Michael D. Clark reports:
Not since the 1970s has Southwest Ohio seen one of its largest districts suffer the type of ballot losing streak Lakota Schools hopes will end Tuesday.
Ohio’s eighth largest school system has seen six of seven school tax issues rejected by voters since 2004 and hasn’t passed a new operating levy since 2005.
From 1972 to 1979 Cincinnati Public Schools – the largest district in Southwest Ohio – lost six consecutive levies.
Most recently in Butler County’s Lakota district, officials have seen voters reject two levies in 2010 and one in 2011.
Now, after slicing $20.8 million from its budget, freezing some salaries, eliminating hundreds of teaching jobs and busing for thousands, Lakota is staring at an historic vote that will either financially rescue the district or push it closer to insolvency and possible state control.
“All levies are crucial but this one takes on a different level of importance due to the cuts that have already been made,” said Joan Powell, a 16-year veteran of the Lakota Board of Education that governs the 17,065-student district.
“The school board and district have tightened our belt, re-evaluated all programs, re-allocated resources, received financial concessions from our employees, asked parents to pay among the highest fees for extra-curricular activities in the state, reduced transportation and made difficult eliminations in curricular offerings. Lakota has stepped up (and) we have balanced the budget,” Powell said.
“It is now time for the community to realize that Lakota is a very different place; our students are experiencing educational losses,” she said.