By now, we all know – or should know – that Gov. Kasich has endorsed a new tax! Yep. The four-year, 15 mill Cleveland school district levy on the November ballot. And the tax-hating guv did it despite adding his signature to madman anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge. If ever there were a case of the blind leading the blind!

But Kasich’s remarkable about-face is not without history.

Back in June, he signed the law granting Cleveland wide berth in school reforms – the so-called Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. Of course, dramatic and substantive change is needed to salvage a devastated system. Its annual cost to the homeowner has been projected at $294 for a $64,000 home. But there’s hardship all around. The Ohio Department of Education’s 2011-12 report card put the Cleveland district at the very bottom of the list as an “academic emergency”.

Unless you close your doors forever, it can’t get worse than that.

At the time of the law’s passage by the General Assembly, Kasich backed away from a full-throated endorsement of the tax. The distance between supporting the law but advancing a biennial budget with deep cuts in public education funding drew moans from critics. Which governor were the schools dealing with on school financing?

Among the cheerleaders, however, was Mayor Frank Jackson, shown lately in a tight embrace of the governor. Jackson is touching all of the bases to find school money.

Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin, who has labored for years through the travails of the Cleveland system, wrote that there were three possible outcomes from the levy vote – and two are bad. If the measure passes, he said, “the benefits to Cleveland and the entire region would prove immeasurable.” But if there is no improvement from passage, it would be time “blow up” the system and start in a years-long new direction. Finally, Larkin observed that one could not measure the damage to the city’s reputation if the ballot issue failed.

Meantime, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols, arrived with his customary fire hose whenever doubts are raised about his boss’ behavior. He went into a damage control mode for the questions raised about Kasich’s ad hoc fondness for taxes. In this instance, he said, the issue was not about wasteful government spending but would be well-spent on the same schools who got less money from the state budget. He added that there could be no doubt about Kasich’s concern for schools because if he lived in Cleveland he would vote for the levy.

But Kasich doesn’t live in Cleveland and that was the problem when he signed the biennial budget as well as that awful pledge from Grover Norquist.

 

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