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School officials in NOE eager to use new levy money
Some charter schools will be receiving some of that money.

Cleveland Schools CEO Eric Gordon addresses supporters at the levy watch party Tuesday night. Also pictured are Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, campaign manager Blaine Griffin, and school board members Willeta Milam and Denise Link.
Courtesy of Michelle Kanu
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After passing new tax increases, Akron and Cleveland school officials are anxious to put the money to good use. But, as Ohio Public Radio's Michelle Kanu reports, the levy funds won’t completely close existing budget gaps in either district.

Listen to Kanu's full story.

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The Akron Schools levy is expected to bring in $19 million a year, and Superintendent David James says that will go a long way in restoring some programs.  But the extra funds alone won’t keep their budget in the black.

“We promised our voters we were not going to put the burden entirely on them, so with the levy passing we will still have to make approximately 9 million dollars in cuts,” James says.

In Cleveland, schools chief Eric Gordon is in a similar situation.  Despite passing the district’s first new source of operating funds in 16 years, he faces a 13 million dollar budget hole. 

“It isn’t that we suddenly stop talking about money, or being concerned about money,” Gordon says. “We have to be very, very vigilant about how we use those dollars, but certainly it gives us a new set of resources to do some things better for our kids.”

Gordon says he’s planning to use some of the money to lengthen the school day for some elementary kids, and to invest in different models of schools. 

A handful of privately run charter schools that partner with the district are among those that stand to benefit.

John Zitzner founded Breakthrough Schools, one such group of charters connected with the district. 

“We know that in total all charter schools partnering with the district will have to share a little over 4 million dollars,” Zitzner says. 

State education dollars that go to local districts already follow kids to charter schools, but Zitzner says the sharing of local property taxes with charters is unprecedented in Ohio.  He says he hopes to see that expanded to school districts statewide.

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