by German Lopez
Lawmaker wants expanded death penalty, CPS getting 10-year plan, local library stays busy
State Rep. John Becker, a Cincinnati Republican, is pushing to expand the death penalty
to include some sex-related crimes. His proposal, made Friday, would
allow the state to consider execution in cases of rape, sexual battery
and improper sexual contact if the suspect has a previous sex crime
conviction and there are aggravating circumstances. Becker says he was
inspired to propose the death penalty expansion after hearing about three
Cleveland women who were kidnapped, held and raped for years by Ariel Castro before they escaped in May. But
Castro, who was convicted earlier this month, wouldn’t have been
eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s plan because he didn’t have a previous sex crime conviction.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) officials are developing a 10-year plan for the school district,
following in the footsteps of the Columbus and Cleveland systems and
their unique plans. The school district is asking for more community
support and $29 million from the state to, among other plans, boost its
community learning center initiative, a nationally recognized program
that turns schools into community hubs with extra services such as
dental care and college preparation; expand early education, which is
often heralded as one of the best economic investments; and provide more options through charter schools, which have generally performed worse than public schools but provide more choices for students.
Unlike the other big city systems, CPS has posted decent academic
ratings in the past few years, so the changes might not be as drastic
or require legislative involvement.The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was found to be the busiest central library in the country for the second year in a row
by a report from the Public Library Association. Overall, the report
found the Cincinnati system is the seventh busiest public library system
in the country and second busiest in Ohio right after Cuyahoga County,
which includes Cleveland.The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will use an $8,000 grant
from the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Historic
Preservation Office to help revitalize approximately 13 buildings in the
neighborhood. The grant will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to
research and apply for federal designation on the National Register of
Historic Places, which would unlock more tax credits for the buildings
and area. The rest of the money for the project will come from private
funds. “Exciting things are happening in Over-the-Rhine,” said David
Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a
statement. “Helping the neighborhood receive this historic designation
will allow the continued revitalization of this growing community.”With a state ban lifted, Ohio is getting more online schools
for the first time in eight years. Three e-schools were approved to
open this fall, and five more could be approved this year. The
moratorium on new e-schools was held until the state approved e-school
standards, which were drafted by the International Association for K-12
Online Learning, an association funded in part by e-schools, and include
no mention of proper budgeting or attendance tracking. A CityBeat look at e-schools last year found e-schools generally perform much worse but get more state funding than traditional public schools.
Five Miami University students helped install a wheelchair-accessible swing in Hanover Township.
Ohio gas prices are rising but still below the national average.
Ohio is among 24 states asking the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone manufacturers to test unmanned flying vehicles within state borders.
The Western & Southern Open had record attendance this year, with nearly 200,000 people turning up.
A 12-year-old electronics prodigy and teacher is working on a plan to revamp the U.S. education system to make it more fun.
by German Lopez
CPS gets national attention, city might take Emery Theatre, SoMoLend accused of fraud
New York City mayoral candidates see Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) community learning centers as a model for their city’s schools.
The centers bring members of the community, including dental clinics,
mental health therapists and mentors from local banks and churches, to a school hub to
keep students engaged after traditional classroom hours end. But an
analysis from The New York Times also finds that progress has
been fairly modest, with some schools in the district still struggling
and graduation and attendance rates showing little sign of improvement.
Still, CPS officials argue the initiative has helped mitigate the
effects of poverty and hunger in the classroom. CityBeat covered CPS and its community learning centers back in October here.
The city of Cincinnati could take control of the Emery Theatre
following a legal dispute between the Requiem Project, a nonprofit
seeking to renovate the theater, and the University of Cincinnati, Emery
Center Apartments Limited Partnership and the Emery Center Corporation,
the group of leasers and owners trying to push Requiem out of the
building. Requiem stated in a letter Friday that it would approve of the
city taking over the building, a possibility currently being analyzed
by Cincinnati’s legal team. CityBeat first covered the Emery Theater situation in further detail here.
SoMoLend, the local startup and city partner that connects small businesses seeking loans and lenders, is being accused of fraud by the state of Ohio.
