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Voters in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Seattle Back School Levies

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When the ballots were counted in local elections last week, the big winners in several cities were those who were too young to set foot in a voting booth.

In Ohio, Cincinnati and Columbus voters easily passed tax levies needed to keep the cities' school districts afloat, despite having defeated similar proposals last fall.

"It's wonderful. This was the largest levy ever for Cincinnati schools," the districts superintendent, J. Michael Brandt, said.

"Given the economic climate that we are in and a multitude of other factors," Mr. Brandt said, "most people didn't give us a 5 percent chance for passing this."

In Seattle, voters overwhelmingly approved a $50-million tax levy to finance new technology and renovations in schools. And in San Francisco, a proposed city-charter amendment to protect and increase funding for children's programs won approval by a comfortable margin. (See related story, this page.)

Voter dissatisfaction with the condition of local schools, meanwhile, was cited in the victory of four reform candidates for the Cleveland Board of Education backed by Mayor Michael R. White, and in the defeat of two of three former Boston School Committee members seeking city council seats.

'We're Wildly Ecstatic'

The Cincinnati levy, which had been heavily promoted by the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, district officials, and business leaders, would raise $45 million a year for schools for the next five years.

A press release issued by the C.F.T. last week asserted that voters were swayed to support the levy as a result of deep cuts in the district's bureaucracy and the adoption of reforms such as a toughened discipline cede, higher academic standards, and a "no pass, no play" athletics policy.

"We're wildly ecstatic," Tom Mooney, the president of the teachers' union, said in a interview.

"It's a vote for reform," Mr. Mooney said. "It also was vote of support for the teachers. We had a raise tied to the levy, and everybody was aware of that."

The levy approved by Columbus voters would raise $50 million annually in new money for the school system for an unspecified number of years.

In a remarkable comeback from its rejection by about 60 percent of voters last fall, the levy this time garnered 56 percent of the vote, one of the largest victories ever for a school levy in Columbus.

Malcolm J. Porter, who backed the Columbus levy as assistant campaign manager for the group Citizens for Strong Schools, said the measure passed as a result of"an extraordinary grassroots effort" involving more than 100,000 phone calls and 5,000 yard signs.

"The school administration, the new superintendent, the chamber of commerce, and several community organizations got together," Mr. Porter said, "and decided to play for a win and to have an aggressive, well-funded campaign to put forward the argument for schools."

The Seattle levy, which received more than 62 percent of the vote, would raise $25 million to renovate deteriorating school buildings and bring them into cede and another $25 million for new computers, software, and vocational-education materials.

Triumph for Mayoral Slate

In Cleveland, all four of the candidates backed by Mayor White won school-board seats.

They defeated an incumbent, Mildred R. Madison, who was considered the Mayor's chief target, and several candidates said to have been recruited by the board's president, James M. Carney Jr., a rival of the Mayor's. (See Education Week, Oct. 23, 1991 .)

Lawrence Lumpkin, a current board member, Susan Leonard, a community activist, and the Rev. Leon Lawrence of the Greater Faith Baptist Church each were elected to four-year terms, while the Rev. James Lumsden of the Trinity United Church of Christ was elected to a two-year slot.

Mayor White had argued that his candidates would restore "sanity and morality" to a school board that he described as wasteful and ineffective. He had warned that the state might try to take over the district if his slate lost.

Political analysts in Cleveland said last week that there would be much less support for a state takeover, and much less likelihood of such a move, as a result of the election.

The analysts attributed the victory of the Mayor's slate largely to a massive last-minute television campaign mounted by a group of more than 100 ministers and community activists called the Coalition to Save Our Kids.

Most of the winning candidates also had been backed by the city's principal newspaper, The Plain Dealer, and the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland.

"It is a marvelous victory," said Janis Purdy, executive director of the Citizens League. "It shows the strength of the Mayor's leadership and the willingness of the community to pull together to change the politics of the school board."

Along with Ms. Madison, a veteran board member, the list of defeated candidates included a former board member, Joseph A. Costanzo, and several candidates who were widely regarded as having an advantage because their last names were locally well-known.

Union Chief Trounced

In Boston, incumbent Mayor Raymond L. Flynn took almost three- fourths of the vote to defeat Edward J. Doherty, the president of the Boston Teachers Union.

John Nucci, a former president of the Boston School Committee, earned a spot on the city council by finishing fourth in the race for four open seats.

Two other former members of the soon-to-be-abolished school committee, John Grady and Peggy DavisMullen, failed to get enough votes to win council seats.

Mayor Flynn was successful last summer in his drive to have the school committee abolished next year and replaced with an advisory board that he will appoint. (See Ed-Education Week, July 31, 1991 .)

The school-committee veterans who vied for city council seats were criticized by their opponents for the failings of the city's schools and the district's budget troubles.

Results Elsewhere

Among other results in the local elections held Nov. 5:

  • St. Paul voters defeated an attempt to a repeal a 1990 gay-rights law that critics said had forced private schools to hire homosexuals.

In the race for four school-board seats there, Choua Lee took the most votes of any of the eight candidates and will become the first Hmong to sit on the board.

  • In Dallas, Steve Bartlett, a former member of the Congress who had been one of the leading House Republicans on education issues, was elected mayor with 54 percent of the vote.

Mr. Bartlett, who resigned from the House to seek the mayoralty, had served on the Education and Labor Committee and two of its key education subcommittees. He has pledged to settle a long-running dispute over minority representation on the city council.

  • Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore was re-elected with 72 percent of the vote after a campaign in which he cited his efforts to reduce illiteracy.

Mr. Schmoke, a Democrat, had been attacked by his Republican challenger, Samuel A. Culotta, for allegedly failing to do enough to improve substandard schools.

  • In Worcester, Mass., almost 68 percent of the voters backed a non-binding measure that called for limiting the number of consecutive terms that members of the city council and the school committee may serve.

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