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Public Money, Private Problems

Questionable management and low performance bring scrutiny on Ohio’s charter schools

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 29, 2014
As quasi-private schools funded with public money across Ohio face scrutiny, some say they need to be held to a higher standard.  
by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2014 44 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_washington park opening_photo 3cdc

Morning News and Stuff

Charter school stays open, city settles Washington Park suit and the loftiest of living spaces

Morning, y'all. It's only Tuesday and there is already lots and lots going on. Here we go.A Hamilton County Common Pleas judge has allowed troubled charter school VLT Academy to stay open and ordered the Ohio Department of Education to help fund it. In a decision yesterday, Judge Nadine Allen ordered ODE to become the school’s sponsoring organization and provide almost $300,000 to pay staff and administration there. The school, which serves about 600 students in Pendleton, was scheduled to close last month because its sponsoring organization did not renew its contract. Education Resource Consultants of Ohio declined to continue supporting the school due to its academic performance and financial situation. Ohio law stipulates that charter schools must have a sponsor to operate. VLT tried unsuccessfully to obtain a new sponsor, asking several organizations including the Ohio Department of Education. When ODE declined, citing the school’s poor academic performance, VLT sued in Hamilton County Common Please Court. VLT argued that its performance was never poor enough to trigger automatic closure. The school says that ODE is playing politics and that it warned other potential sponsoring organizations not to sponsor the school. ODE acknowledges it made organizations aware of the school’s performance issues.Allen ruled that ODE made it difficult for the school to find a new sponsor and that closing the school would do harm to its students. Ninety-nine percent of VLT’s students are economically disadvantaged. The school has lost a third of its student body, and subsequently almost $2 million in funding, in the past three years as Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine undergo demographic shifts. • State Rep. Connie Pillich will hold a roundtable discussion today in Cincinnati as part of a state-wide tour around veterans’ issues. That tour began July 2 in Huber Heights. The meeting with local veterans will focus on financial challenges facing the military community, including the need for financial literacy education for veterans and state-level unemployment benefits for their spouses. Pillich is a Democrat who has represented Montgomery in the state legislature since 2009. She’s currently vacating that seat to challenge State Treasurer Josh Mandel. She’s touting her efforts on veterans issues and her service in the armed forces as she travels around the state to meet with veterans and their families. Before her political career, Pillich served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and did support duties during Operation Desert Storm. • The Cincinnati Park Board settled a federal lawsuit today brought by several residents of Over-the-Rhine regarding rules put in place after the 2012 renovation at Washington Park. The residents said the rules, which forbade distributing food and clothing in the park and taking items out of trashcans, were drawn up without public scrutiny and designed to keep the homeless out of the park. The city dropped the rules in September 2012. The city has not commented on how it decided upon the rules in the first place. The amount of today’s settlement in the case wasn’t disclosed. • Architect Magazine pulled no punches in an editorial on General Electric’s proposed new building at The Banks yesterday.  Written by former Cincinnati Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky, a noted architecture critic, the piece caustically derided the building, and The Banks, for a gutless lack of panache. “Cincinnati, a proud city with a great heritage busily squandering it, will be stuck with the results of its own shortsightedness,” Betsky wrote in the piece. Ouch. • Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and attorney general hopeful David Pepper will ask the Ohio General Assembly to provide more money for heroin clinics today in a press conference in Columbus. The Democrats say clinics around the state face a $20 million shortfall after recent changes in the way federal money is distributed. The heroin crisis has been a big talking point for Pepper, who has criticized Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine over his handling of the surge in addiction-related deaths.• The number of people commuting by bicycle is up 60 percent nationally from the year 2000, according to recent data from the U.S. Census. But that data also show another dynamic–most of that increase has come from relatively wealthy, white commuters who can afford to choose how they roll. Among low-income people, especially people of color, the desire for car ownership is much higher and the value placed on alternate means of commuting is much lower. This may be because people in low income neighborhoods face much longer commute times and an environment without the necessary infrastructure for safe cycling. But there are also probably social factors at play — cars are still strong symbols of success across all levels of society in the U.S., and low income commuters desire those symbols as much as anyone. • Finally, if you’re looking for the next big (literally, huge) thing in hip living arrangements, I’ve got you covered. If a renovated row house makes you yawn, and a partially reconstructed loft space is just too domestic for you, how about living in a Boeing 727? Bruce Campbell (no, not THAT Bruce Campbell, though I can totally see this plane abode being the setting of a campy horror flick) of Oregon is leading the way on this brave new trend. Share with all your friends who are still really, really, into Lost.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.03.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama, Education at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Charter schools fail, Obamacare lowers costs, Medicaid expansion could help thousands

