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by German Lopez 01.29.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Report: School Choice Hurts Education

Traditional programs on par with charter schools, vouchers

In support of Ohio’s charter school and voucher programs, conservatives point to the wonders of “school choice.” But a new Policy Matters Ohio report revealed school choice may not be the boon supporters make it out to be.

Citing a study from Community Research Partners, the Policy Matters report found the extra mobility enabled by school choice programs can lead to a worse education. Students who changed schools frequently performed worse than their peers, and the higher mobility can also put a strain on teachers and staff by forcing them to make accommodations for new students.

The Policy Matters report pointed out the two findings directly contradict the basis for more school choice: School choice advocates envision parents and students acting as consumers in an education marketplace, trying out different schools until they find one that ‘fits,’ but as this study shows, the movement this implies clearly has far-reaching effects on teaching and student learning.

The report also looked through previous literature to gauge charter schools’ academic results. Research from the Rand Corporation and Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than traditional public schools. Compared to their public school counterparts, charter school students did worse in math and showed no difference in reading.

An analysis of Ohio’s 2011-2012 achievement test scores by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found only 6 percent of charter schools met the state goal of having a performance index of 100 or higher and only 10 percent rated excellent or above.

The Policy Matters report attributes the poor academic results to faulty regulations. Lax rules and oversights were uncovered by a report from the Rand Corporation. In another report, Policy Matters unveiled poor oversight and loopholes in Ohio state law, which CityBeat covered here.

Poor academic results also applied to voucher programs. An in-depth look at Cleveland’s voucher program from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy found voucher-toting students performed at the same level as students who did not use vouchers.

Around the state, public school students outperformed voucher students in third to eighth grade achievement tests, according to the Policy Matters report. Students in public schools did better in math, while both types of students had mixed results in reading.

Voucher programs have been particularly controversial because they can end up subsidizing private, religious schools — possibly violating separation of church and state.

by German Lopez 03.05.2013
Posted In: Economy, Education, News, Taxes at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

So Much for Socialism

Most Americans underestimate U.S. wealth inequality

A YouTube video that went viral over the weekend may have broken the rosy illusions the average American has about wealth and income inequality.

Using data from Mother Jones, Dan Ariely, ThinkProgress and CNN, the video compares the average American’s ideal distribution of wealth, what the average American says wealth inequality looks like and how wealth is distributed in reality — ultimately showing that the average American says the nation is much more equal than it really is.

The video suggests investment income as one of the drivers of inequality. The top 1 percent wealthiest Americans hold 50 percent of the nation’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent of Americans only hold 0.5 percent of such investments, according to the video.

“The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour,” the narrator says.

In the past, the United States was a lot closer to equality. As the video points out, the top 1 percent only took home 9 percent of the nation’s income in 1976. Today, that number is up to 24 percent.

Ohio isn’t immune to the trend. A previous report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s.

The video doesn’t make any suggestions on how to fix the problem — it simply shows massive inequality exists — but there are plenty of ideas out there. A paper from the Congressional Research Service suggested the tax system may be playing a role in driving up income and wealth inequality: “However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be correlated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. … The statistical analysis in this report suggests that tax policy could be related to how the economic pie is sliced — lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.”

In December, The Washington Post posted 10 empirically supported ideas, which included funding preschool education, making unions easier to join and promoting trade in highly skilled professions. 

In his 2013 State of the Union, President Barack Obama suggested raising the federal minimum wage to help combat poverty and income inequality — a policy that economist Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute recently advocated.

Here is the full video:

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 Kevin Osborne 01.31.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Youth at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Library Gets a Top National Honor

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has been selected as one of the Top 10 Children’s Libraries in the United States by a national website.

Livability.com chose the main library as No. 10 on its list partially because of its Children's Learning Center, which features child-sized tables and chairs, a saltwater aquarium and multiple rooms for programs, along with a 9,200-square-foot children's garden.

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by German Lopez 01.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, Education, Privatization, Budget at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach tired of streetcar delays, Pentagon to lift combat ban for women, JobsOhio in court

Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.

The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision, President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most inclusive when it comes to the military.

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up to drive economic growth in the state.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring $60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.

Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that. Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.

American Military Partner Association, a national organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.

Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.

U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.

Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.

New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.

Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.

by Danny Cross 05.09.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Washington, Republicans, Sex at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Walnut Hills High School has once again been recognized among the country's top high schools, ranking No. 1 in Ohio and 90th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's annual Best High Schools rankings. The ranking considered 22,000 public high schools, distinguishing some with gold, silver or bronze medals based on factors such as state proficiency standards and students' college preparedness. Indian Hill High School ranked third in Ohio and 140 in the country, with Wyoming High School fourth in the state and 143 nationally.

