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With the election fast approaching, we at College Now would like to share some information with you about an issue that is important to us: Issue 108, the renewal of the 2012 four-year levy for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).

In 2012, Cleveland voters passed a 15-mill levy that focused on improving high schools in the CMSD, and also began the work of Mayor Jackson’s strategic initiative known as the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. With the 2012 levy, school and city officials said they sought better results for students, including improved graduation rates, enrollment and academic performance. And while results haven’t been outstanding, we are seeing progress, and school reforms have been working.

Since 2012, the four-year graduation rate in the CMSD has risen 10 percentage points from 56 percent to 66 percent for the class of 2015. Crain’s Cleveland Business reported that District enrollment was 38,555 for the 2014-2015 school year, which is the highest figure in at the least the past 25 years. Academic performance has improved, as well, with 10 percent fewer students needing remediation in math or English upon their matriculation to college; seven percent more students graduating with a 3.0 GPA or higher; and three percent more students obtaining a score of 21 or higher on the ACT.

Recent state reports do not tell the full story. Ohio has changed how it rates its schools, which accounts for Cleveland’s F grades on Ohio’s most recent state report card; the state has adopted tougher standards, which results in lower grades, despite gains being made in some categories. The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell found that, in fact, Cleveland’s performance has improved relative to other districts in Ohio. This shows that the initiatives put into place four years ago are working. We are seeing progress.

Additionally, the 2012 levy and the Cleveland Plan launched 18 new high school programs, increased the number of four-year-olds in quality preschools and brought more high quality schools to Cleveland neighborhoods. Investing in reforms has shown the District which schools are improving and which are failing – and it has been acknowledged that some failing schools cannot be saved. The levy and the Cleveland Plan have helped to highlight the strongest schools in the District, and the quality of these schools must continue to improve.

The Cleveland schools are not going to change overnight. The past four years of work, however, show us that progress is possible. Renewing the 2012 levy would serve to continue that progress, to institute new reforms and keep the forward momentum going.

It is important to note that a vote for Issue 108 will not increase taxes for those living in the city of Cleveland. Issue 108 is simply a renewal of a previous increase, so costs will remain the same.

Issue 108 will also allow the District to focus more intensely on upgrades to elementary and middle schools in the CMSD, after investing more resources into high schools over the last four years. At College Now, we know that the earlier students are successful, the more likely they are to persist to a postsecondary education. Investing in schools for younger students will demonstrate to them, and to their families, that education is valued at every level in the CMSD.

The renewal of this levy is vital to the future success of our students. If we want the progress being made in the Cleveland school to continue, we need to ensure that the District has the resources it needs to make these critical improvements. A vote for Issue 108 is a vote for our students, for their futures, for their success. We cannot stall the progress that has already been made, and we cannot deprive our students of this investment.

You can read more about the levy at www.keepgoingcleschools.com and learn about ways to get involved, including volunteering for the campaign, donating and requesting yard signs.