Ohio charter school have largely failed to live up to their promises, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Charter schools were originally pursued by Ohio lawmakers to help find a suitable alternative to the state’s struggling urban public schools. But in the latest school report cards, charter schools performed just as poorly as urban public schools. Charter schools are allowed to run a profit and skip on certain state rules and regulations, which was supposed to give them some leniency in implementing successful academic models. Obamacare will lower average health care costs in Ohio’s individual market, according to a study from RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank. Although premiums will rise as a result of the law, the tax credits offered in Obamacare will be more than enough to offset the increases. The numbers only apply to the individual marketplaces; anyone who gets insurance through an employer or public program falls under different rules and regulation. Still, the findings are good news for Obamacare as the federal government aims to insure 7 million people — and 2.7 million young, healthy adults among those — to make the individual marketplaces work. As part of Obamacare, states and the federal government will open online enrollment for new, subsidized individual insurance plans on Oct. 1, and the plans will go into effect at the start of next year. The Medicaid expansion could insure more than 42,000 people in Hamilton County, according to the Ohio Poverty Law Center. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for a single-person household). If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments indefinitely to 90 percent of the expansion’s total cost. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade. Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio legislature to review if changes are necessary. Kasich compared the program to federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than previously expected. The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union because knowledge of the program’s existence was withheld from the public for two-plus months and an independent group never reviewed the program’s privacy-protecting protocols. Democratic City Council candidate Greg Landsman backed the second phase of the streetcar in a column Friday. The endorsement could be vital to the project’s future because Landsman is widely considered a favorite in this year’s City Council race. JobsOhio’s leaders plan to launch a public relations offensive to repair the agency’s image. The privatized development agency has been criticized for its lack of transparency after media outlets uncovered that it was handing out tax credits to companies with direct financial ties to JobsOhio board members. Democrats argue the agency needs more transparency and checks on its recommendations, while Republicans, who created the agency to replace the Ohio Department of Development, claim the agency’s privatized, secretive nature allows it to move more quickly with job-creating development deals. The University of Cincinnati was named public university of the year by The Washington Center. The award recognizes UC for supporting experiential education through its partnership with The Washington Center, an independent academic organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities by providing internships and other opportunities in Washington, D.C., for school credit. Police busted a $1 million shoplifting ring in Ohio that targeted discount retail stores along the Interstate 75 corridor, such as Walmart, Meijer, CVS and Family Dollar. State law will soon require vaccine immunizations against several diseases for children attending school. Cincinnati-based Kroger is cutting health care benefits for employees’ spouses on Jan. 1, but the plan will also increase pay, stabilize the company’s pension fund and provide more benefits for part-time employees. Obamacare apparently played a role in the decision to cut spousal benefits, but Kroger says the most influential factor was rising health care costs all around the nation — a trend that has been ongoing for decades. Here is a visualization of the urban heat island effect, which will make cities warm up much faster as global warming continues. Could you survive the end of the universe? io9 tackles the question here.
 
 

Audit Finds More Problems at City’s Largest Charter School

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment.  
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ccpa

Audit Finds More Problems at City's Largest Charter School

School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars

A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. 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.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.25.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, 2013 Election, Education at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Ohioans support same-sex marriage, Portman's son explains coming out, charter schools fail

