But the list calling to vote ‘No’ for the district’s levy is consequential
Young child on floor with head in knees and stats on homeless youth

When Channel 6 news recently called John Coneglio, president of the Columbus Education Association (CEA), he knew exactly how they were going to frame their story on the Columbus City School’s levy, or Issue 11. They asked Coneglio how to explain the Ohio Education Association’s annual grade given to Columbus City Schools. They gave the district a ‘2,’ which means the district is not up to state standards.

“Find me a failing district with rich people living in it,” Coneglio told the Channel 6 reporter, owned of course by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which everyone knows is anti-union, especially unionized teachers. “If I go to Dublin, Olentangy, or Bexley, are any of these school districts failing? Why not? This is what I asked Channel 6.”

He turned the table on Sinclair Broadcasting, which comes from a position that public school teachers aren’t worth their salary, benefits, and summer break.

Coneglio told the Channel 6 reporter to consider the socioeconomics of Columbus. Then consider how in rich districts the students live in the same house their entire time, they never go to bed hungry, they never have transportation issues, they have every need met, etc.

“We have kids who go to bed hungry. Maybe have one lightbulb in the house. May not have a washer and dryer. May be homeless. And they’re still coming to school and trying their best. And they’re doing things that would make suburban kids break,” said Coneglio.

This message, however, is not getting through to most of the community. The long and consequential list calling for a ‘No’ vote is sending a message to voters the levy is sunk. On this list is the NAACP, which says the district is not transparent, and mayoral candidate Joe Motil.

Motil and others say the City’s insistence on handing out tax abatements to developers like Halloween candy has forced Columbus City Schools to seek this levy. There are other underlying reasons as well, says Coneglio.

Those who are against the levy are the same people advocating for issues such as more affordable housing, and the district is actually dealing with this on a very personal and tangible level.

“Columbus City Schools is entwined in every issue single issue being advocated by the NAACP, Joe Motil, Mayor Ginther, Shannon Hardin, everything. We are part of this community. We play a role in helping the homeless, the most vulnerable, kids with trauma,” he said. “Those kids are coming to school thinking about something different instead of learning. They have some serious needs and some serious trauma. Which is why this levy is so important. We are going to be losing some of these positions where these teachers work with these kids. These positions are important.”

According to the district, the $7.7 million levy would cost a property owner $269.50 annually per $100,000 of appraised value. Due to property value changes resulting from the 2023 reappraisal process, the cost per $100,000 of appraised value will be less than this.

The district’s Project Connect, teachers who work with the homeless, will be cut if the levy fails. Nurses, counselors and social workers, as well.

“The federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds allowed us to propel this work at lightning pace. Now it’s time for us to reexamine and incorporate this into our everyday business functions,” said Columbus City Schools Superintendent/CEO Dr. Angela Chapman in a statement on the district’s website. “This would maintain our momentum. We want to make many of these improvements permanent. This ask represents one-third of the operating funding the district received from ESSER.”

The Free Press has family and friends who have spent what seems like a lifetime as Columbus City schools’ teachers. They are a close-knit group, often talking about their craft and what they can do better. But some parts of the community say because the district has done so poorly the teachers must not be capable of turning the district around. What the Free Press knows, and wants others to know, is that many Columbus City School teachers are doing everything they can to make the district better. Go hang out with them yourselves if you have any doubts.

“The levy is for sure needed,” said a CEA union rep who did not want to their name for publication. “All of those positions will be gone, and at this point, they have really been helping. Family ambassadors – gone. Building maintenance and new buildings – gone. It’s sad because the board has done such a marvelous job at misappropriating funds that they’ve lost the trust of the public, and the public wants to punish the board members rather than do what’s best for kids.”