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by German Lopez 08.22.2012
Posted In: News, Media Criticism, Education at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
gregwilliams

Why Did UC’s President Step Down?

Williams out after three years, 'Enquirer' publisher/UC board member doesn't know why

University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams stepped down yesterday. According to reports, Williams walked into a UC Board of Trustees meeting, announced he was resigning effective immediately and left.

Greg Hand, spokesperson for UC, said Williams resigned for “personal reasons.” No further explanation was provided by Williams.

Santa Ono, UC provost, is taking over temporarily as interim president. In a tweet, he promised to give the university 150 percent.

Williams was at UC since 2009. A year after arriving, he introduced his UC2019 plan. The plan seeks to make the university into a top school by 2019. The plan also implied Williams had long-term plans for UC, making his abrupt resignation even stranger.

The Board of Trustees seemed happy with Williams — at least happy enough to give him a raise. On Sept. 20, 2011, the Board gave Williams a $41,000 raise, bringing his salary up to $451,000. He also got a $102,500 bonus.

The news took UC students by surprise. Lane Hart, student body president at UC, told the school's independent student newspaper, The News Record, he was “shocked” when he heard the news. 

To give credit where credit is due, when The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported the story, the newspaper mentioned that Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher at The Enquirer, is on the UC Board of Trustees. However, The Enquirer did not mention asking Buchanan about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. Since then, The Enquirer emailed Romenesko saying Buchanan did not know any extra information.

Buchanan's ties to local groups the newspaper frequently covers have failed to be disclosed in the past. Previously, CityBeat found in stories related to 3CDC, which Buchanan is also involved in as a member of the executive committee, The Enquirer overwhelmingly failed to report the possible conflict of interest. The newspaper only reported the connection one out of 32 times, although the number could be inflated due to The Enquirer’s system of posting duplicate articles. In one particular story, The Enquirer praised 3CDC but failed to bring up Buchanan’s role overseeing publicity and marketing there.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.19.2012
 
 
amidala

Natalie Portman Supports Obama in Cincinnati

Obama campaign's Women's Summit appeals to Ohio women to vote, volunteer

Actress and acclaimed rapper Natalie Portman played up her Cincinnati ties in a Wednesday appearance at the Obama campaign-sponsored Women’s Summit at Union Terminal.

The Academy Award-winner said her mother graduated from Walnut Hills High School and her grandfather — Art Stevens — grew Champion Windows in Cincinnati after starting as a door-to-door salesman.

“Because of that, I see President Obama’s support of small businesses as so crucial to our economy,” Portman said, adding that Obama has cut taxes for small businesses 82 times since taking office.

Portman said the Republican Party and their presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did not have the best interests of women at heart. She pointed to attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s mandates that insurers provide birth control to women and ensure preventative care such as mammogram screenings for breast cancer is covered, as well a bill sponsored by Ryan and embattled congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that would eliminate all abortion funding except for cases of “forcible rape.”

“We need to stand up for ourselves,” Portman told the packed auditorium that was crowded with an audience of mostly women. “Our mothers and our grandmothers made giant steps for us. We can’t go backwards. We need to go forwards.”

Portman was joined by Obama Campaign National Women’s Vote Director Kate Chapek, former Ohio first lady Frances Strickland, Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece and Obama campaign volunteer Mary Shelton.

An Ohio Romney rep said the campaign did not have a comment on the Women’s Summit, but is hosting a “Women for Mitt” call night featuring former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in Kenwood on Thursday.

“Ohio women believe in the Romney-Ryan path for America that will result in lower taxes, less spending, less government and more economic growth,” said a release from Romney’s campaign.

The Obama event on Wednesday catered to women, with Chapek telling the audience she knew how difficult it was for women to get there with jobs and the challenge of getting their kids to school. She framed women’s role in the election as a conversation.

“The conversation starts like this: women, turns out, we’re not a constituency,” Chapek said. “Who knew? Apparently Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, because they don’t realize that women are actually a majority in this country.”

She told the women gathered to have conversations with their neighbors and friends and encourage them to volunteer at phone banks or knocking on doors.

