In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.
The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).
Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses, which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal groups have criticized the plan.
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing, research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything, they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education and human services.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of ‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts — effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local property values.
The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.
Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would permanently remain.
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the nation.
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
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.
New York City Vice Mayor Richard Buery is in Cincinnati today and tomorrow touring the city’s groundbreaking community learning centers. He’s in town to glean best practices from CPS as New York Public Schools ramps up its own community learning center program.
"What Cincinnati does, that they have probably done better than any other city, certainly better than New York at this time, is not just to have a collection of great community schools, but to have a system of community schools," Buery said to reporters in New York Monday. "I want to see what it means for a city to build a system of community schools. What did that take in terms of the political will, in terms of how different city agencies and the private sector have to work together."
Cincinnati has gotten a lot of attention for its community learning centers, including write-ups in the The New York Times, NPR and other national publications. The centers, usually established in low-income neighborhoods, contain a number of services for the whole community — dental and vision clinics, mental health therapists, after school programs and more. The city started with eight learning centers and now CPS has them in 34 of its 55 schools.
The model has led to increased cooperation between the city, the school system, neighborhoods around the schools and private enterprise. Last month, the city announced a partnership between Powernet, a Cincinnati-area tech company, and CPS to provide free wireless access to the neighborhood of Lower Price Hill around Oyler School, one of the city’s most recognized community learning centers in one of the city’s most low-income neighborhoods. The school is the subject of a documentary film, called simply Oyler, following the school and neighborhood’s progress.
City leaders expressed excitement about the visit.
“It never hurts to be aware that mighty New York City is here to see some of the good things happening in Cincinnati, especially with our school system,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said today. Sittenfeld said Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black will meet with Buery on Thursday.
Buery is in town with Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. The UFT represents more than 300,000 teachers in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio was one of four mayoral candidates to visit Cincinnati last summer at Mulgrew’s invitation. He made bringing Cincinnati’s model to New York City a major talking point of his campaign, saying it had “unlimited potential.” DeBlasio wants to model 100 schools in the city after Cincinnati’s learning centers.
The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Board of Regents have agreed to establish tougher tests with a focus on preparing students for college and beyond.
Michael Sawyers, acting superintendent for ODE, praised the agreement in a statement: “This is a major step forward in our reform efforts to ensure all Ohio students have the knowledge and skills necessary to leave school remediation-free and ready for their post-secondary experience in higher education or workforce training.”
Private companies will soon be able to compete for a contract to design and help implement the new standardized tests. The tests are expected to kick in during the 2014-2015 school year, but state officials acknowledge they could be implemented in time for the 2013-2014 school year if competitive bidding goes well and funding is sufficient. Once the tests are active, high school sophomores will take end-of-year tests to gauge college and career readiness. The tests will cover English, algebra, geometry, biology, physical science, American history and American government.
The reform is part of a bigger effort that reworks Ohio’s education system with higher standards for schools and students. As part of the broader changes, Ohio adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are a commitment to raise the bar on English and math standards for grades K-12.
The overall idea behind the reform has relatively bipartisan support, says Kelsey Bergfeld, a legislative service commission fellow for Ohio Sen. Tom Sawyer. Sawyer, a Democrat, is the ranking minority member in the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee.
The problem is in the details — specifically, the details in a new school report card system established by HB 555, which will be voted on in the Ohio House next week. Bergfeld says the current proposal by Ohio Republicans is too harsh, which could make schools look worse than they are in reality. That problem could be exacerbated by the new tests, she says: If the new tests are too tough, they could make schools and students look bad “because grades are going to drop.”
An early simulation of tougher report card standards in May found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) would fall under the new system. The simulation showed CPS would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking but Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.
A survey of more than 1,000 technology experts, critics and students has revealed a split about how the Internet and other technological advances are affecting “Generation Y.”
The Pew Research Center’s survey, released today, found a majority of respondents believed the technology would create a generation of nimble decision-makers, while almost as many feared it would cause young people to become easily distracted and lack deep thinking skills.
Wait. What were we talking about?
The survey found 55 percent of respondents agreed with a statement that “in 2020 the brains of young people would be ‘wired’ differently from those over 35, with good results for finding answers quickly and without shortcomings in their mental processes."
But it also found 45 percent who agreed with a second statement “in 2020 young technology users would be easily distracted, would lack deep thinking skills and would thirst only for instant gratification.”
“A number of the survey respondents argued that it is vital to reform education and emphasize digital literacy,” a Pew summary stated. “A notable number expressed concerns that trends are leading to a future in which most people are shallow consumers of information, and some mentioned George Orwell’s 1984 or expressed their fears of control by powerful interests in an age of entertaining distractions.”
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, are generally considered to be composed of people born between the late 1970s and the early '90s.
Pew’s online survey questioned 1,021 people involved with technology and was conducted from Aug. 28 to Oct. 31, 2011, as part of Pew's ongoing project on the Internet and American life.
Respondents included industry insiders like Bruce Nordman, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Hal Varian, Google's top economist, along with university and high school students.
Urban schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for miscellaneous expenditures related to poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups.
