October 23, 2014

School Levy Profile: Akron Public Schools

Our final profile in the Kasich Cuts = More Levies Project for 2012

Named a “School of Promise” for the second year in a row for its work to close the achievement gap, Akron Public Schools, APS, is the fifth-largest district in Ohio, serving 22,000 students at 10 high schools, 9 middle schools, and 31 elementary schools. Overcoming the issues that plague all urban school districts, APS also earned a “Continuous Improvement” rating from the Ohio Department of Education.

Akron Public Schools has been “belt-tightening” for years, most recently cutting $19 million from its budget by eliminating 200 positions, reducing salaries and increasing health insurance contributions, and by eliminating band and orchestra for elementary students, and all sports for middle school students.

APS has exemplified “doing more with less,” so it should come as a surprise that the Kasich administration actually cut state funding to the district by $19.8 million in its latest budget.

[Read more...]

School Levy Profile: Ashtabula Area City Schools

Part of our Kasich Cuts = More Levies Project

Ashtabula Area City Schools serve almost four thousand students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade in nine buildings around the district.

Thanks to Kasich’s cuts, Ashtabula Schools will ask voters to approve a 6.4-mill levy that is estimated to raise $2.7 million per year for five years.  The levy will be used to recoup the estimated $1.7 million lost in government funding.

The state originally committed to keep districts and local communities whole by providing replacement revenue generated by the new Commercial Activity Tax until 2017. But through a budget approved by local State Representative Casey Kozlowski, Kasich accelerated the phase-out, leaving districts without the revenue a full five years ahead of schedule.

This will be the third attempt at the ballot for Ashtabula City Schools.  Voters rejected levy requests in March and August of this year.  In order to balance a budget slashed by the state, teachers agreed to  $110,000 in concessions including no wage increases for the next four years and increased health care contributions.  The district also implemented pay-to-play and eliminated teaching and other staff positions.

If the levy fails, Ashtabula City schools Board of Education says it will be forced to eliminate all junior high sports; end bus transportation for grades 9 – 12; and eliminate weekend activities in the district.

Romney, Kasich Lie About Auto Rescue

News Release

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2012
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

ROMNEY, KASICH LIE ABOUT AUTO RESCUE
IO; Auto Czar Rattner Say Jobs & China Claims are “Cynical Deceptions”

COLUMBUS — Steven Rattner joined Innovation Ohio today at a Columbus news conference to “blow the whistle on the Romney campaign’s cynical attempt to mislead Ohio voters about the auto rescue.” Rattner was Lead Advisor to President Obama during the 2009 rescue of the auto industry. Innovation Ohio is a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus.

Rattner and IO cited numerous instances in which the Romney campaign and its GOP allies – including Ohio Gov. John Kasich – have attempted to mislead Ohio voters, including:

  • At an October 25 campaign rally in Defiance, Romney claimed that “Jeep is thinking of moving all production to China.” The company emphatically denied the charge the same day, saying “Jeep has no intention of shifting production out of North America” and criticizing Romney’s claim in unusually blunt language as “a leap that would be difficult even for circus acrobats” and lamenting “unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.” In fact, Jeep intends to restart production in China by hiring additional workers, not moving U.S. jobs there. It’s akin to Honda or Toyota opening plants here to build cars for the American market.
  • Despite the company’s rebuke, on October 27 the Romney campaign began airing a television ad misleadingly saying that “Obama … sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” The ad also contains three additional distortions:
    • It states that Obama “took the auto companies through bankruptcy” — conveniently omitting that was Romney’s plan as well;
    • It says that the conservative-leaning Detroit News “endorsed Romney” — conveniently omitting that the endorsement criticized his position on the auto rescue, while praising Obama’s “extraordinary leadership” on the issue.
    • It states that Romney has a “plan to help the auto industry” — when neither he nor his campaign has ever announced or spelled out such a plan.
    • As a result, the ad has been rated false by numerous media fact-checkers, including the Tampa Tribune’s “Politifact” which rated it “Pants On Fire.”
  • On October 28, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Gov. Kasich claimed that Ohio is only “up a total of 400 auto jobs when you count the companies and suppliers.” In fact, Innovation Ohio has shown that the industry has created over 17,300 Ohio jobs since the rescue. And according to the Kasich Administration’s own Department of Development, 34% of private investment in 2011 – including 11 of 29 investments over $50 million — were in the auto industry. These deals accounted for 18% of all private sector job announcements reported by the Department.
  • On October 30, the Romney campaign tripled down on its deceit with a radio ad which not only repeats the debunked claim about Chrysler shipping American jobs to China, but claims that GM is planning to do so too. The ad also falsely blames President Obama for GM “cutting 15,000 American jobs.” In truth, these losses occurred prior to the President’s rescue plan in the summer of 2009. Since then, more than 152,000 American auto jobs have been created.

