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Published: Tuesday, 8/12/2003

Levy foes' dirty tricks

IN THE events surrounding the Toledo Public Schools' renewal levy election, opponents claimed, sometimes vaguely, sometimes specifically, that school officials were misleading voters about the 6.5-mill, five-year tax issue.

Unfortunately some of those who opposed TPS responded with the same tactics, only more perversely. They placed leaflets with all sorts of extreme and inaccurate statements about the levy on cars at a central-city church the Sunday before the Aug. 5 election.

It's one of the oldest dirty tricks in the history of elections: Smear the other side at a late date in the campaign when there's no time left to respond.

“Ugly documentation,” was the reaction of school board president Peter Silverman to the flyers. He was far too polite. Homophobic and racist is a better description.

One statement went way beyond the pale, claiming ungrammatically that Superintendent Eugene Sanders, who is black, “would have our boys @ Lincoln” - TPS' new all-male academy - “to turn out gay by educating them with all white female teachers.”

As an expert from the University of Toledo on single-gender education put it, such a claim is “without merit.” Female teachers don't produce homosexuals.

The fact that someone would peddle such dangerously ignorant nonsense to defeat a school tax issue also raises the question of the real motives of levy opponents.

The leaders of the Urban Coalition, the official anti-levy group, deny they had anything to do with the leaflets. We hope they're not responsible, but the group did lend an active hand in spreading some half-truths about the levy.

One was that the renewal, because it would have run for five years instead of the original three, amounted to a tax increase. That was not the case. Neither the tax rate nor the property valuations against which the tax was figured went up. Tax bills would not have increased.

And it could be argued that taxpayers actually would be getting a break, since taxes would remain lower for a longer period, locked in at the current rate.

Another spurious claim, made by coalition president Flute Rice on The Editors television program four days before the election, was that “white teachers don't know how to teach black kids.”

Yes, 85 percent of TPS teachers this year were white, but Mr. Rice, a former Scott High School principal, ought to know better than most of the strife engendered by the injection of racial politics into an argument about whether the district is adequately funded.

Such statements make it appear that levy opponents were less concerned about the overall welfare of TPS students than grinding their own personal axes under the cloak of anonymity.

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