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.
State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature,
Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes,
schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a
controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.
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
City, county clash over law; Senate restores some school funding; Jim Berns misleads public
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time
scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of
the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the
program is experiencing hurdles
as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether
the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati
recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules
for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs,
which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job
training. But critics, backed by county officials and business
organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.
The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough
to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the
last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately
favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school
districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top
one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on
the bill today.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants”
at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media
outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his
campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato
plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
Commentary: “JobsOhio: Something to Hide, Something to Fear?”
With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley
to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired
from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly
keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in
a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked
together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s
Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws
that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and
encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve
local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also
allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and
protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was
“reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would
allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious
courses outside of school.
Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.
Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.
NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.
Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.
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.