Child poverty and its causes will be one of the main focuses of the conference. Nearly 15 million children in the United States, or 21 percent of all children, live in families below the federal poverty level, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). A study from the NCCP found Cincinnati has the third-worst children’s poverty rate at 48 percent. Only Detroit and Cleveland were worse, with 53.6 percent and 52.6 percent, respectively.
“We’re going to look at all the range of policies and practices and the impact of those and what we can do,” CDF President Marian Wright told WVXU today. “It’s going to be a real teach-in on what we must do to move forward and stop the move backwards, which I think we’re in the midst of.”
The conference will also look at education issues. It seeks to shine light on the issue of the achievement gap between the poor and non-poor and racial disparities. A 2011 analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics found black and Hispanic students are behind their white peers by 20 test-points in math and reading tests provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The difference equates to about two grade levels.
The conference will also look at child health care services, zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools and tools and programs that can be used to improve the lives of struggling children.
Anyone is free to register at CDF’s website to join the conference. Experts, doctors and activists will also be there.
The audit reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede.
“These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust placed in them.”
CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using the cards and for what.
The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring payments be board-approved.
In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws.
In June, another special audit found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts.
CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a “D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school year.
The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
UPDATE: 5:11 p.m. Updated with comment from Miami University spokeswoman.
A Miami University fraternity that was suspended after an alleged fireworks battle led to police finding drugs when executing a search warrant has filed a lawsuit with the frat demanding $10 million from the university.
The Phi Kappa Tau chapter at Miami university alleges in their lawsuit that university officials improperly suspended the fraternity, damaged its business and property and made libelous allegations out of “malice, hatred and ill will.”
The frat is suing for compensation as well as $10 million in punitive damages and attorneys fees. The Tuesday court filing demanded a trial by jury.
The fraternity was suspended after members of the Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities allegedly threw lit fireworks between their two frat houses.
When Oxford police officers tried to investigate, students refused to let them into the houses without warrants. So the police got warrants.
According to the filing, inside the Phi Kappa Tau house police found fireworks, a baggy of marijuana and two pipes.
The lawsuit alleges that the university improperly suspended the fraternity because it did so in the absence of any written complaint. It claims that there are no police complaints or charges as of the lawsuit’s filing.
The suit also alleges that the university recklessly made false statements damaging the reputation of the fraternity and causing some of its members “severe emotional distress.”
Miami University spokeswoman Claire Wagner declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, she said the school's student code allows the Dean of Students or a designee to issue a summary suspension without a written complaint if there is a pending investigation. She said the university, as well as Oxford fire and police, are investigating the incident.
A new website called Cuts Hurt Ohio shows the impact of the state government slashing budgets. It gives a glimpse into how each county has been affected by cuts in education and local government aid programs.
For Hamilton County, the website shows cuts of $241 million in
the 2012-2013 budget. Education funds in Hamilton County were cut by a
total of $136 million, while other funds have been slashed by $105
million. The website also reports budget-related news headlines for
Hamilton County: “Cincinnati superintendent salary to be cut in half,”
“Townships may not have any police presence when they lose sheriff
patrols” and “Report: Children services in Cincinnati stretched.”
For all of Ohio, cuts total $2.88 billion. Education programs were cut by $1.8 billion statewide, and aid provided to local governments was reduced by $1.08 billion.
Innovation Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio opened created the website to raise awareness and show the differences between former Gov. Ted Strickland’s 2010-2011 budget and Gov. John Kasich’s 2012-2013 budget. The numbers are based on data provided by the Ohio Department of Taxation and Ohio Department of Education.
Since some cuts are due to the loss of federal stimulus funds, not all the cuts are directly linked to the state government slashing its budget. But the 2012-2013 budget will pull funding to the Ohio Department of Education down to $9.8 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, which is lower than the amount of funding education received before Ohio obtained federal stimulus dollars.
To check out the website, go to www.cutshurtohio.com.