Strickland talked about the need to reconcile qualities traditionally seen as masculine — like power — with those seen as feminine — like love.

She also took the opportunity to riff on a statement made by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said political wives were heroes because while they’re husbands were on stage in the limelight, they were at home doing things like laundry.

“I even did the laundry last night so I could come here today,” Strickland said. “Even (former Gov.) Ted does the laundry.”

Summit attendee Ray Boston, a 67-year-old retired writer for AT&T, said Natalie Portman’s presence caught his eye.

“I’m a celebrity photo enthusiast,” he said. “Nothing’s official until I’ve taken a picture of it.”

Boston said he didn’t vote in 2008, but felt the upcoming November election was too important to sit out. He said he was leaning toward voting for Obama and liked his health care overhaul, but was opposed to the president’s views on gay marriage for religious reasons.

Gwen McFarlin, who works in health care administration, said she was there to support President Obama. She supports his health care overhaul, but thinks it’s a first step to further changes.

She said she was encouraged by the diversity of the women in attendance.

“For me, I’m sure the women who are here represent all the world, not one issue,” she said. “We’re here as a group of women working to empower all the U.S. and the world.”

 
 
by German Lopez 04.16.2013
Posted In: News, Sex, Women's Health, Education at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Ohio House Bill Would Ban Comprehensive Sex Education

Republicans amend bill to prevent discussion, distribution of contraceptives in schools

With Republican support and Democratic opposition, the Ohio House Finance Committee approved a budget bill today that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call “anti-choice.”

Citing the possibility of “gateway sexual activity,” the bill would make it so teachers can be fined up to $5,000 if they explain the use of condoms and other forms of birth control to high school students. It would also prohibit individuals and groups from distributing birth control on school grounds.

The bill pushes abstinence-only education to curtail any promotion, implicit or explicit, of gateway sexual activity. To define such activity, the bill cites Ohio’s criminal code definition for “sexual contact,” which is defined as “any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast.”

The bill would also redirect federal funding to defund Planned Parenthood and shift funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

“Today the Ohio House Finance Committee voted to send our state back to the 1950s,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “The Ohio House is doing everything they can to restrict access to reproductive health care and medically accurate information that help Ohioans live healthy lives. (Gov. John) Kasich can stop these dangerous attacks on women’s health care. We need him to speak out against these budget provisions and to line-item veto these dangerous measures when they reach his desk.”

Researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.

A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.

When looking at three ways to prevent unintended pregnancies for a 2012 study, the Brookings Center on Children and Families found the most cost-effective policy was to increase funding for family planning services through the Medicaid program. In other words, if governments increased spending on birth control programs, they would eventually save money.

Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.

At hearings on April 12, anti-abortion groups praised abstinence-only education for promoting chastity.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.14.2012
Posted In: Education at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dohn

When Pizza Doesn't Work: Fixing Dohn Community High School

You've heard of prodigies who are offered full rides and stipends to attend universities, offered big money in hopes they'll become a golden poster child for the success of the school; a face of intelligentsia, promise and scholarship.

That's not the case for the the 170-some students at Dohn Community High School, who, as of Monday, are getting paid just for showing up to class. A new incentive program rewards seniors who arrive on time every day, stay productive and out of trouble with $25 Visa cards every week, while underclassmen can earn $10. When a student receives a gift card, $5 will be put into a savings account to be paid out upon graduation. Dohn, which is a charter school in Walnut Hills, is comprised of mostly drop-out recovery students from other schools and other at-risk students from nearby communities.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 09.11.2012
Posted In: Government, News, Education at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dave yost

State Auditor: Charter School Wasteful, Unethical

Hamilton County school overpaid in potential conflict of interest

State Auditor Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in downtown Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple instances — including potential conflicts of interest.

“Those who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars must take special care and spend them wisely,” Yost said in a statement. “This school appears to have management issues that must be addressed quickly.”

