by German Lopez
State GOP restricts Obamacare, group fights homelessness, school grades linked to poverty
As the Oct. 1 opening date approaches for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, outreach campaigns are beginning to take root and aim at states with the largest uninsured populations,
including Ohio and its more than 1.25 million uninsured. But the
campaigns have run into a series of problems in the past few months,
with many of the issues driven by regulatory changes and opposition from
Republican legislators at the state and federal level. So far, none of
the state’s “navigators” — the federally financed organizations that
will participate in outreach campaigns and help enroll people into
marketplaces — have been certified by the Ohio Department of Insurance
as they await completion of 20-hour federal training courses. Meanwhile,
some organizations have been shut out of the process entirely,
including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, because of
regulations enacted by state Republicans.
Strategies to End Homelessness yesterday released its first annual progress report
detailing how the organization intends to reduce homelessness in
Hamilton County by half from 2012 to 2017. The main strategies,
according to the report: prevention, rapid rehousing that lasts six to
12 months, transitional housing for up to 24 months and permanent
supportive housing that targets the chronically homeless and disabled.
The goal is to reduce homelessness by using supportive services to get
to the root of the issue, whether it’s joblessness, mental health
problems or other causes, and ensure shelter services aren’t necessary
in the first place.
A new study found Ohio school performance is strongly tied to student poverty. Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association says the results shouldn’t make
excuse for low-performing schools, but he claims there are other
factors the state government should consider when grading schools,
including whether low-performing schools actually need more, not less,
funding to make up for a lack of resources. Greg Lawson of the
conservative Buckeye Institute seems to agree, but he says his
organization, which supports school choice and vouchers, will soon
release a study showing no correlation between state and local funding
and student performance.
CityBeat commentaries:• “Republican Prudes Hold Down Ohio’s Economy.”• “Poor Jenny, Poor Cincinnati.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday held its endorsement interviews with mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, with some of the highlights posted here. Also, check out CityBeat’s previous Q&A’s with the candidates: Qualls and Cranley.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the state’s Identity Theft Unit has received 600 complaints and helped adjust $250,000 in disputed charges since its creation last year.
Libertarian Charlie Earl yesterday announced he’ll run in the 2014 gubernatorial race. Earl served in the Ohio House from 1981 to 1984 and ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2010.
Cincinnati State is getting a $2.75 million federal grant to expand the school’s manufacturing program in the region.
Cincinnati Children’s is testing a new bird flu vaccine.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for a clean audit report.
A new study suggests people act more selfishly when interacting with wide-faced men.
Music Librarian Steven Kemple strives to keep the library relevant through experimental programming
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
There’s a serious reason behind
everything Kemple is doing with music programming at the Main Library,
even if it sometimes means wearing the gorilla suit he got as a wedding
present three years ago. He’s championing libraries as a source for
experimentalism — a place to “blow minds,” in his words — and is part of
a national movement to do sO.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is moving the state forward
with its revisions to statewide science education standards, which will
focus more heavily on evolution and climate change, despite opposition
from a state legislative committee; some Republicans are worried
teaching evolution could result in “the promotion of socialism and
resulting genocide and murder.” WORLD +1
by German Lopez
Posted In: Education
at 11:05 AM | Permalink
Debe Terhar calls Toni Morrison’s novel “pornographic”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sept. 12
criticized State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, a Cincinnati
Republican, for calling Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye “pornographic” and suggesting it be removed from the state’s teaching guidelines.
“Unfortunately, your comments are another in a long
history of arguments that advocate the banning of African American
literature because it is ‘too controversial’ for schoolchildren,” wrote
Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a letter to
Terhar. “Rather than removing these books, the ACLU encourages schools
to use controversial literature as an opportunity to improve students’
critical thinking skills and to create open dialogue between students
and the community.”
Terhar and others have criticized the book because it contains a scene in which a father rapes his daughter.
The Common Core standards adopted by Ohio suggest The Bluest Eye as an example of reading text complexity, quality and range
for high school juniors who are typically 16 or 17 years old, but it’s
ultimately up to school districts to decide whether the novel belongs in
Removing mention of the book in the state’s guidelines
wouldn’t explicitly ban the book in Ohio schools, but it would weaken
the novel’s prominence as a teaching tool.
The ACLU claims the book provides an important take on racism in America: “In the case of The Bluest Eye,
Toni Morrison seeks to promote this type of dialogue by taking a bold,
unflinching look at the pain and damage that internalized racism can
inflict on a young girl and her community.”
The ACLU’s letter concludes by inviting Terhar and her
fellow board members to an ACLU event in Columbus on Sept. 26 called
“Let’s Get Free: Banned Writings of Black Liberationists.” The event is
part of the ACLU’s Banned Books Week, an effort launched in 1982 that
highlights literature that’s been targeted for censorship.
Morrison, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author and
Ohio native, responded to Terhar’s comments in a phone interview with
“The book was published in the early '70s and it has been banned
so much and so many places that I am told I am number 14 on the list of
100 banned books.” She added, “I resent it. I mean if it's Texas or
North Carolina as it has been in all sorts of states, but to be a girl
from Ohio, writing about Ohio, having been born in Lorain, Ohio, and
actually relating as an Ohio person, to have the Ohio, what, Board of
Education is ironic at the least.”
Terhar later said in a statement released through the
State Board of Education that she was stating her own opinion and her
comments do not reflect the views of the rest of the board.
The latest controversy isn’t the first time Terhar has
found herself in trouble over public comments. In January, Democrats
called for Terhar to resign after she compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post after the president proposed new gun control measures.
by German Lopez
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
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
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.