If it’s accepted by state officials and taxpayers, the report could give way to a reorientation of how school funds are allocated in Ohio — perhaps with a more favorable approach to urban and rural school districts.
The report’s formula acknowledges that some students, particularly those in poverty, take more resources to educate, typically to make up for external factors that depress academic performance. After those higher costs are taken into account, the report calculates how much money schools have left over for a typical student.
“If under-funded, districts with concentrations of poverty will not have the resources left over for the educational opportunities we want to see for all students,” said Howard Fleeter, the report’s author, in a statement.
The report finds urban school districts like Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and Lockland Schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than wealthy suburban school districts like
Indian Hill Schools and Sycamore Community Schools.
After weighing spending on poverty and other miscellaneous programs, major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent.
Following the deductions, CPS drops from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55. Lockland Schools falls from No. 64 to No. 234.
The report similarly drops New Miami Schools, a poor rural district in Butler County, from No. 327 to No. 588.
Indian Hill actually gains in overall state rankings, going from No. 11 to No. 4. Sycamore Community Schools also rise from No. 22 to No. 14.
The Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials commissioned the report through the Education Tax Policy Institute, an Ohio-based group of researchers and analysts.
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?
A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay. Jonathan Zeng says he went through the school's extensive interview process, was offered a position and then called back in for a discussion about religious questions in his application, during which he was asked directly if he is gay. Zeng says he asked why such information was pertinent, and an administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are gay because they work with children and something about the sanctity of marriage. When contacted by local media CHCA released the following statement:
CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.Cincinnati's deficit isn't going to get better any time soon, according to a new report.
Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace, and the Dems are going to stick it in their faces during this year's campaigns. From the AP:
As expected, the pay equity bill failed along party lines, 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. But for majority Democrats, passage wasn't the only point. The debate itself was aimed at putting Republicans on the defensive on yet another women's issue, this one overtly economic after a government report showing slower-than-expected job growth.
"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement after the vote.
"Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He should show some leadership."
The Washington Post wonders whether Mitt Romney can use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's template for surviving a recall election to try to win the presidency. It involves “big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base.” Exit polls in the state suggest Obama is ahead, however.
China wants foreign embassies to stop releasing reports and Tweeting about its poor air quality.
Gonorrhea growing resistant to antibiotics? Rut roh.
Dinosaurs apparently weighed less than scientists previously thought. Adjust paper-mache Brontosaurus as necessary.
Facebook is considering letting kids younger than 13 use the site.
The Boston Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat on Tuesday and could send Bron Bron and Co. back home on Thursday.
The mayor, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and The Strive Partnership announced today a new joint initiative that won a $40,000 grant. The grant, which is funded by Target through the Cities of Service and Service Nation, will help tutors teach kids how to read by the third grade.
Mayor Mark Mallory made the announcement in a joint press statement with CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan and The Strive Partnership Executive Director Greg Landsman.
With the money, 50 tutors will help 100 students in first, second and third grade in five schools to meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-grade students to be proficient in reading in state tests before advancing to the fourth grade.
“It all starts with reading,” Mallory said in a statement. “And there is no better way to help our kids learn to read than with one-on-one tutors who they can get to know and trust. A committed adult can make learning to read fun. This grant is going to have a huge impact on the lives of a lot of kids.”
The tutors will focus on five CPS schools: Roberts Paideia Academy in East Price Hill, Rockdale Academy in Avondale, Mt. Airy School, Pleasant Hill Academy in College Hill and Pleasant Ridge Montessori School.
Cincinnati was one of eight cities to win the grant. The other winners are Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and Vicksburg, Miss.
The new state reading requirement, which was pushed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, has received criticism from some Democrats and education experts. Research shows holding kids back hurts more
than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of
School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term
effects,” both academically and socially.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) got six F’s, one D and two C’s in the 2012-2013 school report card released today by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
The school district got an F for state test results, closing gaps related to income, race, culture and disabilities, progress among gifted students, progress among students with disabilities and both categories for graduation rates, which measure how many students graduated within four or five years.
CPS also got a D for progress among students who started out in the bottom fifth for achievement, and it got a C for progress among all student groups and how many students passed state tests.
The grades come with a big caveat: CPS is still being investigated for scrubbing data, which could be favorably skewing the school district’s results.
This is the first year ODE is using the new A-F grading system, which is more stringent than how schools were previously scored. No school district earned straight A’s this year, according to StateImpact Ohio.
Because the system is new, some of the categories that schools are graded on are missing and will be added in the next few years. Specifically, the report card won’t measure overall results for the district, test scores, gap closing, K-3 literacy, progress, graduation rates and preparation for college and careers until 2015.
Under the old system, CPS dropped from “effective,” which made it the best-rated urban school district in Ohio for the 2010-2011 school year, to “continuous improvement” for 2011-2012. Those results are also under review based on data-scrubbing investigations.
CPS has recently gained national recognition in The Huffington Post and The New York Times for its community learning centers, which turn schools into hubs that can be used by locals for resources ranging from education to dental care.
In November 2012, Cincinnati voters approved a levy renewal for CPS in a 65-35 percent vote, which kept local property taxes roughly $253 higher on a $100,000 home.
The official website for the school report cards can be found here, but it’s been having technical problems for most of the day.