Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.
For the third year in a row, Ohio has dropped in Education Week’s annual ranks. The news comes despite the state slightly bumping up its grade from 79.5 percent to 79.6 percent. The state was ranked No. 12, down from No. 11 in 2012 and No. 10 in 2011.
Ohio did best in standards, assessments and accountability, where it got a 96.1 percent, or an A. It did worst in K-12 achievement, which measures student progress and equality, with a 71.2 percent, or a C-.
The only major category in which Ohio performed below the U.S. average was transitions and alignment, which gauges state standards for preparing Ohio students for moving from kindergarten to elementary school to middle school to high school to college. In the category, Ohio got a 78.6 percent, or C+, while the national average is 81.1 percent.
Maryland was ranked No. 1 for the fifth year in a row with an 87.5 percent, or a B.
“We’re pleased to be rated No. 12 in the nation … but our overall score of a B- reassures us what we already know: We can do a better job of educating Ohio’s children and preparing them for future success,” said John Charlton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education.
Charlton says the state is taking steps to make improvements, particularly in the transitions and alignment category. Ohio has already adopted the Common Core standards and is replacing the state’s standardized tests with new assessments, which CityBeat covered here.
Ohio colleges and universities have also adopted uniform remediation-free standards, which Charlton says will make it easier to prepare students for college. Remedial courses are classes that don’t count toward college credit; they’re typically required for students who are under-prepared in certain subjects, particularly English, math and science.
But some have pushed back toward the Republican-supported education initiatives. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which forces schools to hold back third-grade students who are not proficient in reading, has faced a lot of criticism from 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.
Gov. John Kasich vowed to rework Ohio’s school funding formula in the 2014-2015 budget. In a previous interview, Rob Nichols, spokesperson to Kasich, said it was a big undertaking: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
After two years of racking up an excellent rating on its state report card, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School appears headed for a lower grade.
Preliminary school report cards released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Education show an “effective” rating for Taft, a technology-magnet school for grades 9-12 in Cincinnati’s West End. Taft had won accolades nationally for its steady climb from academic futility during the past seven years. In that span, Taft went from “academic emergency” in the 2004-05 school year to excellent in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mainly on the strength of Ohio Graduation Test pass rates that were the highest of all public high schools in Southwest Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education gave it a coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.
[Download the Ohio Preliminary Report Cards spreadsheet here.]
CityBeat called those achievements into question in a February article ("Miracle or Mirage," issue of Feb. 22). CityBeat found that the same graduating classes (2009-10 and 2010-11) that were posting regionally high OGT pass rates had average composite ACT test scores of 15, or the 10th percentile in Ohio. CityBeat also took the first hard look at an independent audit showing that, of 1,707 erasures on Taft OGT exams in 2006, 88 percent resulted in correct answers, an outcome one nationally prominent testing expert called “not logical.” Cincinnati Public Schools, then led by former superintendent Rosa Blackwell, refused to investigate the matter, and ODE let the district get away with it.
2011-12 school year, Taft still posted high pass rates on the OGT, but
its graduation rate of 82.1 percent (down from 91.4 percent in 2010-11)
and attendance rate of 91 percent (down from 96.7 percent) were below
state benchmarks, leading to the effective rating on its interim report
While Taft fell from excellence among the city’s public schools, another school, James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Spring Grove Village, received its first-ever excellent rating. And Walnut Hills extended its long-running streak of excellent ratings. Winners of effective ratings were Clark Montessori and Withrow University high schools.
As for the district, Cincinnati Public Schools itself fell one notch on its state report card. Last year, CPS was rated effective, making it the highest-rated urban school district in Ohio. For 2011-12, it dropped to “continuous improvement.” Said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh: “We really would have loved to have gotten effective again, but the fact remains that overall performance, as rated by the state performance index, did reach 88.5, which is our highest score ever, and we continue to improve.”
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.
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
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
A City Council committee approved $13.5 million that will be going to Over-the-Rhine development. Of that money, $6 million will go to the second phase of the Mercer Commons project, which is being developed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The rest will help 3CDC redevelop 18 different buildings that are mostly around Washington Park. City Council will vote on the funding today.
Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent, but the drop was mostly attributed to people leaving the labor force. Between September 2011 and September 2012, Cincinnati’s labor force has actually shrunk. Still, more people were employed in September 2012 than were employed in September 2011.
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is asking Cincinnati for $8.5 million to secure a Jordan Crossing shopping center project at Bond Hill. The funds would pay for the demolition, site preparation, marketing and redevelopment of the project.
