Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
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EDITORIAL

TPS needs and deserves our backing, but it must also produce

Toledo Public Schools is asking voters to renew a five-year, 6.5-mill operating levy that will generate about $13 million annually. The levy was first approved in 2000 as a three-year measure and was last renewed in 2013.

The Blade recommends renewal.

The renewed levy would continue to cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $178 a year.

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Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant of Toledo Public Schools, talks about the renewal levy at Beverly Elementary in October.

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TPS struggles, as many urban districts do, with Herculean challenges. Poverty, homelessness, and the collapse of the family, as well as other social problems, like addiction, have all landed in the laps of urban schools.

More than 80 percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and TPS also has the highest number of students classified as homeless in Ohio.

The district released a financial forecast earlier this year that shows the school system’s fiscal future looks solid, providing voters approve three ballot measures, beginning with this one. Then, in November, 2018, TPS expects to ask voters to renew two other levies. That is a tall order in a city where nearly 30 percent of people live in poverty.

TPS has vastly improved over the past three to four years. It has invested in good people — most notably Superintendent Romules Durant — and he has developed an enthusiastic and ambitious agenda for improving performance. Yet, test scores and graduation rates have stayed stubbornly low.

Voters have no choice but to back TPS in its noble and difficult work.

But, at some point, TPS must show positive, even dramatic, results. The school district must begin to show a return on the investment taxpayers have made in the city’s schools. 

Mr. Durant is turning his attention to theme schools and highly focused and disciplined elementary academies, where students also get free breakfasts and lunches. He is a passionate and inspired leader. He must continue to innovate, to experiment, to pound his bully pulpit and demand excellence. But he needs the support of the community.

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