Schools Levy Must Go Forward Despite State Data Investigation

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs House Bill 167, or the Columbus Education Plan, which supporters say will improve the struggling Columbus City Schools. Opponents say it takes funnels taxpayer money to unproven charter schools.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs House Bill 167, or the Columbus Education Plan, which supporters say will improve the struggling Columbus City Schools. Opponents say it takes funnels taxpayer money to unproven charter schools.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

Columbus City School board members, Tuesday evening, will begin to discuss the specifics of a November levy. The levy will move forward regardless of an investigation into alleged data and grade rigging in the district.

At the same time of the levy discussion, the district remains under a state and federal investigation into alleged data and grade rigging. And the Ohio Auditor’s office said the probe has no set end date.

School board president Carol Perkins said, by law, the district must move forward with the levy regardless of the status of the investigation.

“And we will deal with that,” Perkins said. “But more importantly we have to continue the business of the district.”

While the district went from academic emergency to continuous improvement in 2007, a cloud hangs over the advancement as the state and federal investigations continue. And many of its schools continue to struggle.

“We have to work very, very hard to convince the community to trust us again.”

Perkins said she hopes the community will support the levy despite the on-going investigation.

“I believe as we continue to talk and engage the community, hopefully we will help them to understand the importance of the community rallying behind public education,” Perkins said.

The school board is not alone in its fight for voter approval. It has a proven ally: Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman.

Coleman was able to get voters to pass an income tax increase during the recession, although the vote was in August when fewer people are likely to vote. More voters turn out for November elections and Coleman indicated Monday he plans to lobby for their vote.

“We have to explain it, go out there and sell it and explain it to the people of our city. So you will actively campaigning? Actively engaged. Actively engaged,” Coleman said.

The operational and capital levy, as it is proposed now, is 9 mills. But the school board could vote to change it. It expects to finalize the levy next Tuesday.

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