The court order led to crosstown busing, massive teacher transfers, a mandatory reading program, and other measures to equalize the schools.

Superintendent Peter Carlin, Briggs’ successor, described his efforts as “Working Together for Excellence.” He and the school board addressed the teachers’ needs after Cleveland’s United Fed. of Teachers, organized in 1933, struck in 1978 and 1979. Carlin reported that the schools made progress toward integration by daily transporting over 30,000 students in 550 vehicles. The schools now served over 12 million free or reduced meals, had a computerized scheduling program, School Community Councils and Parent Awareness Project, human-relations training for staff and teachers, improvement in elementary reading scores, compliance with the state’s minimum standards except for facilities, repayment of both state loans, and a Code of Rights, Responsibilities & Discipline for students. But conflicts among school board members, school closings and program reductions, layoffs, the continuing poor performance of students, and declining enrollment diminished the public’s confidence. In 1982 Carlin left the system, suing for its failure to evaluate him before his non-reappointment. Two years later, Waldrip departed under a dark cloud for both his inability to obtain funding for the expansion of magnet schools and his purchase of a million reading programs from a firm he had represented.

The cost per pupil, up more than 100% between 1971-80, ranked the expenditures of, the Cleveland public schools in the top 10% of districts in Ohio. The percentage of the system’s budget spent on educational programs and teachers declined, but the expense of maintenance, administration, and non-teaching personnel increased as enrollment dropped. In 1980 Judge Battisti ordered the State of Ohio as a co-defendant in the desegregation case to bear half the cost of the court order. Faced with resistance from the school board, Battisti had to issue 4,000 orders between 1976 and 1984 to implement desegregation of the public schools. Strikes by teachers and other employees further complicated matters. But the desegregation order was not met with the mob violence that had occurred in other cities. In 1983 an accounting firm’s study estimated that the board expected to spend $1.3 million for custodial employee overtime. A coalition to reform the school board budget continually criticized the board’s spending priorities.

The debate about the role and performance of the public schools revolves around the larger question of how America can live up to its commitment to human rights and equality. The court’s desegregation order reaffirmed the importance of the schools as part of the nation’s democratic heritage. But their poor performance eroded the belief that schools can cure the problems of American society. Cleveland’s public schools freed themselves of political control and the image of being a charity organization before the Civil War but were, by the 1980s, reverting to these conditions. The continued crisis of public education in Cleveland prompted proposals for its takeover by either the state or the mayor. After Carlin’s departure, Superintendent Frederick Holliday committed suicide, and his successor was forced to resign. Alfred Tutela, who came from Boston as a member of the court’s desegregation team in 1978, was appointed superintendent in 1986. He announced that the system needed over $50 million to repair facilities. With diminishing federal support and local taxes, prospects for such massive rehabilitation looked remote. Diminishing resources jeopardized the school system’s ability to survive its escalating problems.

The Cleveland voters approved a bond issue to repair the schools but refused to pass a tax levy for their operation, despite the fact that the district had to borrow money from the state on 3 occasions between 1977 and 1983. Some school leaders and citizens saw the busing program for racial integration as an unwanted financial burden that had to be removed before the passage of a new levy. Due to conflicts with the school board over the use of the newly acquired bond money, Tutela left the system after the school board bought out his contract for more than $300,000. In 1991 Superintendent Frank Huml predicted a $30 million deficit, but the board refused to put a levy on the ballot. Cleveland’s per pupil expenditures were still higher than most districts in its region. The Plain Dealer and educational summits under the sponsorship of Mayor Michael, White’s office, the business community, and community leaders pointed to the deficiencies of the educational system. The majority of students were not able to pass Ohio’s new proficiency test for 9th grade students. Many graduates couldn’t qualify for entry level jobs. Governor Voinovich called for a state take-over. The majority of Cleveland’s residents gave the school system a D or F grade in a poll taken by the Citizen League’s Research Institute.

In 1991 Mayor White successfully campaigned for a reform slate to become the majority of the school board. John Sanders, the new state superintendent, endorsed the proposal for a state take-over. Governor Voinovich also proposed a plan to appoint the state school board rather then allow the public to elect its members. Faced with the threat of a court suit to equalize school funding in Ohio, the governor advocated taking funds from wealthy school districts for redistribution to poorer areas and to allow parents to use school vouchers to attend schools of their choice.