In a potential conflict of interest, the school paid Echole Harris, daughter of the school’s superintendent, $82,000 during the school year and $17,000 for a summer contract for the position of EMIS coordinator, who helps provide data from VLT Academy to the state. Mysteriously, the school did not disclose the summer contract in its financial statements. The school says the superintendent abstained from all decisions related to Harris and presented the summer contract to the school board. Still, Yost referred the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

The audit also criticized VLT Academy for approving a $249,000 bid for janitorial services that were owned and provided by a school employee. The bid was the most expensive among other offers ranging between $82,000 and $135,600. According to the school’s own minutes, “Each company states that they can deliver a work product that will meet or exceed the standards provided in our checklist,” adding little justification to the high payment and potential conflict of interest. The school insists its pick was the best qualified because it offered additional services. The bid approval was also referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

The school was found to be overpaying its IT director as well. Keenan Cooke’s salary for the 2010-2011 school year was supposed to be $55,000, but the school overpaid him by $3,333 with no record of intent. The state asked for Cooke and Judy McConnell, VLT Academy’s fiscal officer, to return the excess payment to the state. The school acknowledged McConnell's responsibility.

To make the potentially excess payments worse, VLT Academy had a net asset deficiency of $412,754 as of June 30, 2011, according to the audit. The school promised the auditor it will cut costs and find revenue generators to make up for the loss.

 
 
by Danny Cross 03.15.2012
 
 
hoffman

Lakota Anti-Tax Spokesman Booted For Derogatory Remarks

Rich Hoffman loses control over the NoLakota website he created

Local angry guy Rich Hoffman should have stuck closer to the Glen Beck style that made Butler County Tea Partiers like him — too much Rush Limbaugh got the bull whip performer ousted today by the local organization he helped start.

The Enquirer reported this week that Hoffman recently ranted on his blog about a vague group of pro-school tax women in the district, calling them prostitutes and describing how their husbands “roll them over at night and insert their manhood” before leaving hundred dollar bills in their purses, and then defended the remarks when contacted by The Enquirer.

The Enquirer’s early report (updated once Hoffman got the axe) included the following:

The head of the anti-school tax group NoLakota wrote on his internet blog site that Lakota school mothers are “just prostitutes to their husbands who do everything they can to be away from them aside from the occasional sex.”

“Their husband’s (sic) roll them over at night and insert their manhood into these women of the bedroom and hundred-dollar bills find their way into their purses. The women don’t know what the man does to earn the money, nor do they care. They are busy saving the world one child at a time with howls of safety and more regulations as they rush to the polling places at election time,” wrote Hoffman, who is also a bullwhip performer and periodic guest on local radio talk shows regarding Lakota funding issues.

A photo of Hoffman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a whip had been presented on the homepage of The Enquirer for most of Thursday, when NoLakota Treasurer Dan Varney told the newspaper that Hoffman had been banned from further association with the group. Varney said the group’s decision wasn’t in response to the publicity of The Enquirer’s report.

Hoffman’s writings also include a reference to “crazy PTA moms and their minions of latte drinking despots with diamond rings the size of car tires and asses to match, (they) plot against me with an anger only estrogen can produce,” The Enquirer reported.

NoLakota says it has removed all references to Hoffman’s personal website, called "Overmanwarrior's Wisdom," (overmanwarrior.wordpress.com), where he writes lengthy diatribes against public school funding, teachers and political opponents and in one post compared the pressure he was under to that which Rush Limbaugh faced after calling a Georgetown University student a prostitute and a slut.

Hoffman wrote:

The progressive mode of attack they use to protect their positions which cannot withstand scrutiny is to attack people like Rush Limbaugh whenever he says something they believe they can use against him in an emotional argument. Conservatives typically are terrible at playing this game with progressives because they tend to operate on a belief system rooted in the truth. So they can easily be attacked because if they cross the line, they feel bad about it, and that guilt is used against them to change their behavior in the future.

Hoffman’s blog also includes numerous clips from the Glenn Beck TV show, a lengthy story about film production inspired by Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and more several Star Wars clips.

Hoffman as of Thursday afternoon hadn’t responded to a request from The Enquirer seeking comment, and CityBeat never tried to contact him out of fear of him thinking we were treading on him.

