4 Reasons Why Issue 44 Matters

4 Reasons Why Issue 44 Matters

Voters will have the opportunity in the upcoming November 8th election to vote on a levy to strengthen K-12 education in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and expand access to affordable, quality preschool through a unique partnership with the school district and Cincinnati Preschool Promise. Here are four reasons why Issue 44 matters:

1. More than 40% of students who enter kindergarten in CPS are not ready to learn, and these students continue to lag behind others. For instance, they are only half as likely as other students to read at grade level by third grade. Research, including a recent study by the Rand Corporation, confirms impressive returns on investments in high-quality preschool in terms of educational outcomes. Rand found that these returns are especially high for children from economically disadvantaged families and when high-quality preschool is connected to a strong K-12 educational system. However, existing high-quality preschool providers, including CPS and Head Start, do not currently have the capacity to serve all these students. Improving the quality of existing programs and adding more high-quality seats is needed to give all children a strong start.

2. A major component of this levy is funding Vision 2020: My Tomorrow, a multi-year plan to ensure that every neighborhood has high performing schools that combine excellent teaching, strong academics, and specialized programming selected by the neighborhoods they serve. The first seven elementary schools in the plan opened this August; community engagement is under way for an additional seven to 11 to launch in the 2017-18 school year. Other major community priorities that will be supported by this levy include:

  • Expansion of student access to smart technology and leading educational software that will bridge the digital divide and prepare students to compete and thrive in a technological world.
  • Expansion of college-level coursework and career-readiness programs so that all students are prepared for success in college, military enlistment, or entry in a certified apprenticeship program. This is more important than ever, because today nearly two-thirds of all jobs require post-secondary education.
  • Expansion of business partnerships to provide students with job-shadowing and other real-world experiences to prepare them for success in the workforce.
  • Connecting quality preschool with a strong K-3 early literacy program to ensure that all students are competent readers by fourth grade, the foundation for success in school and beyond.

3. While there is more work to be done on behalf of students and families, Cincinnati Public Schools is moving in the right direction. Major indicators of educational progress for our students in recent years include:

  • A substantial increase in the high school graduation rate over three years, from 63.9 percent in 2011 to 71.2 percent in 2014. The five-year graduation rate also increased to 77.9 percent in 2014.
  • Composite 12th-grade* ACT scores increased to 20 in 2015-16, the highest among Ohio’s urban districts. *Every CPS student, regardless of their chosen path, takes the ACT.
  • Double-digit increase in students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In the 2012–13 school year, 50 percent of CPS high schools had no AP courses. Now 100 percent of schools provide access to AP courses, which translates to thousands in savings on college tuition to families. 
  • New K-12 Career Readiness Curriculum and partnerships with Great Cincinnati’s business community to provide real-world job exposure.

4. CPS is committed to good financial management and transparency. Earlier this year, the district opened its books to an independent financial review commissioned by Cincinnati’s business community. The financial review found that CPS has been fiscally accountable and made responsible budget reductions in recent years. The review also identified additional opportunities for cost-containment, which the district is pursuing, and validated the need for additional new revenue to maintain and continue progress for students. Preschool funding will follow the child in tuition credits to the provider, and be based on a sliding scale for family income (higher credits for lower incomes) and the quality rating of the providers (higher credits for higher quality). Tuition credits would be utilized on a “last dollar” basis, on top of any other funding source the family is eligible to receive. Tuition assistance for families would range from 5 percent (for incomes above 500 percent of the federal poverty level) to 100 percent (for family incomes at 100-200 percent of federal poverty levels). Levy funds would also be used to help improve quality of existing community providers so that more high-quality preschool seats are available in every neighborhood. Providers rated under three stars in Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system would be eligible for this quality-improvement funding to strengthen their programs. United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC) was named as the local, established, non-profit entity to manage the preschool expansion initiative, through a request for proposal by the Board of Education. UWGC will receive the levy funding from Cincinnati Public Schools that has been identified for the expansion of quality preschool, and will have the authority and responsibility for managing the funds and program and be fully accountable to the Board of Education – and thereby – to the taxpayers.

Issue 44 has been endorsed by the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Herald, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Community Action Agency and more than 50 other leading organizations. (link: www.strongstartstrongfuture.com/endorsements)

With Issue 44, we can have high quality schools and expanded preschool that are critical to our city’s workforce, neighborhoods and future. A strong start for our children truly means a strong future for Cincinnati. It’s not just an investment in schools. It will help the entire community by producing the workforce essential to create and keep good jobs and healthy neighborhoods. Opportunity for all is possible.

For more information or to volunteer or donate to the campaign effort to pass Issue 44, visit: www.strongstartstrongfuture.com