The charges could force the high-profile business to shut down; for the
time being, it’s not giving out any loans in the state. In December,
the city of Cincinnati teamed up with SoMoLend in a partnership that was meant to land local small businesses and startups much-needed loans through crowdfunding.
Ohio will spend $6.2 million this fiscal year to combat gambling addictions.
With casinos, racinos and gambling generally expanding in Ohio, the state government is directing more
money to county mental health and addiction boards to ensure problem
gamblers are treated.
The two officers who were on the clock when death row inmate Billy Slagle hung himself have been put on paid administrative leave
while the Ohio prisons department investigates what happened. Slagle
was convicted of murder and sentenced to death — a punishment the Ohio Parole Board and Gov. John Kasich upheld in July despite pleas from a county prosecutor — but he hung himself days
before he was supposed to be executed. CityBeat covered Slagle’s case in further detail here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking Ohioans to be cautious of unsolicited phone calls offering medical alert devices.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino accidentally awarded two $1 million prizes
on Saturday night. It turns out the casino gave a $1 million check to
the wrong Kevin Lewis, so it decided to keep course with the original
check and give another $1 million to the Lewis the check was
originally intended for.
Cursive might get kicked from the classroom.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is directing federal prosecutors to minimize the use of mandatory minimum drug sentences.
The change will mostly benefit drug offenders with no ties to
large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels and no history of violence.
Ohio gas prices dropped this week and remain below the national average.
Actual headline: “Video shows thief stealing cigarettes.”
Check out Kings Island’s new roller coaster: Banshee.
Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN’s medical respondent, is now down with marijuana.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:40 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati Public Schools getting $15 million less than it did in 2009
Compared to the previous budget, the two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly Thursday increased school funding by $700 million. But the funding
is still $515 million less than Ohio schools received in 2009.
The result: Cincinnati Public Schools will receive
$15 million less in state funding than it did in 2009, joining three in
four school districts who have a net loss to funding between 2009 and
Still, Republicans are calling the funding boost the largest increase to education spending in more than 10 years.
“No school district in the state of Ohio will receive less
funding than current levels,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for
Ohio House Republicans. “Eighty percent of Ohio’s students … are in one
of the school districts that is receiving an increase.”
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and
education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says the claim is dishonest
because it ignores longer-term trends in funding.
“It’s like they cut off both of your legs, give you back one of them and say, 'You should thank us,'” he says.
Republicans defend the cuts by citing an $8 billion deficit in 2011, which had to be eliminated under state law. Some of the cuts from that previous budget directly impacted school funding, but the decreases also eliminated subsidies that previously benefited schools, such as tangible
personal property reimbursements.
Dyer says the state budget situation has changed since then. Instead of focusing on tax cuts, he argues state legislators should have prioritized education funding.
Another problem, according to Dyer, is how the increased
funding is distributed. Although Dyer acknowledges the plan is more equitable than the governor’s original proposal, he says some of the most impoverished schools districts, particularly the poor and rural, will get the smallest increases.
Even if there was full equity, Dyer claims there’s not enough money going into education as a result of years of
cuts. To illustrate his point, he gives an example: “If I’m going to go
see Superman with three of my friends and it costs $10 each to get in,
I’ve got $36 and I give everybody $9, none of us are getting in. Even
though I perfectly distributed the money equally, … the fact is none of
us are getting in.”
The budget’s tax changes could also impact future local
funding to schools. As part of the changes, the state will not subsidize
12.5 percent of future property tax levies — something the state does for
current levies. For local taxpayers, that means new school levies will
be 12.5 percent more expensive.
That, Dyer argues, will make it more difficult to pass
future school levies, and that could force schools to ask for less money
if they want levies to get voter approval.
