Ohioan to head efforts to restore U.S. auto industry

Innovation Ohio would like to extend our best wishes to Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams as he prepares to mark his last day in office on Monday before taking on an exciting and critical new role. Williams has been selected to become the new executive director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, otherwise known as the “auto czar.”

Williams’ appointment, announced earlier this month, was applauded by Senator Sherrod Brown, who called it “a loss for Youngstown, but a win for the auto sector and the nearly 800,000 Ohio workers whose jobs are tied to this critical industry.” Brown has been a key advocate for federal intervention in the industry.

Since 2009, thanks to intervention by President Obama, both GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, recaptured market share, returned to profitability and have even begun to expand. GM recently announced a $204M investment in its Toledo facility in the production of its new 8-speed fuel-efficient transmission. Meanwhile, Chrysler has repaid its outstanding loans to the U.S. Treasury, six years early. And at Lordstown, where prior to the rescue effort, 1,000 jobs were at risk, has now added a third shift and employs nearly 5,000 workers.

In all, it is estimated that 164,654 jobs in Ohio would have been lost if it were not for the auto rescue. We applaud Mayor Williams on his commitment to support the preservation and economic health of Ohio communities and workers dependent on the American automotive industry.

Report: vouchers less about students than parents

Proponents of educational vouchers frequently say that better choices for their kids are the reason they should be able to take public  tax dollars to private institutions. But a new study suggests that what voucher proponents really want are choices for parents. In fact, vouchers have zero positive impact on student outcomes, according to the study.

review of research on publicly-funded voucher programs by the Center on Education Policy shows that “achievement gains for voucher students are similar to those of their public school peers.” The review also found that rhetoric used by voucher proponents has shifted from a focus on improved student achievement to parent satisfaction and the virtue of choice.

We hope this catches the attention of the Kasich administration, whose policy objective was recently claimed to be exactly the opposite:

“What’s right for students sometimes doesn’t fit with what’s been done in the past,” said Robert Sommers, Kasich’s education adviser. Improving Ohio’s schools will no longer be “adult-driven,” he said.

If the best argument for voucher programs are their convenience for adults, not student success, perhaps the administration should slow down and take stock of Ohio’s existing $80 million program before launching ahead with its plans to quadruple the amount diverted to private schools.

State prison system announces largest mass layoff of 2011

On Friday, it was learned that in the wake of state budget cuts and in anticipation of the Governor’s plan to privatize five prisons, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction plans to eliminate 1,135 jobs by the end of the year. In all, approximately 950 workers will lose their jobs, including hundreds of prison guards, nurses, teachers, administrative staff, and even five chaplains. Some of these workers will be able to reapply for their jobs with the private prison operators, but continued employment is far from guaranteed.

The cuts are needed, officials say, to make up for a $188 million reduction in state funding over the biennium. Rather than use the proceeds gained from selling the prisons to private companies, estimated to net $200 million for the state, that money was instead used as a one-time source of funds to prop up the state budget.

By federal law, private employers who plan to terminate 50 or more workers are required to notify the state, who tracks these mass layoff events on its website. The state’s action to reduce the ranks of prison guards, parole officers and other personnel represents the largest mass layoff in the state of Ohio so far in 2011.

As we predicted in April, cuts in the current state budget could have the effect of putting up to 51,000 Ohioans out of work.

IO on TV: Dale Butland on OPTV’s The State of Ohio

Innovation Ohio’s Communications Director, Dale Butland, appeared on Ohio Public Television’s The State of Ohio to debate Jeff Longstreth, campaign manager for Ohioans for Health Care Reform about a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Ohio to opt out of a new federal law requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.

Watch online:

Toledo Air Cargo hub to close, eliminate 700 jobs

Toledo air cargo carrier DB Schenker announced on Friday that it is closing its Ohio air cargo hub, a move that will result in the loss of over 700 jobs. The company blamed the move on the poor economy, prompting flashbacks to a similar announcement by air cargo carrier DHL in late 2008 to cease its Ohio operations.

The DHL move did not go unnoticed by Governor Kasich when he was a candidate for office. In his first campaign commercial, shot at the shuttered air cargo facility, Kasich sympathized with displaced workers, speaking of the job loss this way:

“It’s not a statistic, it’s people.”
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