The following is an eight-minute video published on the Overmanwarrior site titled “A Whip Stunt to Save America,” wherein Hoffman uses his patio table as a metaphorical Constitution, a bowl of water as American civilization sitting on top of a cup (everything we put our tax money into) and then whips the cup out from underneath without spilling civilization all over the Constitution and then says, “I don’t really understand the progressive way of thinking — they don’t really belong in this country in my opinion.”

 
 
by German Lopez 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
Posted In: News, Governor, Government, Education at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

State Superintendent Abused Position

Inspector General finds misuse of state resources, conflict of interest

Another day, another corrupt politician. Ohio's Inspector General released a report today stating that Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner was found to be in a conflict of interest when he testified to a legislative committee in favor of increased educator testing.

Heffner had secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS) prior to the testimony. ETS is a Texas-based company that provides testing services to schools. The report found the bill Heffner testified for "ultimately did benefit" ETS.

In other words, Heffner, as the head of the Department of Education, testified in front of the Ohio legislature to secure a deal that benefited a company he was working for.

As if that wasn't enough, the investigation also found that Heffner was using state resources to negotiate his employment with ETS. According to the report, Heffner told John Oswald, vice president of K-12 Assessment Solutions for ETS, to contact him through his office email and state-issued cell phone.

So not only did Heffner testify in the Ohio legislature to benefit ETS, he also used taxpayer resources for employment negotiations with ETS.

The offices of Gov. John Kasich did not seem pleased with the development.

“He is doing a very good job as superintendent, but using official resources the way he did and demonstrating that kind of bad judgment is unacceptable," says Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Kasich. "The governor is confident that the State Board of Education understands that and will take the right steps.”

Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education of Ohio, released a statement in reaction to the investigation.

“I appreciate the Inspector General’s thorough report and am disturbed by its findings," Tehrar said. "State Superintendent Stan Heffner is a dedicated educator who is committed to the education reforms Ohio needs for our children, but in this matter he demonstrated a woeful lack of judgment."

In a different statement, Heffner apologized for his "lack of judgment."

The State Board of Education will discuss the results of the investigation in its scheduled Sept. 10 and 11 meetings.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.28.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Budget at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding

Cincinnati Public Schools getting $15 million less than it did in 2009

Compared to the previous budget, the two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly Thursday increased school funding by $700 million. But the funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools received in 2009.

The result: Cincinnati Public Schools will receive $15 million less in state funding than it did in 2009, joining three in four school districts who have a net loss to funding between 2009 and 2015.

Still, Republicans are calling the funding boost the largest increase to education spending in more than 10 years.

“No school district in the state of Ohio will receive less funding than current levels,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans. “Eighty percent of Ohio’s students … are in one of the school districts that is receiving an increase.”

Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says the claim is dishonest because it ignores longer-term trends in funding.

“It’s like they cut off both of your legs, give you back one of them and say, 'You should thank us,'” he says.

Republicans defend the cuts by citing an $8 billion deficit in 2011, which had to be eliminated under state law. Some of the cuts from that previous budget directly impacted school funding, but the decreases also eliminated subsidies that previously benefited schools, such as tangible personal property reimbursements.

Dyer says the state budget situation has changed since then. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he argues state legislators should have prioritized education funding.

Another problem, according to Dyer, is how the increased funding is distributed. Although Dyer acknowledges the plan is more equitable than the governor’s original proposal, he says some of the most impoverished schools districts, particularly the poor and rural, will get the smallest increases.

Even if there was full equity, Dyer claims there’s not enough money going into education as a result of years of cuts. To illustrate his point, he gives an example: “If I’m going to go see Superman with three of my friends and it costs $10 each to get in, I’ve got $36 and I give everybody $9, none of us are getting in. Even though I perfectly distributed the money equally, … the fact is none of us are getting in.”

The budget’s tax changes could also impact future local funding to schools. As part of the changes, the state will not subsidize 12.5 percent of future property tax levies — something the state does for current levies. For local taxpayers, that means new school levies will be 12.5 percent more expensive.

That, Dyer argues, will make it more difficult to pass future school levies, and that could force schools to ask for less money if they want levies to get voter approval.

