Decision 2010: Issue 5 is too important to failWritten by Jerome Pecko | | Patricia.Mazur@tps.org
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To learn is to live. To live life fully, we must commit ourselves to a quest for knowledge. And, that quest must be lifelong. Education is the cornerstone of America’s greatness. It is accessible. It is comprehensive. But it is not free.
When you think about it, Toledo Public Schools is one of the few institutions that make a significant impact on our entire community. Quality schools are necessary to attract businesses and provide them with a well-prepared workforce. The success of our schools also has a bearing on property values, resale value and quality of life for virtually all our citizens. Supporting education takes commitment, community leadership and financial stability.
Unfortunately, Toledo Public Schools (TPS) is facing a significant budget deficit due to a number of factors that are beyond our control. The state has cut funds earmarked for education, property valuations are down, and despite aggressive efforts to reduce our expenses, the district still faces a $40 million shortfall.
This is why the passage of Issue 5, on Nov. 2, is crucial to the district’s future. The last time Toledoans voted for an increase in taxes for TPS was 10 years ago. After our request for an income tax levy was voted down in May, the district was forced to make deep budget cuts that have impacted every aspect of our operations. We were forced to reduce our transportation services, eliminate middle school and freshmen sports, along with a laundry list of other services. These changes have significantly impacted the infrastructure of TPS.
If Issue 5 fails, the ramifications would include closing schools and eliminating 300 to 400 positions, on top of the cuts that were implemented for this school year.
We have heard the community say they are looking for transformational change from TPS, change that will show the district is serious about adopting a new way of doing business and ensuring that students are receiving a quality education. The Board of Education, along with the administration, has embraced this concept of change and transparency. Passage of Issue 5 means that TPS will have the means to aggressively pursue its plan to rebuild, reform and revitalize our school district.
The Board of Education has committed to reinstate transportation for K-8 students and restore security officers in high schools if Issue 5 is successful. Passage will also protect the academic progress that is already being made in TPS. Failure of the levy will not only deepen the district’s financial crisis, it will hurt property values and resale opportunities for homeowners and further slow economic growth.
Toledo Public Schools remains committed to offering a comprehensive academic program that promotes student growth, with a concerted focus on our lower-performing schools. The desired outcome is for all students to experience academic excellence and for TPS to become the school district of choice in our region.
As you consider our request for a “yes” vote on Nov. 2, remember that the Board of Education has chosen not to renew the current permanent improvement levy, which is a savings to taxpayers. Thus, Issue 5 will cost the owner of a $65,000 home less than $3 per week.
At Toledo Public Schools, we remain committed to providing an academic experience for all students that exceeds the community’s expectations. We remain committed to reforming, rebuilding and revitalizing TPS and as a result expect that the district will continue to experience success in its efforts to become a high-performing school district. As superintendent, I am pleased with the support we have received for Issue 5 from Mayor Mike Bell, United Way of Greater Toledo and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In closing, I realize we are all making sacrifices during these challenging economic times. However, we must continue to provide our children with the same opportunities that were given to us as students by saying yes to a quality education and a bright future. Please support Toledo Public Schools by voting “yes” for Issue 5 on Nov. 2.
Dr. Jerome Pecko is superintendent of Toledo Public Schools.