In the final Presidential debate and since, Gov. Romney implied that he actually favored using federal money to save the auto industry. In fact, he opposed both the essential “bridge loans” provided by President G.W. Bush and the long-term funding provided by President Obama. He would only consider federal guarantees of private sector financing following a bankruptcy proceeding. But there would have been nothing to “guarantee” because the auto companies were out of cash, private sector financing was not available, and without the funding provided by President Obama, the companies would never have come out of bankruptcy. Instead, they would have ceased paying suppliers, laid off their employees, closed their doors and liquidated.

Said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King:

“President Obama took an enormous risk when he bet on Ohio and Ohio workers. But the President’s bet paid off — and now over 17,000 Ohioans are back at work in the auto industry and Ohio’s unemployment rate is lower than it’s been since 2008. But if Romney, Kasich and Mandel had their way, Ohio wouldn’t have an auto industry today.”

Added IO communications director Dale Butland:

“It was bad enough when Mitt Romney turned his back on Ohio workers by opposing the auto rescue and saying ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’ But now he’s adding insult to injury by distorting what happened and running false and misleading television and radio ads. Equally shameful is that Gov. Kasich is assisting Mr. Romney in that deception. Trying to win an election is one thing. Trying to win it this way is something else again. If Gov. Romney will lie to Ohioans about auto jobs, maybe we should ask what else he’s been lying about.”

Materials distributed at IO’s press conference can be found here.

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Debate recap: how do Brown, Mandel compare on reproductive choice?

Last night concluded the series of three debates between Ohio’s candidates for Senate, incumbent Sherrod Brown and challenger Josh Mandel. We listened carefully to their answers to questions on reproductive choice.

In the first debate (video), when asked about Roe v. Wade, Josh Mandel answered that his role as U.S. Senator would be to vote on the nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he would do “anything he can to protect innocent life.” He then pivoted to jobs.

Senator Brown’s answer was: “Unlike Josh Mandel, I trust Ohio women to make their own healthcare decisions.” The Senator then called Mandel “extreme” for his position of refusing to allow for an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. [Read more...]

School Levy Profile: Cleveland City Schools

Perhaps the highest profile and highest stakes of all the levies on the November ballot is that of the Cleveland City Schools.

This summer, legislators in Columbus enacted reforms necessary for Cleveland to implement its education reform plan. The bill allowed the district to implement a performance-based pay scheme, which closely mirrored language in the controversial SB5 collective bargaining law voters rejected in 2011. It further enabled locally-raised levy dollars to flow to charter schools, a first-of-its-kind measure in the state. It was part of an overall package of reform that contained some elements that, in our analysis, Innovation Ohio has welcomed, such as universal preschool and early childhood academies.