“The legislature and legislators are doing a real disservice to people to tell everybody that they’re getting an increase and no one is getting cut,” Dyer says. “They need to be honest with people.”

The budget also increases funding to “school choice” options, including the addition of 2,000 vouchers for private schooling that will be available to kindergarten students in households making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Republicans argue the vouchers give lower-income children access to schools and options in education that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

But a January report from Policy Matters Ohio found the extra mobility enabled by school choice options hurts student performance and strains teachers and staff by forcing them to more often accommodate new students.

The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it this weekend.

Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2013
Posted In: Education, News, Barack Obama, Democrats, Republicans at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
democrats

Democrats Call for School Board President's Resignation

Terhar compared Obama's gun control proposals to Hitler quote

Democrats are calling for the resignation of Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, who compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”

Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. She told The Dispatch that people who know her understand she was describing the “need to step back and think about it and look at history.”

When looking at history, there is no evidence Hitler actually said the quote in question. The Nazi leader referenced disarming the subject races,” according to Hitler's Table Talk, but the direct quote Terhar posted is unverifiable.

“I’m not comparing the president to Adolf Hitler,” Terhar said. It’s the thought of disarming citizens, and this has happened throughout history. What’s the true intention of the Second Amendment? It was to protect us from a tyrannical government, God forbid.”

Terhar’s stance could have an impact on school policies. She told The Dispatch, “Schools are gun-free zones. If you have someone who is bent on causing harm, where are they going to go? To a place where there is little chance of resistance.”

But when looking at different countries and states, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found a correlation between more guns and more homicides. More specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are at a larger risk for gun-related homicide.

Terhar was elected Jan. 14 by the 19-member Ohio State Board of Education to serve as president.

 
 

 

 

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by German Lopez 02.13.2014
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education, MSD at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_poverty

Morning News and Stuff

City’s poor struggle to break free, CPS gains nationwide praise, city and county head to court

With Cincinnati’s child poverty and economic mobility rates among the worst in the country, it’s clear the city’s poor can get stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Although the impoverished trend afflicts more than half of the city’s children, every level of government has in some way cut services to the poor. The end result: Many Cincinnati neighborhoods show little signs of progress as poor health and economic indicators pile up. Read CityBeats in-depth story here.

Following the adoption of community learning centers, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) continue receiving praise for establishing a workable model for educating low-income populations. Locally, independent data shows the model has pushed CPS further than the traditional approach to education, even though the school district continues struggling with impoverished demographics. A few hundred miles away, newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will implement the Cincinnati model in the biggest city in the nation.

Hamilton County and Cincinnati are heading to court to decide who can set policy for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The conflict came to a head after Hamilton County commissioners deliberately halted federally mandated MSD projects to protest the city’s job training rules for contractors. The Republican-controlled county argues the rules favor unions, burden businesses and breach state law, but the city says the rules are perfectly legal and provide work opportunities for city workers.

Commentary: “Legalizing Marijuana Is Serious Business.”

With HealthCare.gov mostly fixed, CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, who is leading the Ohio branch of an organization reaching out to the uninsured to get them enrolled in Obamacare.

Explainer: Everything you need to know about Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan.

University of Kentucky researchers found tolls would, at worst, reduce traffic on a new Brent Spence Bridge by 2 percent.

After raising concerns over teacher pay and missed classroom time, Republicans in the Ohio House delayed a vote on a bill that would add school calamity days. Gov. John Kasich called for the bill to help schools that have already exhausted their snow days during this winter’s harsh weather.

Ohio regulators fined Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino $75,000 for providing credit to early patrons without running the proper background checks.

Cincinnati-based Kroger faces a lawsuit claiming stores deceived customers by labeling chickens as humanely raised when the animals were brought up under standard commercial environments.

Cincinnati-based crowdfunding startup SoMoLend settled with Ohio over allegations that it sold unregistered securities and its founder misled investors. Candace Klein, the founder, resigned as CEO of the company in August.

Comcast intends to acquire Time Warner Cable, one of two major Internet providers in Cincinnati, through a $45 billion deal.

U.S. physicists pushed fusion energy closer to reality with a breakthrough formally announced yesterday.