“The legislature and legislators are doing a real
disservice to people to tell everybody that they’re getting an increase
and no one is getting cut,” Dyer says. “They need to be honest with
The budget also increases funding to “school choice”
options, including the addition of 2,000 vouchers for private schooling
that will be available to kindergarten students in households making
less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.Republicans argue the vouchers give lower-income children access to schools and options in education that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
But a January report from Policy Matters Ohio found the extra
mobility enabled by school choice options hurts student performance and strains
teachers and staff by forcing them to more often accommodate
The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it this weekend.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding
sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and
money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law
between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law
to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The
measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the
state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the
District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to
be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican
Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups
that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the
U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a
Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down
by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to
control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
A new report from the state auditor found
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools manipulated
attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to
lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school
by German Lopez
Posted In: Education
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
State auditor lays blame on state policy
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating
attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay
much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine
school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing
students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their
attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely
manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance
reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that
encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and
no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a
statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's
current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and
in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even
outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including
increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students,
better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to
pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report
issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton
Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues
were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four
of the 15 issues
couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed
the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled
students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure
school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.
by German Lopez
LGBT supporter loses job, Terhar remains board president, local schools scrubbed data
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.
by German Lopez
Qualls calls for debates, CPS serves as model, Kasich's education plan breaks promises
In response to Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s
call for a debate, the campaign for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another
Democratic candidate for mayor, is calling both campaigns to schedule a
series of debates. Jens Sutmoller, Qualls’ campaign manager, said in a
statement, “Vice Mayor Qualls believes the citizens of Cincinnati
deserve a robust series of public debates between the two final 2013
Mayoral candidates. She looks forward to articulating her optimistic
vision of Cincinnati’s future and the investments we need to make in our
neighborhoods and city to achieve a welcoming city of opportunity for
all our citizens.”
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are being used as a model
by other schools around the state and country. Other schools are
particularly interested in Cincinnati’s community learning centers,
which provide services not directly related to education, including health clinics,
mental health counselors, tutoring programs and extensive after-school
programs. The approach is being praised for making schools serve the
greater needs of communities. CityBeat wrote about CPS and its community learning centers here.
Steve Dyer, an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, says Gov. John Kasich’s school education plan actually does the opposite
of what Kasich claimed: “However, after examining the
district-by-district runs produced by the Kasich Administration
yesterday (which I posted at Innovation Ohio earlier), what is clear
that even without eliminating the guaranteed money Kasich said he wants
to eliminate soon, kids in the poorest property wealth districts in the
state will receive 25 cents in additional state revenue for every $1
received by kids in the property wealthiest districts.” A CityBeat analysis found the education plan increases funding for Cincinnati Public Schools, but not enough to make up for past cuts.
The University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Miami University are getting slight increases in funding under Kasich’s higher education funding plan.
The plan increases overall higher education funding by 1.9 percent,
with UC getting 2.4 percent more funding, Cincinnati State getting 4
percent more and Miami getting 1.8 percent more. The increased funding
should be helpful to Miami University, which recently initiated $99 million in summer construction and renovation projects. Historically, Ohio has given its universities less funding per pupil than other parts of the country.
An appeals court ruling could put the Anna Louise Inn back at square one.
On Friday, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals affirmed most of a
lower court’s ruling against the Anna Louise Inn, but it sent the case
back down to the lower court on a legal technicality. The ruling means
the case could restart, but Tim Burke, the inn's attorney, claims the Anna Louise Inn has already done what the appeals court asked. For CityBeat’s other coverage of the Anna Louise Inn, click here.
Media outlets are finally picking up the story about illegal immigrants and driver’s licenses. Gongwer wrote about it here, and The Columbus Dispatch covered it here. CityBeat originally wrote about the story last week (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6).
Following the board president’s comparison of Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama, the Ohio State Board of Education is set to discuss social media. CityBeat wrote about Board President Debe Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Remember the Tower Place Mall! Two tenants are holding out at the troubled mall as they look for different downtown locations.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wants everyone to know he’s still cracking down on synthetic drugs.
The pope is stepping down.
How kids draw dinosaurs is probably wrong.
by German Lopez
Budget increases aren’t enough to overcome troubled past
Gov. John Kasich touted a rosy, progressive vision when announcing his education reform plan Jan. 31, but reality does not match the governor’s optimism. It’s true Kasich’s proposed 2014-2015 budget
will not reduce school funding, but under the Kasich administration,
local schools will still have a net loss in state funds.
