COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus City School Board president said it’s not the right time to ask voters to approve a permanent improvement levy and bond issue that would’ve helped pay for upgrades, improvements and repairs to the district’s aging infrastructure.
The school board voted Tuesday night to remove the issues from the November ballot.
Recent 10 Investigates’ reports highlighted safety issues inside Columbus City Schools. Inspectors with the Columbus Public Health have flagged problems in 32 CCS schools since March. The issues ranged from missing or leaking ceiling tiles, to lead paint that’s peeling and flaking off ceilings, to water intrusion, loose bricks among others. You can see our reporting here and here.
The conditions inside the district's schools have become a focal point of the ongoing labor dispute between the state’s largest school district and its teachers’ union. The two sides are set to have another round of mediation talks on Thursday ahead of a CEA membership meeting on Sunday where it’s believed the members could vote to strike ahead of the start of the school year – set for Aug. 24.
CCS board president Jennifer Adair said that 10 Investigates’ reporting or the current labor dispute between the district and the union had no impact on the board’s decision to table to the levy and bond issue.
“The CEA negotiations and your reporting on buildings have nothing to do with the Board's political decision last night,” Adair wrote in an email to 10 Investigates. “Putting a ballot measure on for the electorate to consider is about timing— always.”
Her email continued, saying:
“The Columbus Board of Education knows a permanent improvement levy to establish a dedicated funding stream is the root cause solution to proactive building maintenance, repair, and replacement in our District. In addition, the Facility Master Plan building segments, establishing new learning communities, is one of the root cause solutions to better student outcomes by providing structures for more rigor, experience, and opportunities for our students— in alignment with other District's learning communities across this State.
Both of these must happen for our District to improve. But, again, this is what our community asked this Board to do, and we will - just at a different time.”
Citing the current economic situation where more families might be inconvenienced by having to support another tax-based levy, board member Carol Beckerle said: “This is a sad moment for me. And I think for a lot of us, this is going to delay things. And there are an abundance of reasons why we had to make this to do with the economy, and fearfulness that it's not the right time for our community has to do with community dynamics of other sorts that we have to be in this together in order to succeed and we're not there right now. And that's really, really unfortunate for our kids…”
Other board members made additional remarks during Tuesday night’s school board meeting, including Adair who said: “1/4 of the battle to get the air conditioning in or to update the heating system. It's about maintaining, repairing, proactive replacement. It's about creating those learning environments that are going to support the portrait of a graduate that this community has told us they wanted. That's what this is about. And you know, it is about timing. And so we know that this is not the right time, because we know we want when we do this everyone to stand with us, for our children.”