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Got any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.07.2014
Posted In: News, Education, MSD, The Banks at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City, schools to collaborate, protesters call for MSD work, some question The Banks’ success

Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Board of Education leaders yesterday announced a new collaborative that aims to share and align the city and Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy goals. The initiative will focus on five areas: population growth, workforce development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to technology. City and school officials say the collaborative alone won’t hit their budgets, but future joint initiatives could obviously carry their own costs.

Councilman Chris Seelbach and union supporters yesterday gathered outside the Hamilton County Administrations Building to call on county commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. County commissioners blocked the work in protest of Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules, which require MSD contractors to meet more stringent job training requirements and pay into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will train new workers in different crafts. The Republican-controlled county says the rules are illegal, favor unions and burden businesses, but the Democrat-controlled city says the standards help train local workers and create local jobs.

Meanwhile, county commissioners appear ready to take the city-county dispute to court. If the conflict isn’t resolved by the end of the year, the federal government could impose fines to force work on a mandatory overhaul of the local sewer system to fully continue, according to Commissioner Chris Monzel.

Cincinnati’s riverfront has come a long way, but The Cincinnati Enquirer and others seem unhappy The Banks is taking so long to fully develop. A lot was promised with the initial plan for the riverfront, but the Great Recession and other hurdles slowed down the development of condos, office and retail space and a hotel. For some business owners, the slowdown has made it much harder to get by unless a major event — a Reds or Bengals game, for example — is going on, particularly during bad winters. In particular, struggling Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers says she “would like to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”

Following Councilman Charlie Winburn’s warnings that the city wastefully bought too much road salt, the city is actually running low on salt and waiting on an order of 3,500 tons. Over the past couple months, Winburn accused the city of wasting money when he “discovered” a pile of unused road salt. Despite Winburn’s attempts to make saltgate into a thing, it turns out the city bought the salt when it was cheaper and planned to use it in the future.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center plans to reopen a pediatric health clinic that abruptly closed down when Neighborhood Health Care Inc. shut down operations. The clinic expects to see 500 needy children and teenagers each month.

Local Republicans are still looking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald asked Republican Gov. John Kasich to pledge he would serve his full four years if he won re-election, meaning Kasich would be unable to run for president in 2016.

Doctors say technology must prevent texting while driving.

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by German Lopez 01.29.2014
Posted In: News, Barack Obama, Infrastructure, Education at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Obama lays out agenda, Ky. governor defends bridge tolls, reading ability falls with income

President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union speech yesterday, outlining an ambitious progressive agenda that will be largely ignored and rebuked by Congress. But Obama promised at least seven major policies that he can pursue without legislators, including a $10.10-per-hour minimum wage for federal contractors and some action on global warming. Obama’s full speech is viewable here, and the Republican response is available here. The Associated Press fact checked the speech here.

Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says tolls are necessary to fund the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Officials and executives claim the bridge replacement is necessary to improve safety, traffic and economic development through a key connector between Kentucky and Ohio, but many Kentucky officials refuse to accept tolls to fund the new bridge. But without federal funding to pay for the entire project, leading Ohio and Kentucky officials say they have no other option.

There is a 32-point achievement gap in reading between Ohio’s lower-income and higher-income fourth-graders, with higher-income students coming out on top. The massive gap speaks to some of the challenges brought on by income inequality as Ohio officials implement the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Previous studies also found Ohio’s urban schools might be unfairly evaluated and under-funded because the state doesn’t properly account for poverty levels.

Attempting to move the Hamilton County Board of Elections offices from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, could provoke a lawsuit from the NAACP, Board Chairman Tim Burke, a Democrat who opposes the move, warned in an email to county commissioners. With the Board of Elections split along party lines on the issue, the final decision to move or not to move could come down to county commissioners or Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. CityBeat covered the issue in further detail here.

Greater Cincinnati added 6,600 jobs between December and December 2012.

Temperatures could hit the 30s and 40s this weekend, offering a reprieve to the extreme cold.

Ohio’s auditor of state found a “top-down culture of data manipulation and employee intimidation” at Columbus City School District.

Cincinnati-based Kroger plans to add 227 stores with its acquisition of Harris Teeter.

