Sunday, August 29, 2004

Cleveland: No.1 in poverty

Friday's headline screamed "Cleveland No.1 in big-city poverty".

The subheadline; "Nearly half of children among the poor" was not news to any CMSD teacher.

It was news to Greater Clevelanders who skirt the neighborhoods via the freeway to arrive, unsullied, at their downtown destinations. It was apparently also news to Mayor Campbell, who is now moved to hold meetings to discuss the issue since the 'crisis' is getting noisy.

Today's Plain Dealer asked the question of it's readers: "What's at the root of high poverty?"
(I'm afraid I have to resort to an adolescent response here)

Well, DUH!!! It's a lack of education.

Only 14.3% of Clevelanders have a bachelors degree, and less than 40% of CMSD students graduate from high school. Racism led to a disfunctional school system which contributed to disfunctional families which contributed to an uneducated population which led to high poverty rates.
The answer to fixing the problem is, of course, education. The answer to fixing education is infinitely more complicated...if you are looking at kids in the the public schools.

But do we have to start there? There may be another door.

I will not take any credit for this idea, it belongs to Bill Callahan, but I will certainly champion it, as it makes sense and it is do-able: Send Cleveland to College.

I am reposting Bill's blog from June of 2003.

Later I will post my spin on what could be a realistic way to climb out of our economic blackhole.

Callahan's Cleveland Diary 6.22.2003

PRIORITIES: Here's something to ponder about Cleveland's economic development strategy:
In the last census, Cleveland had a strikingly low percentage of four-year college graduates among our working-age residents... only 11.4%, which essentially tied us with Detroit for last place among the 50 biggest U.S. cities.
Among the same 50 cities, we ranked 45th in the percentage of our young adults (18-24) enrolled in college or graduate school. (I'll send you the spreadsheet if you're curious... .)
The
"business community recommendations" for a new Convention Center include a new quarter-percent increase in Cuyahoga County's sales and use tax to help pay the debt service on the proposed bond issue. That dedicated sales tax would raise about $40 million a year, based on the county's existing 1% tax which raised $157 million in 2002.Tuition and book costs to get an associate degree at Tri-C, and then finish a bachelor's degree at CSU, add up to about $16,000.
So the annual revenue from that proposed Convention Center sales tax hike could send 2,500 young Clevelanders to college -- full ride. In ten years, it could pay for enough full scholarships to double Cleveland's current supply of working-age college grads!
Whaddaya think? What's a better investment for the city's future... 25,000 college-educated workers, or a Convention Center?

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