Northwest News

Spokesman: CCS 'assessing' levy failure

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

After a bruising loss at the polls Nov. 5, Columbus City Schools officials are mum about their future plans.

On Election Day, voters soundly rejected a 9.01-mill combination operating levy and bond issue for the district.

Issue 50, which would have raised property taxes by 23.5 percent, was defeated 44,417 votes (69 percent) to 19,548 votes (31 percent), according to final, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.

District spokesman Jeff Warner said the district "is assessing the situation" but "hasn't had any discussions regarding the next steps yet."

Some community members said voters are looking for ways they can gain more faith in the district, which is struggling with an ongoing data-scrubbing scandal and poor performance on the latest state-issued report card

The district received four F's, three D's and two C's on the state card.

"I think the biggest reason for the levy failing is that the school district is still working to build back up a level of trust with the community that it does not appear it has achieved yet," said Matt Eshelbrenner, a founding member of Southside STAY, a group trying to create neighborhood schools and improve education in that neighborhood.

"Everyone in Columbus wants the schools and quality of education to improve in order to give our children the best possible chance for success," Eshelbrenner said, adding STAY -- Staying Together to Advance Youth -- did not take a formal position on the district's two ballot issues.

"In the long run, however, the school district seems to have asked for too much without proof of improvement this past week," he said.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman spent considerable political capital on the matter, first assembling the Columbus Education Commission, which laid out several reform measures, and also backing the establishment of an independent auditor, which appeared as Issue 51 on the ballot.

It also was forcefully defeated 38,697 votes (61 percent) to 25,187 votes (39 percent).

Coleman, a Democrat, was joined by Republican Gov. John Kasich in support of allocating 1 mill to high-performing charter schools -- a sticking point for some in the education community.

Coleman's spokesman, Dan Williamson, said he didn't believe that had much of an impact on the election outcome.

"Voters wanted to see more change and more restoration of trust from the Columbus City Schools before making a significant investment in education," Williamson said.

The tax issue had strong financial backing from the business community and labor unions, which had contributed $2.27 million through Oct. 16.

The campaign also faced organized opposition from No Cheaters, No Charters, led by Jonathan Beard. That group raised a paltry $1,976 by comparison.

"Anytime you lose 70-30, it's not because you have opposition -- it's because you put a really lousy proposal in front of the voters," Beard said.

The mayor, meanwhile, is taking a big step back from the issue for the time being, Williamson said.

"The last thing the mayor is thinking about is another levy request," Williamson said.

 

School board race

There will be some turnover on the Columbus school board.

Newcomers Dominic Paretti and Michael D. Cole ousted Mike Wiles and Hanifah Kambon, while incumbent Ramona Reyes retained her seat.

Cole led with 32,026 votes (23 percent) and Paretti received 21,922 votes (16 percent).

Reyes finished second with 25,435 votes (19 percent).

Beverly Corner finished fifth with 19,098 votes (14 percent), while Wiles received 20,329 (15 percent) and Kambon placed last with 17,580 (13 percent).

The new members will take their seats in January.

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