The plan is in stark contrast to what’s been happening in the district. Having been forced to reduce spending by $114 million, the district eliminated 565 teachers and staff in the past year and cut salaries for those who remained. Much of these cuts were necessary after Governor Kasich enacted a state budget that reduced funding for the district by $85 million. For his part, Kasich — who, in 2011, urged voters across the state to reject school levies – has expressed support for plans to place a levy on the ballot this November. But other than words of support, Governor Kasich and state lawmakers have not contributed any new funding to ensure the district’s plans are a success, even while a half billion dollars accumulates in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. [Read more...]

Debate analysis: how do Obama, Romney compare on women’s issues?

In the second presidential debate held this week, for the first time, we were offered a direct contrast between the two candidates’ position on two issues important to women.

Pay Equity in the Workplace

Responding to the question “In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?”, President Obama spoke of his very first legislative accomplishment:

“… the first bill I signed was something called the Lily Ledbetter bill. And it’s named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn’t bring suit because she should have found about it earlier, whereas she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that. And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, this is a middle-class issue, and that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.”

Governor Romney did not address the question of whether he would have supported the Lily Ledbetter Act, but his campaign has — after some misdirection yesterday — finally stated that he would not have signed it. [Read more...]

School levy profile: Beavercreek City Schools

Serving nearly 8,000 students at eight buildings in Greene and Montgomery Counties, Beavercreek City Schools is going to the ballot on November 6 in its fourth attempt to pass an emergency operating levy.

The District reports that its state funding declined by 30 percent in a single year. According to figures compiled at CutsHurtOhio.com, the district lost $7.1 million in the last state budget — a budget that cut $1.8 billion from school districts across the state.

Facing state funding cuts, swollen enrollments and three failed levy attempts, Beavercreek schools have already reduced spending by $13 million over the past 18 months, including $4 million in employee salary cuts and increased healthcare contributions. 65 full time staff and 25 intervention tutors were let go.

Those staffing reductions go directly to the quality of education children receive. The district axed its program to help struggling kindergarteners, eliminated Advanced Placement classes, reduced elementary art, music and phys-ed, gift programs and terminated the librarians in elementary in middle schools. Pay to play fees for music and athletics were increased.

Busing has already been eliminated at the high school level and reduced for middle schoolers to those that live more than 2 miles from school. It prompted one parent to tell the Dayton Daily News:

“All I know is, I’m paying all this money and my kid doesn’t have a bus,” said parent Julie Jackson, who estimated this levy would cost her family $584 annually. “We’re definitely not getting raises that are meeting up with all these increases — not just from the district but from the whole economy. I don’t feel that I can vote for this levy again.”

In November, the District is seeking a 5-year, 6.7-mill emergency operating levy that would raise $11 million annually and represent an increase of $205 per year on the tax bill of a $100,000 home.  Of the 6.7-mills it’s requesting, the district says 2 mills are needed just to make up for the loss of state funding. That means $61 of that tax increase can be directly linked to the Governor who balanced the state budget by cutting education.

If the levy passes, cuts to bus transportation, gifted programs, tutoring and elementary art, music and phys-ed would be restored.

But if the majority of voters agree with Ms. Jackson and the levy fails, without additional revenue, the district faces deficits and will need to reduce operating costs further, almost certainly in a way that directly impacts the quality of education district kids receive.

Read all of our levy profiles and find out more about which schools are on the ballot on our November 2012 levy information page.

School Levy Profile: Massillon City Schools

Serving over 4,000 kids in Stark County, Massillon City Schools is facing stark choices of its own if a levy on the November ballot fails.

The district, faced with declining tax collections and cuts in state funding, earlier this year took the dramatic step of consolidating its six elementary schools into just three. Now, if a proposed 5-year, 8.1-mill levy fails, third graders, already uprooted in the recent consolidation, will be moving to the intermediate school.

You read that right. Third graders — as young as eight years old — may be moving to a new building for the second time in their short school careers. As one district parent commented on the levy’s Facebook page:

My baby will not be attending middle school as a third grader. If it doesn’t pass, I’m outta here.

