by German Lopez
96 days ago
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.
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.
Poor CPS report card includes Taft High’s fall from excellence
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Three years after basking in the national
spotlight for transforming from a failing inner-city school to a model
of academic excellence, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High
School is showing signs of relapsing.
by German Lopez
107 days ago
Ohio could weaken energy rules, CPS struggles in new report cards, pension group advances
National conservative groups have brought their concerted effort to weaken state energy standards to Ohio.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s on the board of directors of the conservative American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), says he will introduce a bill
within two weeks that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy
efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and
solar power. ALEC and the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank
backed in part by oil companies and global-warming deniers, have teamed
up to undo energy standards in different states, but so far the groups’
efforts have failed. Seitz’s proposal would weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy
Law, which environmentalists and other green energy advocates say have
revitalized wind, solar and other renewable projects around the state.
Cincinnati Public Schools got six F’s, one D and two C’s
in the 2012-2013 school report card released yesterday by the Ohio
Department of Education (ODE). The scores come with a big caveat: The
school district is still being investigated for scrubbing data,
which could be favorably skewing results for CPS. This is the first
year ODE is using its A-F grading system, which is much more stringent
than the previous system — to the point that no school district earned
straight A’s this year, according to StateImpact Ohio.
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the
controversial pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this
November, officially registered with the state.
The group isn’t disclosing how much money it’s raised so far. The tea
party-backed amendment would privatize the city’s pension system, a
pooled fund that’s managed by an independent board, so future city
employees — excluding cops and firefighters, who use a different system —
contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. City officials
and unions say the amendment will raise costs for the city and hurt
gains for employees. Tea party supporters say it’s needed to deal with
Cincinnati’s rising pension costs. CityBeat covered the pension amendment and the national groups who may be helping fund its campaign in further detail here.
Ohio’s oil and gas boom has apparently failed to create all the jobs
state officials previously promised. “Total employment growth has been
much less robust than sales activity in Ohio's shale country,” claims
the Ohio Utica Shale Gas Monitor, which is produced quarterly by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. CityBeat covered Ohio’s oil and gas boom in further detail here.
A company that received a tax credit through JobsOhio two years ago is moving some executives and operations from Ohio to Chicago.
Rittal Corp. has not received the tax credit yet, but it intends to
uphold its tax agreement through other operations. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Kasich and allies argue its privatized, secretive nature allow it to
more quickly establish job-creating development deals, but Democratic
opponents argue the agency is too difficult to hold accountable.
CityBeat commentary on JobsOhio: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Ohio has received more than $383 million as part of the
national mortgage settlement, which has helped more than 10,000 Ohioans,
according to the state attorney general’s office. The payout, which is paid by banks as part of a settlement reached with states and the federal government, is meant to provide
some relief to Americans who were impacted by the housing and economic
crisis of 2008.
Enrollment at Ohio colleges, including the University of Cincinnati, is continuing its steady rise.
A campaign supported by AAA, local school officials and police is attempting to reduce the amount of car accidents involving school children. The “School’s Open — Drive Carefully” campaign aims to give drivers a few tips for navigating roads filled with children going to school.
Local startup incubator Hamilton County Business Center was granted $250,000 by the state to help develop tech companies. Cincinnati recently gained national recognition for its tech boom in Entrepreneur and CNBC, with Entrepreneur calling the city “an unexpected hub for tech startups.”
Cincinnati-based Macy’s will pay a civil penalty to settle accusations that it engaged in unfair documentation practices against immigrant employees.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank for allegedly discriminating against a couple with disabilities.
The bank and others reportedly required unnecessary medical
documentation from the couple when the two attempted to refinance their
home mortgage with a Federal Housing Administration loan.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble paid its CEO $2 million during his first five and a half weeks back on the job.
