Editorial: Issue 44 for the Cincinnati Public Schools deserves a yes vote

The entire community will benefit
Posted at 6:00 AM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 06:00:07-04

For children, going to preschool means a lot more than snacks and playtime.

For a lot of kids, especially those growing up in disadvantaged homes, it can be the start they need to propel them to better things. In fact, getting more kids into good preschools could help answer some of our community’s problems, such as crime, drug abuse and poverty. Studies prove it.

That’s a big reason why we’re endorsing Issue 44, the Cincinnati school levy. It would raise $15 million a year to pay for a new plan to give more children the benefit of going to preschool. It’s a chance for Cincinnatians to do something innovative and concrete to help pull kids out of poverty and improve their chances of living productive lives.


Issue 44 is actually an unusual school levy – it has two parts. In total, it would raise $48 million a year in new property taxes. After preschool expansion, the rest of the dollars – about $33 million a year, would be for the school district’s operating expenses, improving counseling and college readiness in high schools, buying computers and strengthening curricula in the neighborhood schools.

We believe that money is needed too, because Cincinnati’s last winning school levy was eight years in ago, in 2008. Since then, its enrollment has started to grow. Its expenses have gone up too, along with inflation.

Deficits Forecast

But as enrollment and expenses grew, state funding took a big cut. Now, Cincinnati schools face big deficits and more cuts unless the levy is passed. That could unwind some of the progress the school district has made in improving graduation rates and test scores.

CPS and Preschool Promise decided to combine the two requests to create one education levy, rather than two separate ones that probably would have resulted in a bigger tax request. Combining them is also a way to better align an expansion of preschool with Cincinnati’s kindergarten through eighth grade programs. Because good preschool is just a start. Kids need good elementary schools to follow.
Improving our schools can improve the entire community. That’s especially true of this new investment in good preschool, which can help lift kids out of poverty. That’s a priority in our city, where 47 percent of the children live below the poverty line. That’s more than twice the national rate.

The Benefits of Preschool

Studies show that if kids attend good preschool, more of them will graduate from high school. They’ll earn more income and so pay more in taxes. Crime is reduced, so is child abuse. The benefits of preschool can be long-lasting, and studies show it can have a positive impact in other areas.

In Michigan, kids who had attended good preschools were 15 percent less likely to be held back a grade and 10 percent less likely to need special education classes.

In Chicago, good preschool meant a 14 percent better chance of graduating from high school. And the impact lasted into adulthood, resulting in less drug abuse and fewer run-ins with the cops and the courts.

Another Michigan study showed “significantly higher reading and mathematics assessments” as late as sixth grade for kids that had attended quality preschools

We'll Be Watching

We did not take this proposal lightly. This is a big tax request – 7.89 mills – that would raise property taxes about $277 a year on a $100,000 Cincinnati home. Our editorial board wrestled with the size of the ask and researched the school district’s financial picture. We decided that our school district needs it, and our kids need it. 

This is a five-year levy, so in five years we’ll have an opportunity to assess whether this investment is paying off, and vote up or down on a renewal. We’ll monitor how the money is spent, how the preschool expansion unfolds and whether the school district continues to make progress.

We urge you to vote yes on Issue 44, the Cincinnati Public School and Preschool Promise levy.