The district’s 2010-11 budget was $50 million. In the state budget — which cut schools statewide by $1.8 billion — the district lost $3.8 million. As a result, including the school consolidations, the district has cut spending by $3.7 million in 2012-13 including the elimination of 51 staff members. If successful, the levy will provide $3.4 million per year for the district to avoid what it calls a “fiscal apocalypse.”  If it fails, additional measures under consideration include:

  • $3 million more in cuts
  • Clubs, sports and fine arts are on the chopping block
  • Schools will consolidate further

Read all of our levy profiles and find out more about which schools are on the ballot on our November 2012 levy information page.

Kasich Turnpike plan: increase tolls, send money to Columbus

Today, at a meeting of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation revealed the Kasich administration’s plans to “unlock” the potential of the northern Ohio roadway to fund highway project in other parts of the state.

Two scenarios were outlined. One transfers control of the Turnpike to ODOT and issues bonds against the roadway’s future revenue stream, essentially taking a cash advance against future toll collection. The other puts the road in the hands of a private operator who would pay the state an up-front lump sum in exchange for control of the toll revenue for 45 to 55 years. Both scenarios also envision closing at least two maintenance facilities.

And, presenters acknowledged that in either case, tolls would have to go up.

Turnpike privatization is not popular with Ohioans. A statewide poll conducted last year showed 56 percent opposed the plan compared to only 32 percent in support. The numbers were even worse when residents near the Turnpike were surveyed, with opposition topping out at 65 percent among residents of Northwest Ohio.

Apparently aimed at overcoming the objections of local residents opposed to paying higher tolls and having the money redirected to Columbus, Governor Kasich has been out making a promise, namely:

“At least” half the money will go to projects north of US-30.

Innovation Ohio has looked at the promise and finds it a mostly meaningless gesture. That’s because adding up all the counties crossed by US-30 and to its north, you find 48 percent of the state’s population, 42% of its lane miles of roads and 47% of its daily road traffic. In other words, John Kasich has promised to send just over half of the money to just under half of the state. If that’s the bone he’s throwing, it doesn’t have much meat on it.

Whatever Kasich is proposing will require legislation, so it seems reasonable to ask how candidates for the Ohio House and Senate will vote on the proposal to increase tolls on northern Ohioans and send the money to Columbus. We look forward to their answers.

School Levy Profile: Elida Schools

Elida Local Schools serves 2,400 students at 4 buildings in the Allen County community northwest of Lima. Operating on an annual budget of $27 million in 2010-2011, the district lost $1.6 million in the last state budget. The cuts, which include the elimination of over $1.2 million in reimbursements for the discontinued tangible personal property tax hit the district hard.

In addition to lost state funding, the district also cites unfunded state mandates as a significant factor in its inability to make ends meet, even after reducing spending by $3 million over the past decade.

In 12 years, the district’s enrollment has remained unchanged, but they are now operating with 43 fewer staff. In addition to layoffs, the district has frozen wages, increased required employee contributions for health insurance, closed buildings, reduced bus service and adjusted the thermostats.

Despite that, the district still faces a severe deficit.

On November 6, Elida voters will be asked to support a new 5-year, 0.75-percent tax on earned income to generate $2 million per year to replace the lost state funding. The levy will cost $375 annually for a taxpayer with $50,000 in income.

If the levy fails, middle-schoolers will go without extra curricular activities, art, phys-ed and music will be eliminated, full-day kindergarten will end and bus service will be further curtailed.

In an interview with the Delphos Herald, the district’s Treasurer took aim at state legislators, calling on them to formulate a long-term plan for school funding. “We can’t cut 43 positions every decade. It’s impossible to think we can keep going backwards like this.”

The Governor is set to unveil his new school funding formula early in 2013. Unfortunately, any relief may come too late for the kids of Elida.

Read all of our levy profiles and find out more about which schools are on the ballot on our November 2012 levy information page.