Sunday, October 31, 1999

Marchers rally for school tax


Music, performers add festive air

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        About 5,000 Cincinnati kids, parents and teachers rallied at Bicentennial Commons on Saturday and marched along the riverfront to show support for the Cincinnati Public Schools' tax levy on Tuesday's ballot.

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        On a summer-like day, their “Walk for Our Schools” took them about a mile down the riverfront to the construction site of the Bengals' new Paul Brown Stadium — a structure that wouldn't exist had Hamilton County voters not passed a sales tax increase three years ago.

        Now, the 5,000 marchers and other supporters of Cincinnati Public Schools are hoping district voters throw some money their way as well.

        “This community has to know that education for children is the best investment this city can make,” said Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who joined the marchers on their walk.

        Voters are being asked to pass a 4.5-mill, $24 million levy to cover inflation, restore a $180-per-pupil funding cut made last spring and fix school buildings.

        Most of the levy — about $21 million — would be a tax increase; and it would cost the owner of a $75,000 home $103 a year.

        By mid-October, backers of the school levy had already spent about $250,000 on a campaign with the theme of “Results,” touting progress the public schools have made in raising scores on proficiency, math and SAT tests.

        The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) has spent $12,000 on a radio ad campaign against the school levy.

        But on Saturday downtown, opponents were nowhere in sight.

        On the lawn in front of the Procter & Gamble Pavilion, thousands of schoolchildren rallied under banners with the names of nearly all of the system's 70 schools. Even some of the city's Catholic schools sent delegations.

        Nearly everyone had a red-and-white “Results” sticker slapped on his or her chest; and the campaign committee sold “Results” T-shirts.

        The Taft High School band played, and the cast of Bye Bye Birdie from the School for Creative and Performing Arts entertained. Meanwhile, candidates for City Council and the board of education worked the crowd.

        “There's so much energy in this park, the grass here is going to grow 6 inches higher,” said school super intendent Steven Adamowski.

        Campaign organizer Brewster Rhoads said that between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday, hundreds of parents, teachers and students will be campaigning on 85 street corners, urging motorists to “honk for the schools.”

       



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