Despite the loss of tax revenue from tax abatements for downtown projects, the Cleveland School Board refused to close schools and to make necessary financial cuts to balance the budget. The state superintendent predicted a school deficit of $55 million by 1993 and $114 million by the following year. The state controlling board approved a $75 million emergency loan without state receivership of the schools. The school board promised to ask the public for additional funds.

Supported by the new school board, Superintendent Sammie Campbell Parrish proposed “Vision 21” as a plan to renew the educational system during the summer of 1993. It made crosstown busing voluntary so parents could choose either magnet or community-based schools. Special reading and conflict resolution programs were also emphasized. Cleveland’s NAACP praised the plan and advocated greater emphasis on the educational program than on busing, since the overwhelming majority of students were African American. But fears and conflicts arose over the high cost of more than $90 million per year to finance the plan and its possible negative impact on desegregating students. Critics also argued that Superintendent Parrish was too distant from the financial and administrative operation of the school system. Parents and teachers also felt that they were not consulted about what was needed to improve the schools. After the failure of another school levy in May 1994, the school board angered parents by threatening to eliminate 300 to 400 employees to prevent a $51 million dollar deficit. Despite the threat of severe cuts, the public refused to pass another levy in Nov. 1994.

With a budget of $500 million, the district’s debt was 25% higher than other large school systems in the state. Another levy was cancelled after Parrish resigned in Feb. 1995, as a result of conflicts with Mayor White and the school board and the imminent state takeover. After the death of Judge Battisti in Oct. 1994, Judge Robert, Krupansky was appointed to oversee the desegregation case. In May 1994 Judge Battisti had announced that the schools would be self-governing by the year 2000 and accepted “Vision 21” as the blueprint for the future. Judge Krupansky initially gave the impression that the district would be gradually relieved from busing, but in Feb. 1995 he ordered a state take-over in the face of the financial woes and administrative chaos that had subverted the court’s remedial orders for desegregation of the school system. The state superintendent was empowered to seek a $29 million loan and to appoint a new superintendent of the Cleveland schools. The court cited the school district’s inability to account for the use of previous state funds as evidence of its financial mismanagement. It was ordered to close 14 schools to help remedy the deficit.

The second half of the 1990s witnessed several new initiatives aimed at helping the struggling schools. The state allocated $5.5 million to provide vouchers of up to $2,250 to allow district students to attend private independent or religious schools beginning in the fall of 1996, but the voucher program stirred heated opposition from the Cleveland Teachers Union and civil libertarian organizations, facing repeated judicial challenges ultimately leading to a Supreme Court hearing, slated for June of 2002. By April of 1999, the district had established 10 charter schools. In November 1996, voters passed a 13.5-mill operating levy, the first since 1983. In the summer of 1997, the Ohio state government approved House Bill 239, vesting the Cleveland mayor with control of the city schools, a move opposed by the teachers union and the NAACP. In March of 1998, Judge White declared that U.S. federal court oversight of the school district would end in July 2000. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, a respected New York City educator, was appointed CEO of the Cleveland schools in November 1998.

But the problems of the schools were deeply rooted in the challenging social and economic conditions of the central city. More than 70% of Cleveland’s school children now receive some form of public assistance as single-headed, impoverished families became the norm for many inner-city children by the mid-1990s. Integration became more elusive as the percentage of minority enrollment increased from 58% in 1976 to 71% in 1994. Almost 50% of the system’s students were failing to graduate from high school, while employers increasingly require secondary and post-secondary degrees. For those remaining, their performance on reading-comprehension tests became poorer the longer they stayed in school. Attendance in the junior and senior divisions was the second-worst in the state. Only 37% of the city’s adults had a secondary education in 1986. Nancy Oakley, director of Project Learn, a volunteer tutorial program, estimated that 47,000 illiterate persons lived in Cleveland. Poverty and the culturally different learner had been inextricably bound with illiteracy and student failure throughout, the history of public education. The consequences of the shortcomings of the schools were a direct result of confused priorities resulting in public reluctance to bear the responsibility for providing a system of universal education that included those who have the greatest needs but the least resources. The condition of public education reveals society’s values and priorities. What supported schools in the past was the belief that they were more important than any other institution outside the family and could meet the needs of different learners; this belief/priority seemed sadly lacking in the 1990s.

Edward M. Miggins

Cuyahoga Community College

Miggins, Edward. “The Search for the One Best System: Education Reform and the Cleveland Public Schools, 1836-1920,” inCleveland: A Tradition of Reform (1986).



Last Modified: 14 Nov 2012 09:04:36 AM