Popular Science: “Forget Tweeting, Meet The Birds Who Blog.”
by German Lopez
108 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:15 PM | Permalink
District fails in multiple categories
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) got six F’s, one D and two C’s in the 2012-2013 school report card released today by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
The school district got an F for state test results, closing gaps related
to income, race, culture and disabilities, progress among gifted
students, progress among students with disabilities and both categories
for graduation rates, which measure how many students graduated within four
or five years.
CPS also got a D for progress among
students who started out in the bottom fifth for achievement, and it got
a C for progress among all
student groups and how many students passed state tests.
The grades come with a big caveat: CPS is still being investigated for scrubbing data, which could be favorably skewing the school district’s results.
This is the first year ODE is using the new A-F grading system, which is more stringent than how schools were previously scored. No school district earned straight A’s this year, according to StateImpact Ohio.
Because the system is new,
some of the categories that schools are graded on are missing and will
be added in the next few years. Specifically, the report card won’t
measure overall results for the district, test scores, gap closing, K-3
literacy, progress, graduation rates and preparation for college and
careers until 2015.Under the old system, CPS dropped from “effective,” which
made it the best-rated urban school district in Ohio for the 2010-2011
school year, to “continuous improvement” for 2011-2012. Those results
are also under review based on data-scrubbing investigations.CPS has recently gained national recognition in The Huffington Post and The New York Times for its community learning centers, which turn schools into hubs that can be used by locals for resources ranging from education to dental care.In November 2012, Cincinnati voters approved a levy renewal for CPS in a 65-35 percent vote, which kept local property taxes roughly $253 higher on a $100,000 home.The official website for the school report cards can be found here, but it’s been having technical problems for most of the day.
by German Lopez
111 days ago
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
118 days ago
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
122 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:20 AM | Permalink
Despite higher median income, county scores worse than various statewide averages
Hamilton County fares worse
than Ohio overall in a series of measurements for children’s
economic well-being, health, education and safety, according to a report released Aug. 7.
The 2013 “Ohio’s Kids Count” report
from the Children’s Defense Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation finds
Hamilton County has a higher median income than Ohio does on average. But
the county fares worse than the state in various categories, including childhood poverty, fourth-grade
reading and math proficiency, felony convictions and the amount of
babies with low birth weights, an early sign of poor health.
One example: Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate is
27.7 percent, while Ohio’s overall rate is 23.9 percent. If the county
brought the rate down to the state average, it would pull more than 3,000
local children out of poverty.
Hamilton County’s childhood poverty rate dropped from 28.5 percent to 27.7 percent between 2010 and 2011.
The report uses state data from between 2009 and 2011 to
look at various indicators for children under the age of 18. Some of the
data differs from findings from other groups, such as the National
Center for Children in Poverty, which found about 48 percent of
Cincinnati’s children are in poverty.
The report claims many of the measured indicators are
socially and economically linked, so it should come as little surprise
that Hamilton County is doing worse across the board. Still, it advises
local, state and federal officials to continue taking action to bring
down the troubling numbers.
In Cincinnati, City Hall has historically failed to meet its goals for human services funding, which in part helps homeless youth and other struggling children.
But local leaders, including city officials and business executives, have backed the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
which aims to place more low- and middle-income Cincinnati children in
early education programs. Shiloh Turner, vice president for community
investment at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, today wrote in an email
to CityBeat that Preschool Promise backers are currently looking
at funding options and will iron out plans and partnerships through
meetings scheduled for the next three months.
The Kids Count report credits Ohio officials in particular
for approving a new voucher program that will subsidize preschool for
families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The
program is expected to reach 7,000 children in the state over the next
But the state has generally cut education funding
since Gov. John Kasich took office, leaving Cincinnati Public Schools
with $15 million less state funding than it received in 2009.
At the same time, the federal government is set to cut its food stamp program
in November, which progressive think tanks like the Center for Budget
and Policy Priorities argue will hurt low-income families in Ohio.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Economists and polar scientists published a report that
found climate change in the Arctic could be impactful enough to deal a
$60 trillion blow to the global economy. WORLD -1
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
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
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.
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
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.