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Toledo Public Schools officials launch levy campaign

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


May 14, 2012: Toledo Public Schools officials are asking the public to rally behind a November property tax levy which would raise an estimated $18.5 million annually for district operations. The 6.9 mill levy would be permanent. District officials emphasized TPS has not received any new funding since 2001.


TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko stated the levy would allow the district to continue its transformation plan, which he explained involved continuing to institute new programs that employed “best practices” from other regions of the country. TPS officials have visited the Cincinnati public school district and other urban school systems while conducting research on effective programs conducted elsewhere.


“An investment of 35 cents per day doesn’t seem like much, but if Toledoans make that commitment to Toledo Public Schools, the results will be long-lasting,” Pecko said.


District officials warned the current budget is balanced, but TPS would face a $15 million deficit by the start of the 2013-14 academic year.


“It would be impossible to carry out the transformation plan as we know it today with these kinds of cuts,” Pecko said. “It’s next summer that we begin staring at that deficit.”


Passage of the levy, TPS officials said, would allow the district to pursue initiatives such as a district-wide discipline program that emphasizes positive behavior supports, and a new “data dashboard” which would allow parents and teachers to track the academic progress of individual students in real time. Parents could also communicate with parents by computer from home.

Teacher evaluations also would be conducted based on their students’ academic performance.


“We are not taking this request lightly. We know that it’s tough times,” said Bob Vásquez, vice president of the TPS board. “We are at a crossroads in education in Toledo and a vote, a positive vote is a road we want to go down. I think it’s important to our students. It’s important to our families. But it’s also important to our city. One of the most important initiatives in our city is quality education—because it will attract businesses, it’s going to attract more population instead of encouraging people to leave.”


TPS board president Lisa Sobecki stated passage of the levy would ensure extracurricular activities would continue for students from seventh through 12th grades. TPS also would conduct a pilot program offering an “online digital classroom” for elementary-age students.


Each high school would specialize its academic programs, allowing students to enroll in a program area of interest. For example, Woodward High School would focus on careers in renewable sources of energy.


The levy received a hefty show of support from union, community, and business leaders who attended Monday’s press conference. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and city council president Joe McNamara were among those in attendance. University of Toledo President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs also spoke of the levy as an “investment” while lending his support to the property tax request.


“It is, in fact an investment—perhaps the best investment we can make, the best investment in the social fabric of our community, the best possible investment in the strength of our community, the best way for investing in prosperity for the future,” said Dr. Jacobs.


The UT president stated he believes TPS is “on the right track” and making a “significant turn” by introducing new programs “that encourage students to excel.” He particularly noted the next significant step would be the establishment of an elementary school focused on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education, calling it “perhaps the single-most important investment in the prosperity of this community.”


The press conference at TPS headquarters served as a sort of official kickoff to a levy campaign, which gives supporters less than six months to convince voters of the property tax proposal’s merits before the November general election.


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/15/12 13:25:50 -0700.





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