Letters to the Editor

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442

(Posted April 29, 2014)

Addressing impact of open enrollment at Jonathan Alder

During the most recent Plain City village council meeting, the negative effects of Jonathan Alder’s open enrollment policy on “our ability to grow as a village” were called into question.

Occasionally, I receive questions pertaining to the financial “drain” or “gain” an open enrollment policy can have on a district. Some people have suggested that the district revisit, amend or even discontinue its current open enrollment practices. While we don’t have information about the negative effects of Jonathan Alder’s open enrollment policy on the village of Plain City, we do have facts regarding the significant benefits and “gains” the district and our taxpayers receive as a result of the policy.

In 2005, the school board approved an open enrollment policy that allows a student to attend Jonathan Alder schools if his or her family resides in another district (e.g. Fairbanks, Dublin, Hilliard, London, Southwestern). For each student attending Jonathan Alder through open enrollment, the district receives $5,745 from the State of Ohio.

For the 2013-14 school year, Jonathan Alder welcomes 137 students through open enrollment which generates $788,000 of revenue for the district. This accounts for 3.5 percent of our total income for the 2014 fiscal year. Since the implementation of the District’s open enrollment practice in 2005, the district has received $5,566,000 in revenue from the state for out-of-district students.

If the school board were to reduce or discontinue open enrollment practices and “close its doors” to students/families living outside Jonathan Alder’s boundaries, the result would essentially be a loss of over $780,000 of annual revenue. The burden for “replacement” of this revenue would then fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers. The loss of 137 students of a total enrollment of 2,285 students (2013-14) over 13 grade levels would not afford the district the opportunity to reduce teachers/staff levels or reduce class sizes, as some may suggest. A 5.7 percent reduction in enrollment would simply reduce our revenue and force the district to make additional cuts in expenditures. In other words, we would still be required to operate at our current level of staff and services offered to our in-district students with $780,000 less.

Following the staff and program reductions in May 2013, the district did not accept any new or additional students for open enrollment for the 2013-14 school year. As in previous years, the district has only accepted open enrolled students where space, staffing, supports and services allow. It is the district’s commitment to continue to balance the requests for open enrollment with the revenue generated through this policy and with the expenditures required for providing the high-quality programs and services our students need.

Our strong community, together with strong schools, creates a positive environment for our students and families who call Jonathan Alder home. The district would welcome the opportunity to provide the village council with additional information regarding our open enrollment policy and its impact on the school district.

Gary Chapman, superintendent

Jonathan Alder Local Schools

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Support high quality schools; vote for JA levy

I am writing to support the Jonathan Alder Local School District’s levy on the May 6 ballot because the funds would allow the district to strengthen course and program offerings as well as technology.

As a result of over $1 million in cuts made in 2013 and reductions in state funding, many of the services and programs offered to district students were negatively impacted and/or reduced, class sizes are larger, there is no wireless connectivity and campus computers are more than seven years old. Students are performing at high levels while the district received approximately the same amount of funding from the state as it did back in 2007.

Levy passage would provide: necessary intervention and gifted services; increase opportunities for tutoring, guidance services and individual student support; strengthen preschool, kindergarten and early childhood education as required by law; strengthen elective courses; replace outdated instructional materials, textbooks and resources; and install wireless access in the high school, junior high and Monroe Elementary.

The 0.5 percent earned income tax would generate $1.325 million annually for seven years. The amount taxed depends on income. For example, a person that makes $50,000 a year would pay an additional $20 a month. It’s important to note that an earned income tax would not tax senior citizens and individuals with fixed incomes. Social Security is not considered earned income. Earned income tax excludes interest, dividends, pensions, capital gains, rental income, lottery winnings and income earned by estates. Some Central Ohio districts already have similar income taxes in place to fund school operations.

In addition, Jonathan Alder has shown itself to be a prudent manager of taxpayer dollars. The district began the school year with the equivalent of 16 fewer positions and a 7 percent reduction in overall expenditures compared to the 2012-13 school year. The district also asked each administrator to take a salary freeze and concede 10 vacation days, resulting in a 4 percent reduction in administrator wages. And, the district is sharing a treasurer with a neighboring district—a cost savings of over $40,000 annually.

If this levy fails, Jonathan Alder students will fall behind due to the lack of accessibility in technology support, and students will experience further reductions in vital programs, resources and services. That’s why I urge residents of Jonathan Alder Local Schools to support high-quality schools and vote for the levy.

Richard C. Lewis, executive director

Ohio School Boards Association

Columbus

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Support Alder students

No one wants to pay higher taxes, however a case can be made where one tax is less painful than another.

School boards across Ohio have had a revenue problem for a long time. This is due to a poor method of calculating what aid Ohio gives to districts. It rewards the wealthiest districts and penalizes the poor districts because the calculation relies heavily on real estate values. The legislature has been ordered by the Supreme Court to resolve this revenue issue several times but they ignore the court order. Over the past six years, our district has not seen an increase in state aid.

Higher property taxes place a great burden on individuals who own real estate in smaller districts (such as Jonathan Alder) where the taxes cannot be spread over a wider group of people. Larger school districts do not have this problem. Compounding the real estate issue is the fact that senior citizens often are the ones who own real estate in the Jonathan Alder district; they cannot recover the higher property tax increase due to fixed incomes.

An income tax will spread the tax over a larger group of individuals, virtually taxing everyone in the school district. (Note: Jonathan Alder’s request for an income tax increase will not apply to Social Security income, pensions, income from investments or rental income.)

Citizens need to demand that their state legislators resolve the school funding issue. If, as a citizen, your intentions are to ignore public education’s needs, then remember that it’s the responsibility of the citizens of Jonathan Alder to educate our children. We cannot rely on some other government taxing program to do so. These students will be citizens of our community. They are our future taxpayers, so let’s support them with our tax dollars. It takes everyone working together to provide the quality education our children need and deserve.

Jerry D. May, former president of the Jonathan Alder school board

Plain City

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