Marathon School Board Meeting Sees Cleveland Teachers Union Confronting Administration

click to enlarge Teachers face the board. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
Teachers face the board.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District teachers packed the auditorium at Collinwood High School last night and confronted the administration for more than hour over budget cuts that aren't matching individual schools' needs.

The district funding model — "student-based budgeting" (SBB) — has the money follow the student. On its face, teachers conceded, it sounds ideal. But with declining enrollment across the board, most schools are left with demands to slash budgets and staff for next school year — $3.4 million districtwide — a move that teachers say will inordinately cut actual support for each student. Enrollment is projected to fall by 375 students next year.

One teacher explained that the SBB model is predestined to "dismantle" the district and boost charter school enrollment. Even in simple terms, the funding perpetuates a cycle: As budgets are cut, students flow out of the district, which in turn forces budgets down further.

In a broader sense, the unionized teachers were angry that the rhetoric surrounding the Cleveland Plan has yet to match up to the reality. Teachers referenced many times the 592-day countdown on the district's website, which signals the next levy renewal attempt. They reiterated that the community would be happy to pass that measure once even the most baseline operating levy promises come into effect (working heat in buildings, for instance, or gym time that doesn't cram two full classes into the lesson at once). 

It was also notable that most of the people who spoke out against the administration were retired teachers or in union leadership positions. One retired teacher told Scene that the culture of fear at CMSD is "worse than it's ever been," with looming threats of reprimand for any teacher who speaks out against policy. 

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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