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.

Looking Ahead to a Busy Year in Local and State Politics

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
With 2012 in the past, it’s time to start preparing for a brand new year of politics and policy. From what’s been hinted at so far, progressives could have another big year in 2013, but only if they work for it.   
by German Lopez 12.28.2012
Posted In: Economy, Education, News, Government, Governor at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Local unemployment unchanged, schools could open enrollment, 2013 challenges schools

Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment. The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have enough support from the district’s board. It might now.Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools. Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to change the school funding formula.Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9 percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300 in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500 left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4 percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for seasonal factors.Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects. Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52 cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
by German Lopez 12.26.2012
Posted In: News, Courts, Education, Budget, Spending at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

CPS helps rework school funding, cuts mean less teachers, judges against double-dipping

Cincinnati Public Schools seems to be playing a big role in reforming Ohio’s school funding formula. Superintendent Mary Ronan got a call from Gov. John Kasich’s office about the per-pupil funding formula CPS uses to distribute funds to its schools. It seems the state might adopt a similar method, but Ronan is cautious: “I do think it's one of the ways you could do it, a per-pupil funding, but I have to say, we were always tweaking every year ... because sometimes those formulas can be a bit off and any time we saw one school getting a lot more than another ... we tried to refine it every year over probably the 15 years we have used it.” She also notes schools are getting “bare minimum” funding right now. CityBeat covered budget problems at CPS here. In general, state budget cuts have led to fewer teachers in Ohio schools. Gov. Kasich previously urged schools to focus on classroom instruction, but it seems the words aren't being followed up with proper funding. Southwestern Ohio judges are clashing over double-dipping. The practice involves government workers retiring and getting rehired so they can collect pensions and a paycheck at the same time. At a meeting, Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh said she wants to allow Magistrate Michael Bachman to retire and then be rehired so he doesn't lose a 3-percent increase to his retirement, which is otherwise being eliminated by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System after 2012. But the move has been met with resistance from other judges. For Cincinnati hospitals, Medicare changes mean some loss and some gain. The online campaign urging Macy’s to dump Donald Trump circled a “Dump Trump” billboard around Macy’s headquarters. The anti-Trump movement has gained about 680,000 signatures since it started. On Christmas Eve, some spent time with family, while Butler County Deputy David Runnells helped deliver a baby in the back of a car during an emergency call. Ohio will use $20 million out of $200 million in casino funds to train incumbent workers. Gov. Kasich says the program could help avoid layoffs. It seems Mitt Romney's presidential campaign really thought they were going to win. In campaign memos leading up to the election, campaign staff said the race was “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” and the campaign ridiculed the possibility of losing Ohio due to the Romney campaign’s “better ground game.” But President Barack Obama had a much larger ground game for one-on-one interaction, which is one of the factors former Romney staff now say led to their demise. But whatever. Romney didn't want to be president, anyway, says son Tagg Romney: “He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.” Fiscal cliff talks aren’t going well. President Obama cut his vacation early to work out negotiations. If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out their problems, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes dubbed the “fiscal cliff” will kick in throughout 2013. But it’s looking more and more likely the nation will head off the cliff, considering U.S. Speaker John Boehner can’t even pass tax hikes on people making more than $1 million a year. Ever wonder what dinosaur meat would taste like? Well, Popular Science has that covered.
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project. The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide. Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected. Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition. With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here. The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end. Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs. But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today. With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws. Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways. Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
by German Lopez 11.30.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Women's Health, Education at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Mitt Romney

Morning News and Stuff

Romney loss stops heartbeat bill, tougher report cards pass House, S&P criticizes Cincinnati

Mitt Romney’s big loss is finally getting to Ohio Republicans. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus made procedural moves to block the heartbeat bill from a vote before the end of the lame-duck session. Niehaus, a Republican, said his decision was largely influenced by Romney’s loss on Nov. 6. When the heartbeat bill was originally proposed, it was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It banned abortion as soon as a heartbeat was detected, which can happen six weeks into pregnancy. It made no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. CityBeat recently wrote about the GOP's renewed anti-abortion agenda, but if Republicans begin taking lessons from the most recent election, the renewed agenda will never come to light. The Ohio House of Representatives approved Cincinnati’s tougher school report card standards. An early simulation of the proposed system in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. The bill will also impose more regulations and oversight on charter schools. As part of the overall reform, the state is replacing its standardized tests, but some Democrats are worried the new tests and system will be too tough on schools. Standard & Poor's is not optimistic about Cincinnati. The firm gave the city’s debt rating a negative outlook due to structural budget problems. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says ratings firms are looking for spending cuts or revenue growth from Cincinnati to achieve structurally balanced budgets in the next two years, but Dohoney’s most recent budget proposal largely balances the deficit with a one-time source from privatizing parking services. On the other hand, pursuing austerity during a weak economic recovery is a bad idea. The Cincinnati Fire Department says it doesn’t have enough personnel to man fire trucks. The problem is only getting worse as retirements increase, according to Fire Chief Richard Braun. The University of Cincinnati’s campus was ranked among the most dangerous in the country. Ohio has some of the lowest graduation rates in the Midwest. Low-income, black and Hispanic students are all much less likely to graduate than their wealthier and white peers. Gov. John Kasich met with college and university leaders today to discuss higher education. After the meeting, Kasich and the leaders suggested attaching state funding to graduation rates, among other reforms. It looks like Ohio’s financial institutions tax bill will make it through the Ohio Senate without major changes. The bill was already passed by the Ohio House. A memo from nonprofit research organization Policy Matters Ohio recommended making changes so the bill cuts tax loopholes without cutting rates on big banks. Zach Schiller, research director from Policy Matters, said in the memo, “Big banks aren’t better banks, as their role in the recent financial crisis made clear. It is questionable policy for the state to favor them with lower rates.” It’s official: Cincinnati is “cougar capital of Ohio.” Heart-lifting story of the day: A New York City cop helped a homeless person by buying him a pair of boots. Has the modern art world lost touch with its audience?NASA confirmed the presence of ice water on Mercury.