The University of Cincinnati expects to demolish its Campus Services Building at Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue — formerly a Sears department store — this summer.

A Republican congressman from New York City physically threatened a reporter after an interview.

Birmingham, Ala., really can’t handle snow.

A lawsuit alleges NASA is failing to investigate alien life.

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by German Lopez 01.28.2014
Posted In: News, Education, Poverty at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
states reading proficiency

Report: Reading Proficiency Falls With Income

Lower-income fourth-graders much more likely to fail standards

Ohio’s lower-income fourth-graders were much more likely than higher-income fourth-graders to fall below reading proficiency standards in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Four in five lower-income fourth-graders were declared below reading proficiency standards in 2013, the report found. Only 48 percent of higher-income fourth-graders fell below proficiency.

Ohio mostly matched the national trend: About 80 percent of lower-income fourth-graders and 49 percent of higher-income fourth-graders across the country read below proficient levels last year.

The report also found Ohio’s overall reading proficiency improved by 5 percent between 2003 and 2013, a notch below the nation’s 6 percent improvement.

The report comes as state officials implement the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Preliminary results showed one-third of Ohio students failing to pass the test, putting them at risk of retention.

“Ohio needs to do whatever it takes to get all children — especially low income and children of color — on track with this milestone,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, in a statement. “The long-term prosperity of Ohio and our nation depends upon improving crucial educational outcomes such as reading proficiency.”

The report also speaks to some of the challenges Ohio and other states face in evaluating schools, teachers and students as the nation struggles with high levels of income inequality.

A Jan. 22 report from Policy Matters Ohio found high-scoring urban schools tend to have lower poverty rates than low-performing urban schools. In Cincinnati, nine of the 19 top-rated urban schools served a lower percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the district as a whole.

Another study from three school advocacy groups found Ohio’s school funding formula fails to fully account for how many resources school districts, including Cincinnati Public Schools, need to use to serve impoverished populations instead of basic education services. In effect, the discrepancy means Ohio’s impoverished school districts get even less funding per student for basic education than previously assumed.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.28.2014
Posted In: News, Education, Voting, Death Penalty at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting location debated, schools could get more snow days, execution investigated

Local early voting could move from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, following a split, party-line vote from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Democrats oppose the move because they say it will make early voting less accessible to people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans support the move as part of a plan to consolidate some county services, particularly a new crime lab, at the Mount Airy facility. With the board split, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could step in to break the tie vote.

But Husted's spokesperson said the secretary of state might encourage the Board of Elections to "take another look" at the issue, and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county will not move the Board of Elections without a majority vote.

Gov. John Kasich called for a one-time increase in the number of school calamity days to cope with the unusually severe winter weather this year. Under state law, schools are normally allowed five calamity days before extra days off start chipping into summer break. The state legislature must approve legislation to enact the temporary increase.

Ohio officials found no substantial evidence that a public defender coached convicted killer Dennis McGuire to fake suffocation during his execution. Eye-witness accounts report McGuire visibly struggled, snorted and groaned as he took 26 minutes to die — the longest execution since Ohio restarted using the death penalty in 1999.

Despite what a local state senator says, there are a lot of differences between Ohio's Clean Energy Law and Stalinism.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate continues working on a proposal that would weaken Ohio's renewable energy and efficiency standards. But it's unclear if the new attempt will be any more successful than State Sen. Bill Seitz's failed, years-long crusade against the Clean Energy Law.

Local Democrats endorsed Christie Bryant for an open seat in the Ohio House, even though five interviewed for the position and could run in the Democratic primary. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke previously told CityBeat local Democrats endorse prior to a primary in some special situations. In this case, the party wanted to guarantee a black candidate, and Bryant is the most qualified, according to Burke.

A new report found Ohio's prison population ticked down by nearly 2 percent since 2011, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) says it is now trending back up. To address the recent rise, ODRC Director Gary Mohr says legislators need to provide more opportunities for community-based drug treatment, mental health care and probation programs to help reduce prison re-entry rates.

