September 17th, 2016

roldo bartimole squareDoes this put the lie to Cleveland’s resurgence? Does this mark Cuyahoga County as seriously troubled? ¶A school system (Cleveland) with four Fs. Ignore it, say city leaders by their ease in avoiding it. ¶Will the Atlantic magazine send one of its top editors to lead a stacked panel to lift banners of Cleveland as the resurging example of the comeback of cities? It did. What nerve. What nonsense.

No. They’ll ignore the dead body in the middle of the room.

Three local city school systems finished among the bottom four in the latest State of Ohio grading of all its school systems.

At the bottom were Cleveland, of course, Warrensville Heights and East Cleveland.

All in Cuyahoga County. How’s that County Executive Armond Budish? Where are you hiding?

It’s a shame. But the Cavs won a championship and the Indians could win, too. So all’s not so bad.

Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O’Donnell pulled no punches in a front page article about the state’s schools grading with this reminder quote:

‘If we’re going to ask for a significant levy, we better show results if we’re going to ask people to renew that levy,’ Gordon said when he and Jackson first proposed the 15-mill tax increase.

Gordon is the Cleveland school district’s CEO (superintendent) and Jackson, of course, is Mayor Frank Jackson. O’Donnell tells it straight.

The report could not have come at a worse time for Cleveland as it seeks both a 25 percent increase in the payroll tax and a renewal of a 15-mill property tax on the ballot in November.

The city also ignores the needs of the regional transit authority because it deals with the low end of the income ladder. Despair is a commodity ignored by mayor, council and county government.

RTA should stop service for a day. How does that feel Cleveland?

In every way, at every point, it’s the thrust of leadership – mayor, council, civic, corporate – to ignore the necessary for the desirable.

This is a community sickness. With no doctors in sight.

At the same time the sale of Terminal Tower promises once again tax abatements and a TIF, both diversions of property taxes, which mostly would go to the Cleveland school system. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been forgiven by abatements and lowered tax values around and adjacent to just Public Square in the last 20 years. Most of the revenue would have gone to the schools.

(These are the guys—Ratners, Millers, Jacobs and others—who have rigged (Yes, they DO!) the local system to benefit themselves via subsidies and more. They and their front groups “fix” the system and buy mayors and councils. It gives government the bad name guys like Donald Trump can seem legitimately challenging authority as corrupt. Because, really, it is.)

The recent panel, led by an Atlantic magazine editor, included, as usual, no one who would challenge the civic/corporate leadership in this town. Another fixed deal.

Who were the discussants? The panel was made up of people as Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic, Mayor Jackson, an executive of the Cleveland Foundation and of the, if you can believe it, the LeBron Family Foundation.

This panel screams “The Fix is In.”

This is a panel predetermined to have no strong or even mildly negative views of what has been happening for the last several decades of Cleveland history. This history has been marked, as I have written repeatedly, with indifference to the needs of the needy and extreme sensitivity to the financial needs of the non-needy.

Here’s how a note of the panel starts as if the Cavaliers and the Republican Convention suggest the city’s humming:

Cleveland is coming off one heck of a summer, starting with the Cavaliers’ remarkable championship run for the NBA title, and ending with a surprisingly unremarkable Republican National Convention.

Back to the four Fs. The grades for Cleveland schools.

This is 40 years after Judge Frank Battisti “devastating” ruling on Cleveland’s segregated school system. It was supposed to change. It did. Got worse.

Forty years ago I wrote in a 12-page piece that for 35 previous years (75 years total now – that’s a lot of neglect) this was the judge’s assessment of the Cleveland schools:

“One simply has to read the document to appreciate how tight a case the NAACP has against Cleveland school boards and administrations of at least the past 35 years.

“Like a slow moving, but powerful, sledge hammer, the ruling drives giant metal spikes in an iron coffin of deceit that houses Paul Briggs and his predecessor superintendents – and their pleas of innocence.” School superintendent Briggs was the corporate darling of that day. He continually lied about the rate of Cleveland students who went to college. Even Homer Wadsworth, then head of the Cleveland Foundation, found the Briggs claims laughable.

The full 12-page Battisti report is available by going to the CSU memory site.

We are winning our way to losing again. But cheering it as success.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Garry Kanter says:

    Add in the decades-long political party monopoly, and this is the whole story in a nutshell (except for certain quasi-governmental agencies and fixers who shall remain nameless).
    God Bless you, Roldo.
    “(These are the guys—Ratners, Millers, Jacobs and others—who have rigged (Yes, they DO!) the local system to benefit themselves via subsidies and more. They and their front groups “fix” the system and buy mayors and councils. It gives government the bad name guys like Donald Trump can seem legitimately challenging authority as corrupt. Because, really, it is.)”

  2. Edward Olszewski says:

    Bravo Roldo.

    How about the millions of tax payers’ dollars wasted on for-profit charter schools that could have been spent improving our public school system? How about the millions placed by our governor in his “rainy day fund?” The last time I looked out at Cleveland, it was pouring. How about the RTA and public transportation? Maybe Kasich could loosen up some of his “rainy day funds” to support our local transit system.How about Mr. Haslett’s recent donation of millions of dollars to for-profit charters instead of the Cleveland school system? Why does The Cleveland Museum of Art continue to hide the Hervey Rice statue (founder of the Ohio public education system) in storage now that the renovation campaign is completed??

  3. Thank for commenting Gary. I’m wondering what party most of these pols belong to, or whether there really isn’t any party anymore.

  4. Garry Kanter says:

    That it’s a monopoly makes the name on the building immaterial.
    They *all* report to the GCP and the Ratners.
    Which party platform does the GCP – the local chapter of the US Chamber of Commerce – support?

  5. Garry: It’s called the Money Party.

    Ed: Maybe you should be writing a column but you’re right there are so many places to watch. That’s why we need a more vigilant press.

  6. MFiala says:

    I just went to the State of Ohio’s meeting in Cleveland requesting feedback/suggestions on how the Ohio Dept of Ed should implement the new federal legislation, Every Student Succeeds Act. It was at Tri-C downtown.

    I told them .. fund public education, even if that wasn’t on the agenda.
    And the obvious: fund preschool for every child in Ohio.
    (And address poverty …
    and return the funds the state stole from all the schools ..
    and while you’re at it, ‘rescind tax abatement for corporations’ ..
    and on and on.
    It’s not complicated. Really.

    And what do we get? … the ‘Cleveland Transformation Plan,’ and its desperate attempt to convince us they deserve the tax renewal.

    One must listen to Eric Gordon’s city club speech to appreciate how desperate the cheerleading is.
    And Patrick O’Donnell’s article .. how many times did he quote the district saying:’we made progress, but still have a lot to do.’ All in an effort to convince voters.

    This whole school district report card system is a way to punish public school unions and privatize public education.

    Otherwise, if Solon teachers were teaching in Cleveland, Cleveland students would be high achievers and solve everything…
    because we know it’s only because Solon students have Solon teachers that they get such high grades …

    And there aren’t any results for charter schools,
    except when they stack the deck,
    ‘cherry pick students’ … no matter its illegality.

    Sure, teachers make a difference. They make a big difference to a student. But the State’s report card isn’t about that at all.

  7. Mike: You said it all and better than I could. Thanks for sharing.

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