School Levy Profile: Akron Public Schools

Named a “School of Promise” for the second year in a row for its work to close the achievement gap, Akron Public Schools, APS, is the fifth-largest district in Ohio, serving 22,000 students at 10 high schools, 9 middle schools, and 31 elementary schools. Overcoming the issues that plague all urban school districts, APS also earned a “Continuous Improvement” rating from the Ohio Department of Education.

Akron Public Schools has been “belt-tightening” for years, most recently cutting $19 million from its budget by eliminating 200 positions, reducing salaries and increasing health insurance contributions, and by eliminating band and orchestra for elementary students, and all sports for middle school students.

APS has exemplified “doing more with less,” so it should come as a surprise that the Kasich administration actually cut state funding to the district by $19.8 million in its latest budget.

These cuts have seriously jeopardized the progress APS has made in recent years.

Faced with a $27 million deficit in the next school year, APS was forced to go to the ballot box. Recognizing that many property owners are still suffering from the recession, APS decided to ask for a 7.9 mill levy to generate $19.2 million, $8 million less than the operating deficit in FY2014.

That means that even if the levy passes, APS will still be required to make an additional $8 million cuts. If the levy fails, that number will rise to $23 million. In either scenario, that means more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer electives, and fewer or no extracurricular activities.

Gov. Kasich’s budget made sure that things would get worse for Akron’s students—the only remaining question is by how much. We’ll find out on November 6th.