The governor’s office released tentative budget numbers yesterday that show the Kasich plan will give Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) $8.8 million more funding for the 2014 fiscal year. But that’s not enough to make up for the $39 million CPS will lose in the same fiscal year due to Kasich’s first budget, which was passed passed in 2011. Even with the new education plan, the net loss in the 2014 fiscal year is $30.2 million.
The problem is Kasich’s first budget had massive cuts for schools. The elimination of the tangible personal
property reimbursements (TPP) hit CPS particularly hard, as CityBeat previously covered (“Battered But Not Broken,”
issue of Oct. 3). In the Cut Hurts Ohio website, Innovation Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio estimated Kasich’s budget cuts resulted in $1.8 billion less funding for
education statewide. In Hamilton County, the cuts led to
$117 million less funding.
Kasich’s massive cuts didn’t even lead to lower taxes for many Ohioans. A report from Innovation Ohio found
school districts and voters made up for the big education cuts with $487 million in new school levies. In 2012, Cincinnati voters approved a $51.5 million levy for CPS. The school levies are a direct
increase on local income and property taxes, but they’re measures
Ohioans clearly felt they had to take in the face of big state
For more analysis of Kasich’s budget, check out CityBeat’s other coverage:
Kasich Tax Cut Favors WealthyGovernor’s Budget Ignores Troubled PastKasich Budget Expands Medicaid, Cuts Taxes
by German Lopez
Kasich plan not so progressive, turnpike plan disappoints, WLWT attacks teacher salaries
Gov. John Kasich’s school funding plan may not be so progressive after all. In his initial announcement,
Kasich promised the program will be more progressive by raising
funding to poorer schools, but this
fact from StateImpact Ohio
seems to contradict that claim: “Under the projections released by the
state, a suburban district like Olentangy that has about $192,000 of
property value per student would get a more than three-fold increase in
state funding. Meanwhile, Noble Local, a small rural district with about
$164,000 of property wealth per student sees no increase in state
funding.” The Toledo Blade found Kasich’s education plan favors suburban schools. The Akron Beacon Journal pulled numbers that show rich, growing school districts will do fine under the plan. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 60 percent of Ohio schools will not see increases in funding from Kasich’s plan.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is now shying away
from statutory guarantees for northern Ohio in the Ohio Turnpike plan.
Originally, Kasich promised 90 percent of Ohio Turnpike funds will
remain in northern Ohio, albeit with a fairly vague definition of
northern Ohio. Now, even that vague 90 percent doesn’t seem to be
sticking around. But the plan would still be a massive job-creating
infrastructure initiative for the entire state. The Ohio Turnpike runs
along northern Ohio, so changes to fees and the road affect people living north the most.
WLWT published a thinly veiled criticism of local teacher
salaries. The article pointed out Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) pays
45 of its employees more than $100,000 a year.
Of those people, 42 are administrators and three are teachers. In
comparison, the highest paid Cleveland school teacher makes $86,000. The
article also glances over the fact CPS is “the number one urban-rated
school district in the state” to point out the school district is still
lacking in a few categories. As CPS Board President Eileen Reed points
out, a school district needs to attract better educators with higher
salaries if it wants to improve. Paying teachers less because the school
district is performing worse would only put schools in a downward
spiral as hiring standards drop alongside the quality of education.
County commissioners seem supportive
of Kasich’s budget. Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg
Hartmann said the budget could be “revolutionary” by changing how county
governments work. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune highlighted the
Medicaid expansion in the budget. As “revolutionary” as the budget
could be, it’s not enough to make up for Ohio and Kasich’s troubled past.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was ranked the third best pediatric hospital in the United States by Parents magazine.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments
is looking for comments on updating the region’s bike map. Anyone who
wants a say should leave a comment here.
The upcoming Horseshoe Casino is partnering up with local hotels to offer a free shuttle service that will seamlessly carry visitors around town.
One courageous grandma stood up
to an anti-gay pastor. During a sermon, the pastor outed a gay high
school student and told everyone they would "work together to address
this problem of homosexuality." At that point, the grandma snapped at
the pastor, “There are a lot of problems here, and him being gay is not
one of them.” She then apologized to the boy and walked out.
Music has a lot of effects on the brain. Here is an infographic that shows them.
Bonus science news: Earth-like planets could be closer than most people think.