The Ohio Senate's budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 would restore about $717 million in education funding, but the gains wouldn't be enough to outweigh $1.8 billion in education cuts from the 2012-2013 budget, which was approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.
The bill would also favor the state's property-wealthiest districts, which can already raise more money for local schools by leveraging their massive local property values.
About 85 percent of the wealthiest school districts will get funding increases, while 40 percent of the poorest rural districts receive no increases, according to Stephen Dyer, a former Democratic state representative and an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.
Dyer put the regressive breakdown in chart form in a blog post:
The chart shows the bottom one-third of school districts only get about 15 percent of the increases, while the top one-third are getting a vast majority of the increases.
Still, Dyer points out that the budget is increasing funding for urban, high-poverty areas, while rural areas are generally getting the smallest increases.
The budget would also include $250 million in one-time money for the Straight A Fund, which is supposed to entice innovation at schools around the state. When the program was first proposed in Kasich's budget plan, the Kasich administration asked for $300 million.
Even with the Straight A Fund, the funding increases wouldn't be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in cuts in the last biennium budget, which is a previous estimate from progressive think tanks Policy Matters Ohio and Innovation Ohio that includes tax reimbursements for tangible personal property and public utility property, federal stimulus funds and state aid to schools.
Many school districts have coped with the cuts through local tax levies, which Innovation Ohio previously compared to a $1.1 billion tax increase across the state.
In 2012, Cincinnati Public Schools was one of the many school districts to successfully pass a levy after dealing with years of cuts from multiple levels of government ("Battered But Not Broken," issue of Oct. 3).
The changes proposed by the Ohio legislature are the latest in a chain of attempts to reform the state's school funding formula, which has a history of legal and political problems.
Between 1997 and 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court issued four decisions that found the state's school funding formula unconstitutional because it relied too much on property taxes and failed to provide "a thorough and efficient system of common schools."
But 16 years later, critics argue the system still relies too much on property taxes. According to them, the reliance on property taxes drives inequality because property-wealthy areas can more easily leverage their high property values to fund good schools, while property-poor areas are generally left behind.
Kasich attempted to address the issues with his own rework of the education funding formula, but the rework was dismissed by the Ohio House and Senate — a victory for critics who deemed Kasich's plan regressive ("Smoke and Mirrors," issue of Feb. 20).
The Ohio legislature and Kasich must approve a budget plan by June 30.
Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November. The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force, which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18, the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to get the spending cuts they so badly want.
Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015, when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to gradually rise.
A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving. The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in the 2006-2007 school year.
A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer.
As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013.
The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game.
Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sept. 12 criticized State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, for calling Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye “pornographic” and suggesting it be removed from the state’s teaching guidelines.
“Unfortunately, your comments are another in a long history of arguments that advocate the banning of African American literature because it is ‘too controversial’ for schoolchildren,” wrote Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a letter to Terhar. “Rather than removing these books, the ACLU encourages schools to use controversial literature as an opportunity to improve students’ critical thinking skills and to create open dialogue between students and the community.”
Terhar and others have criticized the book because it contains a scene in which a father rapes his daughter.
The Common Core standards adopted by Ohio suggest The Bluest Eye as an example of reading text complexity, quality and range for high school juniors who are typically 16 or 17 years old, but it’s ultimately up to school districts to decide whether the novel belongs in the curriculum.
Removing mention of the book in the state’s guidelines wouldn’t explicitly ban the book in Ohio schools, but it would weaken the novel’s prominence as a teaching tool.
The ACLU claims the book provides an important take on racism in America: “In the case of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison seeks to promote this type of dialogue by taking a bold, unflinching look at the pain and damage that internalized racism can inflict on a young girl and her community.”
The ACLU’s letter concludes by inviting Terhar and her fellow board members to an ACLU event in Columbus on Sept. 26 called “Let’s Get Free: Banned Writings of Black Liberationists.” The event is part of the ACLU’s Banned Books Week, an effort launched in 1982 that highlights literature that’s been targeted for censorship.