In the second wave of interim results from an ongoing investigation into Ohio schools’ attendance data reporting, State Auditor Dave Yost found no evidence of attendance scrubbing in schools with levies on the 2012 ballot. The investigation included Cincinnati Public Schools, which means CPS was found to be clean. In a statement, Yost said, “I’m surprised and pleased. To have zero incidents of ‘scrubbing’ is encouraging news.” The full findings for both interim reports can be found here.Clifton is set to get a neighborhood grocery store soon. The neighborhood has been without one since January 2011. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee helped spur the new project with a tax abatement program.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a budget hearing yesterday, but not much new information came out. Board President Greg Hartmann insists public safety is a priority, but he says the sheriff’s office will have to deal with some across-the-board cuts. The cuts won’t include closing the jail, decreasing courtroom security or eliminating contracts with townships for patrols. The board has two more public meetings on Oct. 29 and 30.
The controversial billboards accused of attempting to suppress voters are being taken down by Norton Outdoor Advertising, the Cincinnati company that hosted the billboards. Meanwhile, P.G. Sittenfeld and Lamar Advertising Company, a different billboard company, are putting up 10 billboards that read, “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!” The new billboards are supposed to encourage voting.
The University of Cincinnati has a new president: Santa Ono. The official promotion was unanimously approved by the UC Board of Trustees. Ono has been serving as interim president since Aug. 21, when former President Greg Williams suddenly resigned due to “personal reasons.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer is being accused of age discrimination in a recently amended lawsuit. In the lawsuit, eight former employees claim they were fired and replaced with younger, less qualified employees.
A new rumor is going around that says it’s possible to tamper with voting results, but fact checkers and election officials are saying it’s not possible. The rumors started due to the Romneys’ investments in an electronic voting company.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Here is a list of some of the department’s accomplishments: The amount of rivers meeting aquatic life standards went from 21 to 89 percent between the 1980s and today, carbon monoxide in the air is down 80 percent since the 1970s, sulfur dioxide is down 71 percent, lead is down 95 percent and 99 percent of community public water systems now meet health standards, up from 85 percent in 1993.
Miami University says it will discipline two students responsible for putting up an offensive flyer about getting away with rape in a coed dorm bathroom.
Metro revealed its plans for an Uptown Transit District. The district, which will cost Metro $6.9 million, is meant to better suit the needs and growth of Uptown.
Two Democratic state lawmakers are planning legislation to slow down the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. Gov. John Kasich’s administration is currently paying $3.4 million to KPMG, a private consulting and accounting firm, to study whether leasing the turnpike to the highest private bidder would benefit the state. Kasich says he could use the money saved for transportation projects all around the state. But northern Ohio residents do not seem happy with giving up a valuable asset they helped invest in, especially if the revenue from the Ohio Turnpike goes to regions outside of northern Ohio.
There's more evidence sushi sucks. Popular Science has an article and graph showing how raw food kept primates stupid.
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.
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:
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.
A Purcell Marian High School administrator was fired for declaring his public support for same-sex marriage. Mike Moroski, who was the assistant principal at the Catholic school, wrote about his support for LGBT equality on his personal blog. Following the blog post, Moroski claims he was given an ultimatum by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to resign or recant his statements. CityBeat covered same-sex marriage and the amendment that could bring marriage equality to Ohio here.
A board vote failed to remove State Board of Education President Debe Terhar from her position. In response, Ohio Democrats filed a lawsuit seeking access to her cell phone and other records. Terhar has been receiving heavy criticism for a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. CityBeat wrote about Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools were among nine city school districts found to be scrubbing attendance data by the state auditor. The school districts claim most the errors were simple mistakes, not intentional manipulation of data. Both the auditor and schools agree state policy is too confusing and must change.
The city of Cincinnati is beginning the process of sorting through construction bids for the streetcar. Three bids ranging from $71 million to $87 million have already come to light, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The bids could push up the price tag on the streetcar, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, cautions the process is barely starting. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
Cincinnati is speeding up the demolitions of condemned buildings this year, particularly buildings near schools and family zones.
A new report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found employment in the shale industry was up 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Critics caution the jobs aren’t worth the risks — pointing to a number of environmental and health concerns related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” CityBeat wrote about fracking and its extensive problems here.
One in 25 students in Columbus schools are restrained or secluded. The state’s lax seclusion policies have been under heavy criticism in the past year following the discovery that school staff were using seclusion for convenience, not just to restrain students.
On Wednesday, Metro staff will be holding a security exercise meant to gauge counterterrorism capabilities. Metro bus service will not be affected.
The Horseshoe Casino pays homage to Liuzhou, China — Cincinnati’s sister city of 25 years.
The chief curator resigned from the Cincinnati Art Museum.
A Cincinnati woman was charged with helping her daughter beat up a student during a classroom brawl.
Curiosity is officially the first robot to drill another planet.