In other education news, state legislators have introduced bipartisan legislation to curb pension debt, while will result in teachers working longer and paying more into the retirement system. The bills were introduced by Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) and Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney (D-North Avondale).

Anyone willing to admit to having purchased male sexual enhancement product Enzyte is eligible to receive a piece of $24 million that the U.S. Justice Department has released to pay people who bought products sold through fraudulent practices. The former Forest-park based company's founder Steve Warshak was convicted in 2008 for conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and producing stupid commercials involving a smiling white guy's penis-like garden hose working better after using the company's product.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a 35-year incumbent, was handily defeated by Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock on Tuesday after Mourdock spent weeks arguing that Lugar had drifted from conservative principals. Here's some reaction to the news of the 80-year-old's primary loss.

As expected, North Carolina yesterday passed its ban on gay marriage, 61 percent to 39 percent. The Los Angeles Times reports that the measure is more restrictive than other states' marriage amendments: "The measure is more restrictive than all but three of the marriage amendments passed in other states, according to a study published by 11 family law professors at seven North Carolina universities. The measure could even deprive unmarried women of protections against domestic abuse, while restricting child custody and visitation rights for unmarried gay or straight couples, they said."

The Atlantic recounts a series of potentially misleading reports about the CIA thwarting of an Al-Qaeda plot to destroy a U.S. bound plane. Initial reports suggested that a CIA double agent infiltrated the terrorist organization, but later accounts attribute the work to an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia.

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, died Tuesday in Connecticut, four days after suffering a stroke. The following is an excerpt from a Philadelphia Inquirer obituary, which notes that an estimated 10,000 of Sendak's works and papers are collected in Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum & Library:

Jonathan Bartlett, a University of the Arts graduate, now a freelance illustrator in Brooklyn, said, "What matters to me most as an illustrator is that he was incredibly honest in his books. He had no qualms about speaking the truth to kids. That's why his work has had such visceral impact for so many years."

Jerry Spinelli, a children's book writer living in Wayne, said, "He focused on the fringes, the backwaters, the side-pools, the under-noticed areas of common human experience, and he could transform that into stories, told with pictures even more than with words."

Former Cincinnati Red Josh Hamilton hit four home runs last night to lead the Texas Rangers to a 10-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Today the team decided to go ahead and reengage in contract extension talks with the 30-year-old former overall No. 1 pick.

by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012

Morning News and Stuff

In an effort to avoid an estimated $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education decided Wednesday to eliminate 237 teaching jobs for next school year. Of the job cuts, 35 are layoffs, 112 are retirements or resignations, and 90 are long-term substitutes. In March, the board also approved laying off 40 administrators. The actions are expected to create $20 million in savings, but officials say more cuts are needed.

Cincinnati City Council has approved an ordinance cracking down on so-called “predatory towing.” Some local towing companies haven't been following state guidelines about how much may be charged for the towing and impoundment of vehicles. The city law clarifies that they must be complied with, and companies that violate the fees can lose lucrative towing contracts with the Cincinnati Police Department.

As part of their standard procedures, state regulators are reviewing the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets this week to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background.

Although Earth Day isn't until Sunday, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking the holiday early by sponsoring an e-waste recycling drive today to collect and recycle unwanted electronic waste from guests. Collection is from 4-6:30 p.m., and all electronic devices will be recycled by 2trg, a certified recycler that operates under zero landfill and zero export policies. A $10 cash fee will be charged for each TV set, and all other acceptable items will be recycled for free. Other acceptable items include cables, CD-ROM drives, cellular phones, DVD players, keyboards, laptops, LCD monitors, microwave ovens, printers and more.

Locally-based Fifth Third Bank says its first-quarter net income quadrupled, thanks in part to its stake in the payment processor Vantiv, which had its initial public offering. The company reported net income of $421 million today, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $88 million, or 10 cents per share, reported in the same period last year. Apparently, there's only a recession going on for some of us.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is dismissing criticism brought against the Republican budget plan by Catholic bishops. Referencing Matthew 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that help them. But Boehner, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.” (Hey, John: Maybe you should take another look at the Pentagon's budget.)

Six former employees of a company connected to a firm founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney filed a federal lawsuit this week, alleging they were fired because they weren't Mormon. The plaintiffs worked for Sorenson Capital Partners, whose managing directors and officers are former partners or executives at Bain Capital and Bain & Co. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 after working for Bain & Co. The plaintiffs seek $5.35 million in damages for breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation.

If the CIA gets its way, acting suspicious will be enough to get you killed in Yemen. The spy agency is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. Remember: They hate us because we love freedom.

