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Education: Dayton Dilemma

2 minute read

Last week some youngsters in Dayton, Ohio (pop. 217,000) went to Y. M. C. A.s, some to libraries, some idled in the streets, some stayed at home. But none of the city’s 34,000 public school children went to school. They were thoroughly instructed by their elders, however, in how to mismanage a city.

Dayton’s schools were closed because the Board of Education was penniless, owed $61,936 and saw no money coming in before 1939. First screwy move to reopen the schools was an injunction issued by a common pleas judge. It was withdrawn when the schools stayed closed and the judge became impressed with the fact that schools cannot be run without money.

Next, Dayton’s 1,300 teachers were asked to work without pay until money was found. Having already given up $2,500 each on account of shortened school terms in the past eight years, the teachers refused.

Reason for schools’ closing in relatively wealthy Ohio may be obscure to outsiders, but it is no mystery to Ohioans. Four years ago property owners got an amendment to the State Constitution lowering the real-estate tax ceiling to ten mills. Since then the National Association of Manufacturers and other industrial interests have defeated attempts to get other revenues through higher income taxes. Meanwhile the State school aid fund has fallen $17,000,000 behind, left localities in the lurch. Only solution is special local tax levies by cities. One after another, all large Ohio cities except Dayton voted such levies, in some cases, notably in Cincinnati and Springfield, after schools closed.

This week Daytonians were to vote for the seventh time on a proposed special 2-mill levy. Even should Dayton’s chastened citizens vote for this tax, however, they will still have to do some deep thinking to find a way to reopen their schools before Christmas, for the new funds will not be available until next year.

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