As a native Clevelander, when I see “The Cleveland Plan” I see a plan built to help a district that has been constantly abandoned, financially embattled, and constantly reimaged without a long term approach to 1) Keeping students in CMSD schools, 2) attracting grassroots choice schools into the city. However, the plan allows for continue inhibition and promotes an over-reliance on the city’s charter school network, Breakthrough Schools.
One of the most inhibiting things of the plan is that it pays too much respect to geopolitical and racial boundaries that exist in the Greater Cleveland area. In Cuyahoga County alone, there are 31 other school districts, seven of which are struggling either to remain solvent or to support students. For example, Garfield Heights City Schools recently cut out lunch for its students not supported by the free/reduced lunch program and made drastic changes to its school hours, Parma City Schools recently closed some of its schools,made changes to its bussing system, and is working out a way to become complaint with Special Education requirements again and Warrensville Heights and East Cleveland City schools have yet to make comebacks. However, the plan only focuses on Cleveland Metro Schools while leaving these surrounding communities to struggle. This failure to widen the focus allows for underperforming charters to fly under the radar and promotes a continued weakening of Greater Cleveland’s public education network.
The plan, while it promotes a move in a positive direction for some of Cleveland students, fails other students and makes district-to-district collaboration something unlikely to happen. The plan should create a consortium of Cuyahoga’s 31 districts and districts from bordering counties to use Ohio’s Open Enrollment Program for Public School Districts that allow students to move throughout districts regardless of their physical address. This would reduce the amount of money Cleveland Metro schools pay out to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in school transportation costs to charter schools, reduce the number of students waiting on enrollment to charter schools, and allow charters to remain small schools of choice. It would also allow students from neighboring communities to attend Cleveland’s flagship schools at its John Hay campus and the temporary Cleveland School of Arts campus. It would further allow districts to reduce the number of school facilities, like in the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland where schools literally sit around the corner from each other, and allow students to attend schools that are better prepared for them.
However, in Greater Cleveland such a plan is far from even being imagined. The area’s school district map acceptance map is clearly indicative of that and because its the case it pushes students who are fed up with their home district to be pushed into charters or onto the states voucher choice program.