Bill Would Give Cleveland Mayor Control of Schools

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A bill that would give control of the Cleveland public schools to Mayor Michael R. White is expected to reach the Ohio legislature this month.

The plan, based on the recommendations of an advisory panel appointed by the mayor and Superintendent Richard A. Boyd, calls for the mayor to appoint a nine-member school board and choose a chief executive officer to run the 74,000-student system.

The district has operated under a state-appointed superintendent since a federal judge gave control of the system to the Ohio education department in March 1995. The new proposal is modeled after arrangements in Boston and Chicago.

The plan has run into stiff opposition from the Cleveland Teachers Union, elected school board members, and some parents.

They are protesting that citizens would not get to vote in a citywide referendum on the arrangement until 2001, four years after the pilot would begin.

"What we're basically fighting for is to allow the community to vote on this thing now," said Meryl T. Johnson, who chairs the union's community-relations committee.

The CTU has been at odds with the mayor since Mr. White opposed a pay raise for the city's teachers that was approved in a new contract this past fall.

Business Support

The proposal has been embraced by Cleveland Tomorrow, a group that represents the city's biggest 50 corporations, and by the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, which represents 5,000 area businesses.

"Anyone you talk to agrees that the system has failed the kids," said Rep. Michael W. Wise, one of two Republican lawmakers who plan to introduce the bill. "Yet, when you ask what went wrong and who's responsible, nobody has the answer.

"The goal here is a four-year program to see what results we get," Mr. Wise added. "And if we do not get results, the blame will be squarely on the mayor's shoulders."

In November, voters approved a property-tax levy that will pour about $67 million annually into the financially strapped district, which has an annual budget of about $600 million. ("L.A. Bond Proposal Nixed; Cleveland Levy Boost Approved," Nov. 13, 1996.)

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