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Mayoral candidate supports schools takeover

Columbus Public Schools has had its share of challenges over the past several years: school closings, safety issues, student enrollment loss. But the school system said it's bouncing back from those problems. Now Republican mayoral candidate Bill Todd said he wants to change the entire structure of the school system. He wants it to be under the mayor's control.

"If elected mayor on November 6, I promise to make sure we move on a road toward mayoral control of the city schools in Columbus," Bill Todd said at a news conference.

GOP mayoral candidate Bill Todd became emotional several times while explaining why he wants to shift control of the Columbus Public Schools from the school board to the mayor's office. He cited poor student performance, disparity in per pupil spending and safety concerns as some of the reasons why the school system needs new management.

He thinks city hall and Columbus Public Schools should amalgamate.

"Many of our major cities throughout the United States have taken the step of merging the efforts of city government in city schools into a unified system in recognition of the fact that the system that we set up in the 19th century where we separated governance of the city schools from city government is no longer effective in the 21st century," Todd said.

Columbus Public Schools spokesperson, Jeff Warner, defended the school district. He said the system has improved over the past five years.

"When you look at the graduation rate it's increased from 54 percent to nearly 70 percent in that five year period. Our performance index score which is one of the elements of the state report card has increased over the past five years to the point where the district is within just a point or so of reaching continuous improvement status on the Ohio Report Card making the district one of the largest districts in the state to attain that," Warner said.

Todd also spoke of the disparity among per pupil spending.

"In the city of Columbus funding per pupil ranges in the elementary schools between a high of nearly $23,000 per pupil to a low of under $7,000," Todd said.

Todd said this often affects minority children. And he suggested that Columbus Public Schools could be violating the 14th Amendment by not correcting the inequity.

Jeff Warner disagreed.

"I don't know that you can have exact equity or perfect equity among all students because when you consider all students have different needs that's not possible," Warner said.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's re-election campaign manager, Antoinette Wilson, said Bill Todd's proposal offers few details. She added, Todd has not voted for a city school election in the last 24 years.

"He has never lived in the last 24 years in the Columbus Public School system. You know, Bill Todd has ignored Columbus Public Schools and has not had a day or dollar has been spent supporting the kids," Wilson said.

Wilson would not say if Mayor Coleman was in favor of a plan like the one Todd proposed. But she did say Coleman has always been supportive of the partnership he has with the city school system.

If Todd is elected he said he will appoint a new school board shortly after taking office.