by German Lopez
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
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.
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.
by German Lopez
Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied
Following approval from the Republican-controlled General
Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62
billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes
and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy
Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and
sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy.
Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by
limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”
The budget also makes changes to the school funding
formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the
funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009.
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education
policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says
Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and
more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is
more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.
One policy that didn’t make it into the final state
budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion
throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal
funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion
Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic
it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other
supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of
thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the
funding burden on the federal government.
One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.
Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her
candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to
take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of
Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters,
particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report,
which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue
spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law
enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year,
but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans,
particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked
and abused each year.
The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park.
The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes
the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the
board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another
major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.
Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme
Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John
Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.
Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.
Ohio gas prices are down again this week.
Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.
Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.
Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.
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
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a budget that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions and makes sweeping changes to taxes and education.
by German Lopez
Plan also cuts taxes for businesses, restores some education funding
In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding
that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services
provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion
services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which
effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family
planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a
statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to
cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut
taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses,
which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal
groups have criticized the plan.
In an analysis, Policy Matters Ohio,
a left-leaning policy think tank, claimed the tax cut will
inadvertently benefit “affluent passive investors” and “partners in law
firms and other partnerships.”
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money
because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing,
research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything,
they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely
to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive
investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law
firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of
professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a
way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state
should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education
and human services.
The conservative Tax Foundation echoed some of Schiller’s criticisms in a blog post.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly
pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of
‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what
creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The
businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big
businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of
business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in
education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding
that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the
Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts —
effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts
that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local
Stephen Dyer, an education policy fellow at the left-leaning Innovation Ohio, captured the disproportionate funding increases in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the
Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would
allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level —
$15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the
Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for
the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased
down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State
Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford
the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal
government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but
Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for
the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:04 PM | Permalink
Wealthy schools see best gains in budget plan
The Ohio Senate's budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 would restore about $717 million in education funding, but the gains wouldn't be enough to outweigh $1.8 billion in education cuts from the 2012-2013 budget, which was approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in 2011.The bill would also favor the state's property-wealthiest districts, which can already raise more money for local schools by leveraging their massive local property values. About 85 percent of the wealthiest school districts will get funding increases, while 40 percent of the poorest rural districts receive no increases, according to Stephen Dyer, a former Democratic state representative and an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.Dyer put the regressive breakdown in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows the bottom one-third of school districts only get about 15 percent of the increases, while the top one-third are getting a vast majority of the increases.Still, Dyer points out that the budget is increasing funding for urban, high-poverty areas, while rural areas are generally getting the smallest increases.The budget would also include $250 million in one-time money for the Straight A Fund, which is supposed to entice innovation at schools around the state. When the program was first proposed in Kasich's budget plan, the Kasich administration asked for $300 million.Even with the Straight A Fund, the funding increases wouldn't be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in cuts in the last biennium budget, which is a previous estimate
from progressive think tanks Policy Matters Ohio and Innovation Ohio that includes tax reimbursements for tangible personal property and
public utility property, federal stimulus funds and state aid to
schools.Many school districts have coped with the cuts through local tax levies, which Innovation Ohio previously compared to a $1.1 billion tax increase across the state. In 2012, Cincinnati Public Schools was one of the many school districts to successfully pass a levy after dealing with years of cuts from multiple levels of government ("Battered But Not Broken," issue of Oct. 3).The changes proposed by the Ohio legislature are the latest in a chain of attempts to reform the state's school funding formula, which has a history of legal and political problems. Between 1997 and 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court issued four decisions that found the state's school funding formula unconstitutional because it relied too much on property taxes and failed to provide "a thorough and efficient system of common schools."But 16 years later, critics argue the system still relies too much on property taxes. According to them, the reliance on property taxes drives inequality because property-wealthy areas can more easily leverage their high property values to fund good schools, while property-poor areas are generally left behind.Kasich attempted to address the issues with his own rework of the education funding formula, but the rework was dismissed by the Ohio House and Senate — a victory for critics who deemed Kasich's plan regressive ("Smoke and Mirrors," issue of Feb. 20).The Ohio legislature and Kasich must approve a budget plan by June 30.