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Cleveland School District Considers Second "Transformation Plan" in Two Years

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 12:30 PM

The Cleveland school district is under the control of Mayor Frank Jackson.

Two years after approving a "transformation plan" that called for the Cleveland school district to "stay the course in a long, difficult journey," Cleveland's mayor has a new plan to improve Cleveland schools.

In this document, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson lays out what state lawmakers would need to do to make his plan happen. (Cleveland is the only Ohio school district under mayoral control. That means Cleveland's school board is appointed by the mayor rather than elected by voters.)

Many of the requested changes would give the school district's leadership more control over teachers' pay and contracts, sidestepping the current collective bargaining process. Others have to do with providing more state funding to the district.

The plan also calls for the district to create a "portfolio" of traditional public schools and charter schools, a popular concept among some urban districts. New York City, Denver, Los Angeles and New Orleans have all adopted this strategy. Jackson also wants the district to be able to share local tax dollars with charter schools and basically keep the state funding that would otherwise go to those charter schools.

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Legislative changes intended to improve the quality of Cleveland charter schools are also part of Jackson's package. That includes things like giving a local, appointed board the authority to approve or reject new charter schools that want to open in Cleveland.

What about that earlier transformation plan? Well, it saw some distractions last year. And the pace of improvement in the district now isn't fast enough, the mayor says:

  • Last year, 43 percent of Cleveland school district fifth graders passed state reading tests and 30 percent passed state math tests.
  • The district faces a $64.9 million gap between expected expenditures and expected revenues next year, because of "structural issues" such as automatic step/scale increases in salaries, rising health care costs, declining enrollment, diminishing tax collections and the lack of a new operating levy since 1996.
  • Administrators have little "flexibility with regard to staffing, funding, resource allocation, management decisions, scheduling, school calendar, and overall school autonomy."
  • And enrollment is declining.

So does this plan have a chance of happening? Does it have a chance of succeeding?

StateImpact reporter Ida Lieszkovszky will have more on this later today, but Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told the Plain Dealer that the "policy guys have the plan" and are "looking at it."

And Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke says the changes the mayor is asking for look an awful lot like Senate Bill 5, which was overturned by voters in November:

"I've been in the district a lot of years, and for every superintendent, I've seen a reform plan come and go," he said. "Teachers will embrace change if they're a part of it."

Cleveland's Plan for Transforming Schools

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