Saturday, January 31, 2004

Reading needs levy for success, educator says



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

READING - When residents here last approved a school operating levy, in 1997, Reading district officials promised the money would last for five years.

It didn't. Instead it lasted seven years, Reading Schools Superintendent Scott Inskeep told residents this week, because the district stretched every dollar.

But the tiny Hamilton County school system's recent academic success - it has been rated "effective" for the first time under the Ohio school rating system - is in danger because the district needs more operating tax money to continue improving, Inskeep told more than 30 residents during a public forum at Reading High School.

"We want to continue with the progress we've made," Inskeep said.

The 8.5-mill school operating levy, which would generate $1.8 million a year, is on the March 2 ballot. It would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $375 annually. In the last 23 years, Reading residents have approved only three school levies - the last being 1997 and before that in 1994 and 1981.

If the proposed property tax increase fails, Inskeep said, Reading school officials will be forced to consider an estimated $550,000 in cuts that could include some teacher layoffs, a reduction in administrators and school staff, cuts in athletic coaching and school technology positions, and fewer textbook purchases.

Also threatened are Reading's historically low class sizes, which Inskeep credits as part of the reason the 1,400-student district achieved its highest state rating ever.

"I think small class sizes make a big difference," he said.

Parent Vicki Solomon urged others to back the levy, saying: "Good schools make good kids and good citizens and that makes for good cities."

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E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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