Morrison, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author and Ohio native, responded to Terhar’s comments in a phone interview with Columbus’ NBC4: “The book was published in the early '70s and it has been banned so much and so many places that I am told I am number 14 on the list of 100 banned books.” She added, “I resent it. I mean if it's Texas or North Carolina as it has been in all sorts of states, but to be a girl from Ohio, writing about Ohio, having been born in Lorain, Ohio, and actually relating as an Ohio person, to have the Ohio, what, Board of Education is ironic at the least.”
Terhar later said in a statement released through the State Board of Education that she was stating her own opinion and her comments do not reflect the views of the rest of the board.
The latest controversy isn’t the first time Terhar has found herself in trouble over public comments. In January, Democrats called for Terhar to resign after she compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post after the president proposed new gun control measures.
Gov. John Kasich touted a rosy, progressive vision when announcing his education reform plan Jan. 31, but reality does not match the governor’s optimism. It’s true Kasich’s proposed 2014-2015 budget
will not reduce school funding, but under the Kasich administration,
local schools will still have a net loss in state funds.
The governor’s office released tentative budget numbers yesterday that show the Kasich plan will give Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) $8.8 million more funding for the 2014 fiscal year. But that’s not enough to make up for the $39 million CPS will lose in the same fiscal year due to Kasich’s first budget, which was passed passed in 2011. Even with the new education plan, the net loss in the 2014 fiscal year is $30.2 million.
The problem is Kasich’s first budget had massive cuts for schools. The elimination of the tangible personal
property reimbursements (TPP) hit CPS particularly hard, as CityBeat previously covered (“Battered But Not Broken,”
issue of Oct. 3). In the Cut Hurts Ohio website, Innovation Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio estimated Kasich’s budget cuts resulted in $1.8 billion less funding for
education statewide. In Hamilton County, the cuts led to
$117 million less funding.
Kasich’s massive cuts didn’t even lead to lower taxes for many Ohioans. A report from Innovation Ohio found school districts and voters made up for the big education cuts with $487 million in new school levies. In 2012, Cincinnati voters approved a $51.5 million levy for CPS. The school levies are a direct increase on local income and property taxes, but they’re measures Ohioans clearly felt they had to take in the face of big state budget cuts.
For more analysis of Kasich’s budget, check out CityBeat’s other coverage:
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school districts.
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it doesn't.”
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students, better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer rules.
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four of the 15 issues couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and reporting systems.
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.
The University of Cincinnati has officially named Santa Ono as its new president in a unanimous approval by the UC Board of Trustees today.
Ono, who joined UC's staff in 2010, was UC's interim president since Aug. 21, when former President Greg Williams abruptly resigned due to “personal reasons.” Previously, Ono served as UC's provost.
“I am honored to serve as the 28th president of the University of Cincinnati,” Ono said in a statement. “I am not a new face on campus, but in many ways, the fact that I have been a part of the UC family for two years now makes today even more special for me. I am so very fortunate to be asked to serve in this capacity.”
Williams' retirement came with some controversy. After he resigned, the UC Board of Trustees gave Williams a $1.3 million severance package. The package was criticized by Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich, a Cincinnati Democrat who said in a statement, “I was disappointed to learn that the University agreed to continue paying former President Greg Williams a sum of $1.3 million over the next two years, considering the former president abruptly resigned six days before classes were to start this fall. It is disheartening to see such a great deal of public money spent in a manner that is inconsistent with the financial realities many colleges, students, and families face in the current economy. … The University’s tuition increase of 3.5 percent this year means students and families must incur a greater financial burden at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. Certainly Mr. Williams’ payday will weigh on the minds of these students and parents, leaving them to wonder, ‘Does this kind of decision result in tuition and fee increases?’”
There was also some controversy involving The Cincinnati Enquirer. The newspaper's publisher and president, Margaret Buchanan, was serving on the UC Board of Trustees when Greg Williams stepped down, but The Enquirer failed to mention asking her about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. In at least six follow-up stories, the newspaper also failed to mention Buchanan's connection to UC. Buchanan later resigned from the UC Board of Trustees to end the potential impression of a conflict of interest.