April 25, 2014

Ohio newspaper finds charter school oversight lacking

The Akron Beacon Journal is publishing a series of stories pointing out serious issues with Ohio’s Charter Schools and the laws that govern the $900 million in taxpayer money that goes to them annually.

On Sunday, the paper demonstrated that it is almost impossible to find basic information about Charter School operations (like who runs the school, when does the school board meet, etc.): More than 100 publicly funded charter schools fail to disclose who is in charge

In today’s story, the Beacon demonstrates how White Hat Management is able to essentially run for-profit operations in the guise of a non-profit: Board members at White Hat charter schools say they have little control over public funds

It is difficult to see how anyone in the Ohio Legislature would be able to defend the way these things are working. Don’t forget that Ohio Charter Schools have historically performed far worse than the districts from which they receive kids and money. And they cost the state about twice as much per pupil, all while spending nearly 3 times as much on administration.

There are a few very high performing charters in this state. But the fact that there are only a couple handfuls of those and far more unsuccessful ones demonstrates that Ohio needs to revisit its Charter School laws to ensure what our tax dollars fund are quality educational experiences for our kids, not more turns at the public trough for the adults.

Ohio Ranks 32nd Among States in Job Creation

February employment data for state and local areas was released this morning and reveals that Ohio continues to lag most of the nation in creating new jobs. In February, 5.28 million Ohioans were employed, which is 50,000 more than the 5.23 million Ohioans employed at the same time in 2014. But it represents just 1% annual growth, which ranks Ohio just 32nd among all 50 states for job growth in the past year:

50-state rankings

This is a drop from Ohio’s rank of 27 in last month’s tally of 12-month job growth.

Governor Kasich continues to insist that another income tax cut is what Ohio needs to attract business and create jobs, but the data do not support that. Looking at job growth from February, 2013 to February, 2014, Ohio was outperformed by six of the ten states identified by the conservative Tax Foundation as having the “worst” business tax climates (look no further than high-tax California, which ranked #8 in creating new jobs).

It’s clear that tax rates in Ohio are not the only factor holding us back.

Ohio lost jobs in February, lags the nation in job creation

Today, February employment data was released that shows the state’s unemployment rate reaching 6.5 percent, its first dip below the national rate since July. The decline suggests job-seekers are leaving the job market, because the number of Ohioans with jobs actually declined.

In February, the number of Ohioans with jobs decreased by 4,600, with large declines reported in construction and local government. Job numbers for January were also revised downward. As a result, Ohio continues to lag the national rate of employment gains since Governor Kasich took office — just 4.3% compared to 5.3% for the US as a whole.

3.21.14 february jobs

New Employment Data Shows Ohio Still Underperforming

Yesterday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly regional and state employment figures, showing Ohio gaining 16,700 jobs in January and the unemployment rate dropping to 6.9 percent. Also incorporated into the January numbers were revisions to 2013 data to reflect the results of the Bureau’s annual benchmarking process. The revisions are good news for Ohio, showing that 68,000 more Ohioans were working in 2013 than had been previously reported.

So, what can we now conclude about job-creation in the state since the recession? That Ohio’s growth is not as bad as it had looked before – when monthly reports showed Ohio consistently in the bottom five among states in yearly job creation – but not as good as it could be. Ohio falls squarely in the middle of the pack among states in adding jobs, and lags the nation as a whole in both employment gains and in reducing the ranks of the unemployed.

Here is how Ohio’s job growth measures up against the nation as a whole:

ohio-vs-us

[Read more...]

Women, Not Bosses, Should Make Decisions About Their Healthcare

On March 25th, the Supreme Court is hearing two cases brought by owners of for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialist.  Citing religious reasons, these corporations wants to take away birth control coverage for their female employees.  In partnership with the National Women’s Law Center, Innovation Ohio has signed onto an Amicus Brief filed for these two cases. The brief outlines our belief that granting these exceptions to for-profit companies is dangerous and discriminatory.

michaelscottboss

The birth control coverage benefit has been in effect since August 1, 2012. More than 27 million women, including 1,037,000 in Ohio, have coverage for birth control thanks to this benefit.   Women are able to get birth control with no out-of-pocket expense.     Birth control is one of the most used preventive health services among women. 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control. Excluding it from insurance coverage but covering the full range of preventive care for men is discrimination.