More than 112,000 Ohio students dropped out of high schools between 2006 and 2010.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will shape plans this year to remake some of Queensgate and Camp Washington into manufacturing, engineering and laboratory hubs with high-paying jobs.

Hamilton County might sell some of its six downtown buildings.

Former Mayor Mark Mallory took a job with the Pennsylvania-based Chester Group, which provides "energy, water and wastewater solutions to public and industrial clients across the United States and internationally," according to a press release.

Councilman Chris Seelbach's vegan chili won the Park+Vine cook-off.

Confirmed by science: Walking while texting or reading a text increases chances of injury.

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by German Lopez 01.24.2014
Posted In: News, Guns, Gun Violence, Education at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
ohio statehouse

School Employees Could Soon Carry Concealed Guns

Research indicates the Republican-backed proposal might fail to improve school safety

The Republican-controlled Ohio House on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate some school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees.

As part of the designation, school employees would have to participate in “active shooter training” established by the state attorney general. School boards and employees could also consult with local law enforcement to establish stronger standards and training.

If a gun-toting teacher injures or kills someone, the rules exempt the school board and employees from liability “unless the injury, death or loss resulted from the employee’s reckless or wanton conduct.”

The bill would also allow off-duty officers to carry firearms in schools.

There are some restrictions: A school board could not force an employee to carry a gun, and gun-carrying rights could not be part of a collective bargaining agreement.

While a Republican majority supports the rules to increase safety in schools, some research indicates the plan could backfire.

A review from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found states and countries with more guns tend to have more homicides. Specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are exposed to a larger risk of gun-related homicide.

University of Pennsylvania researchers found similar results in a 2009 study.

“On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault,” the study concluded. “Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures.”

A 2009 ABC News special found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting. In multiple simulations that placed trained and armed students in a classroom, none of the participants succeeded in stopping an unexpected shooter from landing fake rounds that would have been deadly in a real shooting.

Local state representatives split along party lines on the bill. Democrats Denise Driehaus, Connie Pillich and Alicia Reece voted against it, while Republicans Peter Stautberg and Louis Blessing voted for it.

The bill now needs to move through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.21.2014
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Education, Death Penalty at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.

Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.

A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.

The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.

Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.

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by German Lopez 01.16.2014
Posted In: News, Preschool, Education at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
preschool promise

Preschool Promise Seeks Volunteers

More than 40 "Promise Ambassadors" trained so far; goal is 100 by Feb. 17

As the campaign to provide universal preschool in Cincinnati kicks into gear, organizations involved in the Preschool Promise are seeking more volunteers to train as “Promise Ambassadors” who will help raise awareness and gather feedback for the proposal.

Although there’s no major resistance to universal preschool at a local level, the big question is how the city will fund it. Will it take a hike in property or income taxes? Will city and school funds be involved? Will it rely on philanthropic channels? What about a mix of all the options?

As an ambassador, volunteers will gather feedback on the big questions facing the campaign and raise awareness on the study-backed benefits of preschool.

“As an ambassador you can engage however you feel comfortable: hosting house parties, speaking at meetings and events, organizing community forums or simply helping generate awareness about the importance of quality preschool for every child in our city,” the campaign said in a release.

Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, said on Facebook that more than 40 ambassadors have been trained so far. The goal is to train 100 by President’s Day, Feb. 17.

The policy would mirror a program in Denver that provides tuition credits to families on an income-based sliding scale, so low-income parents would get the most help while the wealthiest would get the least.

Among other benefits, a study from consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found the Denver program gives low- and middle-income families more opportunities to climb the economic ladder.

Landsman previously told CityBeat the measure should end up on the November ballot.

The campaign is offering several training sessions, which can be attended with an RVSP to BooneS@strivepartnership.org:

• Jan. 22, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave., Cincinnati.
• Jan. 28, 2:30–4 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana
Ave, Cincinnati.
• Jan. 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 5, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 6, 2:30–4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 11, 2:30-4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.

CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Education, Environment at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacare navigators

Morning News and Stuff

Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.

The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.

To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.

Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.

If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.

Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.

State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.

Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.

Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.

A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.

One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.

Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.

An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.

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by German Lopez 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

 
 
 
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