CLEVELAND -- A plan to overhaul the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was signed into law on Monday before a crowd at John F. Kennedy High School.
Ohio House Bill 525, known as The Cleveland Plan, was signed by Governor John Kasich during a special ceremony.
“I'm now optimistic about the future,” said Governor Kasich, “This had to be done! I mean, failure was never an option here--there was no way that we could’ve said we couldn’t get this done.”
The passage of the bill was necessary for Mayor Frank Jackson and school administrators to start making some drastic changes. The law shifts some of the power in the district, ultimately giving the mayor more control, which is why it’s being called the one of the most sweeping school transformation plans in the state.
Under the law, administrators have the power to cut under-performing teachers regardless of seniority or union status. It also gives the city more authority over the curriculum and staff at charter schools, which could expand further in Cleveland.
“I’m willing to try anything for the kids! If it don’t work, let’s keep changing ‘til we find something that does work,” said Winifred Henderson, a grandparent and retired teacher.
“We’ve got to do better, we've got to do better and we're hoping for that,” said another grandparent at Monday’s signing.
According to Mayor Frank Jackson, the plan is the first step in an ongoing process to help the schools. It comes after years of failing test scores and a graduation rate that’s now under 63 percent.
“With this legislation, we now have the possibility--and really the great possibility--of creating a different outcome,” said Mayor Jackson.
Currently, the CMSD is facing a deficit near $20 million.
“Part of the problem we’ve had is that we think if we just throw money at a problem it will go away,” said Governor Kasich, “Cleveland is one of the highest funded school districts in the state and it has one of the highest drop-out rates, it’s not working very well.”
State Senator Nina Turner was a co-sponsor of the legislation who thanked the governor and other state officials for the bipartisan support.
“We had to decide, whether or not we wanted to live in a city or a cemetery and act accordingly,” said Turner, “We understand that it takes team work to make the American dream work and we are building a team here in the City of Cleveland.”
CMSD administrators are also counting on community support for a levy this fall. The details are still being finalized, but an example ten-mill levy would cost an additional $150 a year on a $50,000 home in Cleveland. A school levy hasn’t passed in the city since 1996.