Thursday, November 09, 2000

City schools will reap benefits as soon as January

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Whites and blacks united to hand Cincinnati Public Schools its largest levy win in 30 years — and the first for new money since 1995.

        Students in the city's schools will see tangible effects of the 6-mill levy passed Tuesday as early as January.

        New textbooks, building repairs and smaller class sizes will become realities for the district's 75 schools as the new tax brings in $35.8 million a year for the next four years.

        The district will immedi ately release about $10 million in cash reserves it was holding back in case the levy failed, Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Wednesday.

        That money will go directly to schools.

        The levy passed with 56 percent of the vote Tuesday, winning in six wards where voters had struck down two previous attempts for new money.

        According to unofficial election results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections:

        • Overwhelming support came from African-American neighborhoods such as the West End, where more than 80 percent of voters said yes to the levy.

        • Support also came from a large number of voters in predominantly Republican areas, such as Westwood. A ward where levies usually fail, Westwood gave 49 percent of the vote to the measure, nine points higher than a levy vote last March.

        Brewster Rhoads, campaign director for Cincinnatians Active to Support Education (CASE) said this year's campaign was successful because of the wide-ranging support it generated.

        “We did not just have folks endorsing the levy and saying good luck,” Mr. Rhoads said. “They were rolling up their sleeves and helping out in the best ways they could.”

        All three political parties, the Baptist Ministers Conference and a host of civic and religious groups endorsed the levy.

        While support followed traditional geographic lines — the west side voting no and the east side and central city voting yes — there were a few noticeable changes.

        Of the six wards that flipped support, three were outside city limits — but served by the city district — and the other three are areas with a high number of renters.

        Wards where the levy failed include areas with high numbers of senior citizens and families that send their children to private school.

        Wards that voted yes Tuesday, but voted no in the last two levy elections were:

        • Ward 2: Oakley/Madison (57.4 percent)

        • Ward 21: North/South Fairmount (55.9 percent)

        • Ward 23: College Hill/Northside (55.3 percent)

        • Silverton (51.3 percent)

        • Columbia Township (53.5 percent)

        • Golf Manor (57.2 percent)

        Wards where the levy failed:

        • Ward 1: Mount Washington (48 percent)

        • Ward 19: Lower Price Hill/Sayler Park (34.5 percent)

        • Ward 20: East Price Hill (41.8 percent)

        • Ward 25: West Price Hill (37.8 percent)

        • Ward 26: Westwood (49 percent)

        • Cheviot (30.3 percent)

        • Green Township (26.3 percent)

        • Springfield Township (42.6 percent)

        Mr. Adamowski said he credits the community for understanding the levy's importance.

        “It came down to personal leadership and people taking a stand,” Mr. Adamowski said.

        The levy faced opposition from COAST — Cincinnatians Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. COAST ran radio ads opposed to the levy on 10 local radio stations in the five days before Election Day.

        Jim Urling, COAST chairman, said the group is still opposed to spending more money in the city's schools.

        “We do hope the school board follows through with the promises it made to voters,” Mr. Urling said. “We will keep a watch on them.”

        This year's levy campaign — run by CASE and dozens of volunteers, parents, teachers and community members — was one of the most extensive.

        Volunteers registered 4,400 new voters. They made more than 7,000 phone calls to remind people to vote. They provided more than 300 rides to the polls.

        Television commercials were produced by parents. Community groups, such as the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and several religious coalitions, spread the word through radio ads and literature stuffed into church bulletins.

        CASE “sliced and diced” the electorate, pinpointing messages to specific audiences.

        The group sent mailings to 22,000 African-American households and 14,000 Republican households. Handwritten postcards went out to another 21,000 registered voters.

        Then there were the 16,000 mailings to absentee voters.

        “I think voters realized it was time to (say) yes,” Mr. Rhoads said. “After voting no twice, people feel the district is making changes they thought needed to be made.”

        Children know what levy means

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