Ideas for Saving Cleveland

Cleveland has never been a glamorous town, but it used to be lively and successful. Now it’s a poster boy for Rust Belt decline. It doesn’t have to be that way.

To confront the public policy options for America’s decaying cities, reason,, and the Reason Foundation teamed up with Price Is Right host Drew Carey—one of Cleveland’s most famous native sons and tireless boosters—and worked on ways to get the city out of the doldrums. The result was a series of videos, policy papers, and articles, all viewable at, urging Clevelanders to take a hatchet to their regulations, privatize government functions, abandon corporate welfare projects, and bring consumer choice to the schools to win back businesses and residents.

Will Cleveland take reason’s recommendations to heart? Well, the series made the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer twice, and the City Council has invited Carey to come make a presentation in person. If nothing else, we have started a conversation about some of urban America’s most intractable problems.

The following are condensed descriptions of Reason Saves Cleveland segments and corresponding Reason Foundation policy briefs. 

Fixing the Schools 

Cleveland’s public schools face a $53 million budget deficit, an enrollment drop of about 40,000 students during the last decade, and a scandalously low 54 percent graduation rate. Close to three-quarters of the district’s schools are either on “academic watch” or in an “academic emergency,” the state’s two worst categories.

To turn things around, Cleveland should rethink the way money moves within its school system. Education funds should be attached to each student, allowing him to carry it directly to the public school of his choice. Special-needs students can bring larger amounts of money, reflecting the extra help they need. Under such a system, administrators can use the money they attract for whatever they want, be it more instructors, more technology, or more supplies.

Cleveland also should promote charter school models and take a hard line with struggling institutions: Close failing schools. Open new schools. Replicate great schools. Repeat as needed.

The power of competition will drive success in education. The better the school system, the more people will want to move back into the city, and the more young parents will be willing to stay.

More here:


Archive: education

Privatizing Services 

The more fiscally sound a city is, the more attractive it is to current and prospective residents. Fiscal stability means citizens have less cause to fear tax increases or cutbacks in services. One tool Cleveland could use to help stabilize ailing city finances is outsourcing.

For privatization to be successful, it is essential that local governments identify sound measurements to compare competing bids fairly and to accurately evaluate provider fulfillment. With such measurements, a transparent process, and open bidding, contracting out swaths of services across several departments—such as public works, information technology, or facilities management—would help Cleveland realize economies of scale and cost savings while receiving better value for the money.

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