Syria and the United Nations have reached a tentative deal to deploy observers to monitor the nation's ceasefire, officials from both sides said. A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the observers' functions and Syrian government's responsibilities. It came after the U.N. secretary general said Syria was failing to comply with its peace plan obligations. The plan seeks to end unrest which has killed at least 9,000 people.

The global economic downturn is even visible in China, where large amounts of retail and office space sit vacant, in nearly pristine condition, having never been used. Part of the problem is Chinese industry has been producing massive amounts of steel, cement, and aluminum, so much that its economy cannot absorb all of the output. For example, the seven-story Global Furnishing Design and Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, is known as “the ghost mall of China” due to its empty corridors and vacant stores.
by German Lopez 01.10.2013
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Economy, Education at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Husted moves to middle, Republicans love early voting, loos coming to Cincinnati

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is pushing local election officials to begin investigating legitimate cases of voter fraud or suppression. He also vowed to continue pushing for uniform voting hours and redistricting. During election season, Husted developed a bad reputation around the nation for suppressive tactics, which CityBeat covered here, but it seems he’s now taking a more moderate tone.

It looks like in-person early voting didn’t rev up the “African-American … voter turnout machine,” as Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse claimed, after all. New numbers show in-person early voting was

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by Kevin Osborne 03.20.2012

Morning News and Stuff

To help avoid a $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education voted Monday to cut 40 staff positions for next year. The positions affected are central office staff and administrative employees. The board said some teacher layoffs are possible later, but it wants to see how many people plan on retiring after the school year ends.

A retired local judge told WCPO-TV's I-Team that his dismissal from a United Nations tribunal was the result of a “purge” because some U.N. officials disliked the reforms that he and his colleagues were implementing. Mark Painter, who is a former municipal court judge and appellate court judge in the Cincinnati area, served three years as the only American on a new tribunal that makes final judgments on internal United Nations disputes. But the committee that selects judges chose not to renominate him for a full seven-year term. Painter said it's because the tribunal made its decisions binding, but U.N. officials denied the allegation.

About 40 people attended an event Monday night at downtown's Piatt Park to mark Occupy Cincinnati's return to the plaza. As part of a deal signed last week with the city's attorneys, Occupy members are now allowed to remain in the park overnight as long as they are quiet and don't erect tents. Less than 10 people chose to stay until this morning.

In other protest-related news, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave permission for a Catholic priest in a Dayton suburb to perform an exorcism outside of a medical clinic that performs abortions. The Rev. Tim Ralston of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kettering performed the rite Sunday at the Women's Med Center. About 300 anti-abortion activists attended the event.

Gov. John Kasich is trying to force out the leader of the Ohio Republican Party before November's elections. Party Chairman Kevin DeWine announced Sunday he wouldn't seek reelection when his two-year term expires in January, but Kasich wants DeWine gone now. Kasich wants to name his own appointee, and hopes to oust DeWine when the GOP’s newly elected 66-member central committee meets April 13.

In news elsewhere, public outcry has prompted the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain who escaped arrest. More than 435,000 people signed an online petition calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was killed Feb. 17 while walking home after buying Skittles and iced tea at a nearby store.

More details are emerging about the past of the Norwood native who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree. Before he enlisted in the Army, Robert Bales' career as a stockbroker came to an end when a court arbitrator ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million for taking part in “fraud” and “unauthorized trading.” The client, Gary Liebschner, a 74-year-old retired engineer, told The Washington Post that he “never got paid a penny” of the award.

Meanwhile, the shooting spree may lead to Afghan President Hamid Karzai winning a major concession from the United States. Officials are mulling whether to modify the use of controversial night raids by troops and giving Afghans more oversight. The Obama administration is discussing options with the Afghans including a warrant-based approach or possibly allowing Afghan judges to review raids before they took place, a U.S. official said Monday.

JP Morgan Chase is closing the Vatican bank's account with its Italian branch based on concerns about a lack of transparency at the Holy See's financial institution. Italian newspapers reported JP Morgan Chase informed the Vatican bank that its account was being closed because it had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers. The institution has been accused of tax fraud and money laundering in the past.

The man who killed four people at a Jewish school in southwestern France on Monday had a camera around his neck and may have filmed the scene, France's interior minister says. Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died. The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, they report. French schools held a moment of silence today to remember the victims.
by German Lopez 10.18.2012

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found at the event’s Facebook page.

A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.

Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”

Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.

Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.

A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.

This year’s school report card data held up a long-term trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78 percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for all Ohio schools can be found here. 

Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.

Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5 percent increase from 2010.

What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.