A new Saperstein Poll suggests Ohioans have dramatically shifted on same-sex marriage, with 54 percent now supporting a new amendment to legalize gay marriage and only 40 percent against it. FreedomOhio’s amendment would repeal Ohio’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban and instead grant marriage rights to the state’s many LGBT individuals. CityBeat covered the same-sex marriage amendment in further detail here and the inevitability of gay rights here. Last week, Gov. John Kasich reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, which likely holds bad political consequences because of changing demographics. Will Portman, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s son, wrote about coming out to his father and the experiences that followed in today’s Yale Daily News. In the column, Portman explained why his father took two years to shift on same-sex marriage: “Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.” If the Ohio Department of Education adopts the more rigorous school report cards demanded by lawmakers, many of the state’s charter schools will get F’s. Most schools would fall under the new standards, but 72 percent of charter schools would fail — an unwelcome sign for alternative schools often touted by Republicans for offering more school choice. The schools’ advocates claim the discrepancy between charter schools and other traditional public schools is driven by demographics and greater diversity. But Ohio’s charter schools are also safer for LGBT individuals than traditional schools, according to StateImpact Ohio. City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced Friday that City Council is poised to support a motion that will prevent companies and other groups from discriminating if they take public funds. The initiative is coming together after the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was prevented from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Western & Southern has launched the next phase of its ongoing legal attack to run the Anna Louise Inn out of the Lytle Park neighborhood: The financial giant is now accusing ALI and the city of lying and discrimination. In a letter to City Solicitor John Curp, Western & Southern’s attorneys claimed ALI can’t take federal funds and continue refusing services to men. The city and ALI are so far unsure whether Western & Southern has a case. Cincinnati’s Catholic schools have grown into the sixth largest Catholic schools network in the nation, serving 44,732 students in preschool through 12th grade. New condos are opening in Over-the-Rhine. Thousands of jobs are opening at Ohio’s insurance companies. Ohio gas prices are up this week. A comet, not an asteroid, may have killed the dinosaurs. The study may provide fuel to those worried about an impending apocalypse: There are about two million asteroids more than one kilometer wide in the solar system, but scientists estimate that there are up to one trillion comets.
 
 
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.
 
 

Report: Charter Schools Evade Closure Laws

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
When an Ohio charter school consistently fails to meet academic standards, the state automatically shuts it down. But a report from Policy Matters Ohio found some charter schools might be evading the rule altogether.   
by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Report: Charter Schools Evade Closure Laws

Cincinnati facility closed down, reopened under new name

When an Ohio charter school consistently fails to meet academic standards, the state automatically shuts it down. It’s an aspect of Ohio law that’s touted as one of the toughest standards for charter schools in the nation, but a report from Policy Matters Ohio found some charter schools may be evading the rule altogether. In Cincinnati, the W.E.B. DuBois Academy was put on the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) closure list in 2009. According to the Policy Matters report, the same school and some of the staff remain, but under a different name: Cincinnati Speech and Reading Intervention Center (CSR). Before 2009, Dubois Academy was CSR's sister school. Dubois Academy focused on grades four to eight, and CSR took up kindergarten through third grade. But when Dubois Academy was asked to shut down, CSR suddenly decided to expand to teach kindergarten through eighth grade, and it conveniently moved to the Dubois Academy building in the process. The report also found some staff remained at the former DuBois Academy facility. Out of eight teachers from Dubois Academy, three still work at CSR.  Still, the school did change its sponsor from Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio to Richland Academy — a sign of some institutional changes.Before it was placed on ODE’s closure list, Dubois Academy gained three straight “Academic Emergency” ratings. Between 2007 and 2010, it received more than $3.6 million in state funds. In the preliminary 2011-2012 report card, CSR gained a rating of “Continuous Improvement” after receiving an “Academic Emergency” rating in the 2010-2011 report card. The story of Dubois Academy and CSR is apparently being replicated around the state. Six other facilities reopened under new names shortly after state-mandated closure. Some schools, including the Eagle Heights Academy in Youngstown that reopened as Southside Academy, even kept the same sponsors.  An eighth school in Cleveland — Hope Academy Broadway — shut down one year before the state mandate kicked in, citing an inability to find a sponsor. A year later, it reopened under a new name — Broadway Academy. In the process, the school retained 11 Hope Academy Broadway staff members. In a statement, Piet van Lier, the report’s co-author, called the loophole a “systemic flaw” that undermines Ohio’s education system: “Until Ohio strengthens its charter-closure law, the state will continue to fall short of the goal of improving public education for all Ohio’s children.” The report suggests legislators revamp charter school closure laws and strengthen ODE’s oversight of charter schools. It also wants legislators to direct ODE to refuse the kind of expansions and mergers that keep closed facilities open and hold charter school companies more accountable.
 
 

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