READER’S OPINION: Submited by: Rick and Kim Donaldson
Rick-n-Kim Donaldson, the Donaldson’s reside in Loveland. (Provided)
School levy campaigns are all too frequently characterized by slogans meant to appeal to our emotions. We have a very fundamental drive to protect and nurture our children. As responsible citizens, we also feel a civic duty to support our community. So, it is easy to play on these emotions to convince us to pay ever-increasing school taxes. Even if we are skeptical of the value, we don’t want to be seen as denying the needs of our children. In this respect, the Loveland City School District’s March 17th levy campaign is not exceptional.
This year we are being bombarded with slogans such as: “Vote Yes for Children”, “Protect Our Progress” and “Strong Schools Create Strong Communities”. While hitting all the emotional buttons, these slogans are logically flawed and therefore are not a suitable basis for sound decision making. The basic flaw in all these slogans is the unstated assumption that increased funding will improve education. The data tell a different story. A 2014 Cato Institute study1 showed Ohio SAT scores did not improve from 1972 to 2012 despite increasing inflation-adjusted spending per pupil by 150%. Similarly, statistical analysis of 2019 Ohio Department of Education public school district data2,3 show no correlation between spending and performance after correcting for student demographic factors such as % disadvantaged students and % students with disabilities. In fact, student demographic factors account for over 78% of the performance index score variance among Ohio public school districts.
As shown in the included chart, Loveland’s performance is right in line with this correlation. Other studies, summarized by Professor Bruce Baker4,5, purport to contradict this conclusion but the quantified results are limited to showing some positive impact of increasing spending to reduce class size and/or increase teacher pay, primarily in poorer school districts where both were seriously deficient. The lack of correlation between performance and spending in Ohio school district data would seem to indicate that we have reached, if not passed, the point of diminishing returns where additional spending will not produce significantly better educational results.
– Chart prepared and provided by Rick-n-Kim Donaldson –
In addition to the logical flaw, “Strong Schools Create Strong Communities” is a serious overstatement. It is true that a strong school system is a prerequisite for a strong community, but it is not the only prerequisite. Strong communities also need to be able to compete with neighboring communities to attract residents and businesses. High taxes are not attractive. So, while it is in the best interest of the community to provide adequate funding for schools, it is imperative that we strike a balance wherein our tax dollars are managed efficiently for the benefit of our children. If we have indeed passed the point of diminishing returns, as the Ohio data seem to indicate, the 26% increase in operating expenditure we have seen since 2015 cannot be justified. Neither can the continued expenditure rate that necessitates an additional 6.95 mill permanent operating levy. This spending trend is more likely to drive out residents and businesses, and to leave the Loveland community less able to pay for needed school facility improvements in the future.
We will be voting no to the Loveland school levy on March 17th because we believe the tax increase will be detrimental to our community, and ultimately to our children. Our advice to those who are undecided: beware of anyone trying to convince you to substitute emotion for reason.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The preceding editorial opinion was submitted for inclusion by the authors and approved for publication in PEOPLE’S VOICE on Loveland Beacon by members of the Editorial Board of Loveland Beacon. The authors are not members of the Loveland Beacon staff and have received no compensation for their contribution. The Loveland Beacon encourages all voters to be informed, get the facts, visit: https://www.lovelandschools.org/March2020Levy.aspx
- Coulson, Andrew J. (18 March 2014). State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years. Policy Analysis, Number 746, CATO Institute:
- Ohio Department of Education District Profile (Cupp) Reports: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Finance-and-Funding/School-Payment-Reports/District-Profile-Reports
- Ohio Department of Education Expanded EFM Data & District Achievement/Rating Data: https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/download
- Baker, B. D. (2016). Does money matter in education? Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute:
Baker, B. D. (2017). How money matters for schools. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute: