Sunday, Oct 21, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

TPS levy will benefit students, community


Toledo Pub­lic Schools is ask­ing vot­ers in the dis­trict to ap­prove Is­sue 20 on the fall bal­lot. The levy will sup­port 23,000 stu­dents who de­pend on TPS to give them a high-qual­ity school en­vi­ron­ment that will pre­pare them for suc­cess in life.

Is­sue 20 is a 10-year, 4.9-mill emer­gency levy. It will cost the owner of a $60,000 home $90.04 a year.

Lo­cal tax dol­lars fund about 30 per­cent of TPS’ op­er­at­ing bud­get. The rest comes pri­mar­ily from the state of Ohio. The last time vot­ers ap­proved new op­er­at­ing dol­lars for the dis­trict was 11 years ago.

Since then, TPS’ an­nual bud­get has grown at a mea­ger pace, pri­mar­ily be­cause of in­creases in state aid. But over the past sev­eral years, the state share of dis­trict rev­e­nues has dwin­dled as well.

In 2010, TPS faced a pro­jected def­i­cit of more than $30 mil­lion; that gap threat­ened to grow over the next few years to as much as $80 mil­lion. The dis­trict made cuts that brought our bud­get back into bal­ance for the year. But we had to do more to sta­bi­lize the dis­trict’s fi­nances.

Thus, the TPS trans­for­ma­tion plan was born. In a year’s time, TPS re­de­signed its schools both struc­tur­ally and pro­gram­mat­i­cally — with a lot of co­op­er­a­tion from our em­ploy­ees and the lo­cal com­mu­nity. To­day, in the plan’s sec­ond year, TPS is in a po­si­tion to im­prove in both stat­ure and per­for­mance.

Each el­e­ment of the trans­for­ma­tion is de­signed to im­prove op­por­tu­ni­ties for TPS stu­dents to suc­ceed ac­a­dem­i­cally and to grad­u­ate from high school pre­pared for col­lege and ca­reers. Our re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of K-8 schools, dis­tance learn­ing, an in­clu­sion pro­gram for spe­cial-need stu­dents, credit re­cov­ery, high school courses for 7th and 8th grad­ers, and mean­ing­ful part­ner­ships with com­mu­nity agen­cies all add value to each stu­dent’s ac­a­demic ex­pe­ri­ence.

TPS staff ac­cepted a 2.5 per­cent re­duc­tion in wages on top of a hard pay freeze and an in­crease in health-care pre­mi­ums and de­duct­ibles. These em­ployee con­ces­sions, along with staff­ing cuts and the trans­for­ma­tion plan, cre­ated an­nual sav­ings of nearly 18 per­cent, re­sult­ing in pos­i­tive fund bal­ances for three years.

But as much as things are chang­ing, some things re­main the same. We con­tinue to wres­tle with the chal­lenge of sup­port­ing in­no­va­tion in our schools as state and lo­cal rev­e­nues shrink.

And while TPS re­mains fo­cused on de­liv­er­ing a high-qual­ity pro­gram of in­struc­tion, it can­not ig­nore the im­pact of our econ­omy on the lives of chil­dren whose fam­i­lies are strug­gling. Many chil­dren come to school ev­ery day with is­sues that can­not and must not be ig­nored.

TPS, with help from our com­mu­nity part­ners, now of­fers valu­able aux­il­iary ser­vices to our stu­dents and their fam­i­lies. These ser­vices pro­vide a life­line of sup­port to com­bat the im­pact of tough eco­nomic cir­cum­stances.

TPS has been a good stew­ard of tax­pay­ers’ in­vest­ment. The dis­trict has re­cap­tured the mo­men­tum it needs to com­pete in our com­plex 21st cen­tury world.

Our chil­dren are our most pre­cious as­set. For their ben­e­fit and for the ben­e­fit of our com­mu­nity, I ask for your sup­port of TPS and Is­sue 20.

Jer­ome Pecko is su­per­in­ten­dent of Toledo Pub­lic Schools.

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