Lakewood OH
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Hey schools … No list for you!

Had comedian Jerry Seinfeld ever wanted to, he could have written a 30-minute show on “The List”: that compilation of items school districts dust off every three to 10 years when it comes time to pass an operating, an emergency operating levy or a bond issue.

Jerry would say to George Costanza, with his trademark smirk, “Have you seen The List? I have not seen The List and I would like to see The List. How can I make a decision without seeing The List?”

George, sitting across from Elaine Benes (who would be eating a big salad) would answer, “Who needs The List? You know The List. They chop busing, they chop sports, yada yada yada … You’ve seen one List you’ve seen them all.”

And on the edge of the booth seat would sit Kramer, expounding the virtues of homeschooling.

I have always understood The List as a functional item, a way to let voters know, “There are a certain few expenses over which we have control. Our money is running out. Without that money, these are the items we can cut to help balance our budget.”

This year, in North Ridgeville, voters will not have the benefit of The List as they go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide the fate of a 10-year, 4.9-mill emergency operating levy. Superintendent Larry Brown (to be played by the part of George Costanza’s father) is not providing a list.

Kramer (in his high-pitched, hair-flipping whine):

“I can’t make a decision without The List, Jerry!”

I should think by now people have The List memorized – you folks in Rocky River check me on this when you get your list with mandates from the state and current staff contract language locking many expenses beyond reach of the board.

Yet, I like the symbolic gesture of List denial. It’s new. It’s refreshing. The act caught my attention in a way that no list could have. The hypothetical pain of cuts is not to be feared by one group, but understood by all.

(The part of Elaine’s boyfriend, Puddy, will be played by the school board.)

Puddy, eyes ever half open: “I think I’ll cut school lunches today.”

Elaine (played by Jane voter): “What? Won’t kids starve?”

Puddy: “Eh, the state says they’re all overweight anyway, and we’re supposed to work on that, too. This way we do it and save money.”

And the Soup Nazi, played by the aggregate of years’ worth of legislative bodies sitting in Columbus, tells all of us, “No soup for you!”

I don’t want The List. Truth be told, I see its omission in North Ridgeville as an honest recognition by Superintendent Brown and the board that it doesn’t matter in the way that it used to. School funding has reached the point of absurdity. As the managing editor for three papers serving 12 communities, I see some districts excel at passing levies. I see some which excel in the classroom, despite their inability to pass levies. In the former, The List hardly makes a show. In the latter, its presence is starting to be seen by more residents as punitive. Its functional purpose was driven out of existence by Newman … that is to say legislators … who leaves the job of delivering anything half done.

So forget The List. I was OK with it; never felt threatened by it. But, I don’t need no stinkin’ list to understand the issue with “Money in should equal money out.”

Let levies pass or fail based on whatever understanding people are able to pull together, as we all scream into the wind, “Serenity now!”

Oh, and one more thing. On the pages of West Life this week you will find a letter from Westlake school board candidate Robert Bodi which leads, “The Westlake School District is currently heading into a period of deep fiscal crisis, but you would be hard-pressed to see this fact being reported in our news media … If you rely on their analysis, you would think that just because American Greetings is moving to Westlake, that all is rosy in this district.”

Mr. Bodi, I publicly, and respectfully submit that the issue is one of absolute vs. relative measurements of a district’s finances. Absolutely things should change with school financing in the state of Ohio. Relatively speaking, the situation in Westlake would seem to be better.

 

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