State to Replace Standardized Test

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
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.   
by German Lopez 11.21.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Health care at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati unemployment drops, Ohio standardized test to be replaced, gas prices rise

Public service announcement: There will be no Morning News and Stuff Thursday and Friday due to Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving, and CityBeat will see you again on Monday! With gains in the civilian labor force, Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent. The city’s unadjusted unemployment rate is below the nation’s rate of 7.5 percent, but it’s above Hamilton County’s 6.2 percent rate and Ohio’s 6.3 percent rate.The Ohio Graduation Tests will soon be no more. As part of broader reform, state education leaders have agreed to establish new standardized tests with a focus on college and career readiness. But the reform faces some concerns from Democrats, who worry the new standards, particularly the school report cards that evaluate schools and districts, may be unreasonably tough. An early simulation of the new school report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D- under the new system, with 23 CPS schools flunking. Gas prices in southwest Ohio appear to be on the rise. Since Monday, they have moved up 10 to 20 cents. The Horseshoe Casino is hiring again. This time, the casino is looking for people experienced in restaurant management, hosting, banquet, finance, marketing and guest services. One problem Ohio must consider in its decision to expand Medicaid or not: a doctor shortage. Still, one study found states that expanded Medicaid had notable health gains. Contrary to the fiscal reasons normally cited by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, another report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money by lowering the amount of uncompensated care. Thirteen people are going for the Ohio Supreme Court. The vacant slot needs to be filled after Justice Evelyn Stratton announced she was stepping down earlier in the year. Her replacement, who will be picked by Gov. Kasich, will finish the two years of her six-year term. Some of the candidates are from the Cincinnati area, including Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, the newly elected First District appellate judge. Surprisingly, Republican Justice Robert Cupp did not submit an application despite recently losing re-election. A ban on internet sweepstakes cafes is on its way. The cafes are allegedly susceptible to illegal activities such as money laundering, racketeering and sex trafficking. Marc Dann, the Democrat formerly in charge of the Ohio attorney general’s office, lost his law license for six months. Dann resigned from the role of attorney general in 2008 after 17 months of scandal-ridden service. Three staffers at Gov. Kasich’s office were cleared by the Ohio inspector general’s office of engaging in political activity during work hours. The mediation between Hostess and a striking union failed. The company is blaming the union for shutting down, but the free market is a likelier culprit. With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is some science on weight gain. A new way to give drugs to patients: injectable sponges that expand inside the body.
by German Lopez 11.20.2012
Posted In: Education, News at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

State Replaces Standardized Tests

Tougher tests seek to prepare students for college, careers

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.
by German Lopez 10.29.2012

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.Issue 2 is getting outraised quite badly. Protect Your Vote Ohio, the group opposing Issue 2, has raised $6.9 million, while Voters First Ohio, the group supporting Issue 2, has raised $3.6 million since July. If Issue 2 is approved by voters, it will put an independent citizens commission in charge of the redistricting process. Currently, the process is handled by elected officials, who have used the process in politically advantageous ways. Republicans redrew the First Congressional District, Cincinnati's district, to include Warren County. The move put more emphasis on rural and suburban voters, which tend to side with Republicans, and less on urbanites, which tend to side with Democrats. Not only will Ohio play a pivotal role in the presidential election, but RealClearPolitics, a website that aggregates polling, says Hamilton County is among two Ohio counties that will play the biggest role. In light of that, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be in town this week. Obama will visit Oct. 31, and Romney will be here Nov. 2. Currently, Obama leads in Ohio by 2.1 points, while Romney leads nationally by 0.9 points. A partnership between the University of Cincinnati and U.S. State Department is going to Iraq. For the third year, UC will be working with Salahaddin University in Iraq to help redesign the Iraqi school’s curriculum and establish a career center. The Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may merge soon, says Board of Regent Chancellor Jim Petro. The Board of Regents is already moving to ODE's building later this year. Petro said the building move will allow the Board of Regents, which focuses on higher education, to cooperate more with ODE, which focuses on elementary, middle and high school.  The Ohio legislature could be getting a big ethics overhaul in the coming weeks. Specifics weren’t offered, but Senate President Tom Niehaus said disclosure and transparency will be priorities. Cincinnati’s United Way beat its fundraising goal of $61 million in 2012. The goal was originally seen as “a stretch.” The nationwide meningitis outbreak is forcing some Ohio officials to take a look at the state’s compounding pharmacies. Compounding is when pharmacists make custom preparations for patients under special circumstances. The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy has already taken action against the New England Compounding Center, whose compound was connected with starting the meningitis outbreak. The FBI will join an investigation into fraudulent attendance data reporting in Ohio schools. Previously, state Auditor Dave Yost found five school districts were scrubbing data in his first interim report, but a second interim report cleared every other district checked so far, including Cincinnati Public Schools. Romney is getting a bit of attention for offensive remarks about the LGBT community he made when he was governor. On gay parents, Romney said: "Some gays are actually having children born to them. ... It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and father.''