A Supreme Court decision allowing bosses to use their religious beliefs to deny employees birth control coverage could have far reaching consequences and creates a slippery slope. This could open the door to companies using religion as a legal way to discriminate.  A decision in favor of these companies could open the door to more anti-gay laws, such as the recent legislation in Arizona.  Bosses could further impose their beliefs by denying employees coverage for other important health services such as vaccinations, testing for sexual transmitted infection or maternity care.  They could even cite religious objections to hiring women at all.

The bottom line is women, not bosses, should be able to make their personal health care decisions.

 

State of the State: Governor restores school outreach program at 2% of prior funding level

Gov. John Kasich announced at his State of the State speech yesterday that he would be putting $10 million into bridging the gaps between schools, families and communities. Here’s the exact language from his “Fact Sheet” released after the speech:

“The governor will propose using $10 million from casino-licensing fees to support innovative community efforts that bring together parents, community organizations, faith-based groups, businesses and others in support of our schools and to mentor students.  The 3-to-1 matching grants will help give more Ohio students access to role models who can help motivate and inspire them, as well as help them develop skills that lead to success in school and the workplace.”

If this sounds familiar, it should. That’s because during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, the state actually funded Family and Community Liaisons for every 75 children living in poverty in a district. They would have served almost exactly the same functions as Kasich’s $10 million program.

However, the the level of commitment was drastically different. During the biennium prior to Kasich taking office, the state calculated that children needed $987.8 million to better connect their education with their family and community. The state actually funded $567 million of that because the formula was being phased in over time during the Great Recession. [Read more...]

Nearly $31 Million in Taxpayer Funds Uncollected from Failed Charter Schools

Last night on NBC 4 in Columbus, Investigative Reporter Duane Pohlman revealed that of the $31 million owed the state by operators of charters schools that have closed and have been referred for collection to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, $30.5 million remains uncollected.

That’s $30.5 million in taxpayer dollars that have remained uncollected by the state’s Attorney General. For scale, that is more than the state ends up sending to 128 of Ohio’s 612 school districts.

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The report, which features an interview with Innovation Ohio’s Education Policy Fellow Stephen Dyer, details as well how difficult it is to collect from defunct charter schools because some don’t even have the minimal $100,000 bonds the state requires of them.

A relatively simple solution to this conundrum is to require that charter schools carry as much insurance as would cover at least the average amount spent annually on a charter school of its size and type, as well as hold the charter school sponsors to account for any additional revenue that cannot be collected from the school itself.

It remains to be seen whether Ohio’s leaders are willing to take this on, but with more reporting like Pohlman’s, it will remain more and more difficult to stand up for this clearly dysfunctional system that rewards scofflaws and shuns high-quality charter schools.

State of the State’s Education Funding on Display in Medina

Gov. John Kasich has chosen Medina as the site of his next State of the State address in February. As he prepares for this event, it is helpful to understand what his two state budgets have done to schools in Medina City and County.

Children in Medina County schools will have $13.7 million less state revenue in the next two school years than they had in the two years prior to Kasich taking office. The Medina City school district alone saw its state funding decline by $4.4 million, or 9.6%.

Medina_City_SchoolsWhile state funding declines, school districts in the county are losing more to private and charter schools. Charter School payments — the amount of state funding transferred out of the accounts of traditional public school districts to charters — are up approximately one-third under Kasich to $4.37 million (up from $3.4 million). And that money is not funding success. In the 2011-2012 school year, every dollar transferred from a Medina County school to a charter went to one that performed worse on both the performance index score and state report card ranking – reflecting a disturbing statewide trend of money flowing from higher performing districts to lower performing charter schools.

At the same time, the expansion of the state’s voucher programs for private schools saw Medina County voucher payments explode — to $903,592 annually, up from zero in the time prior to Kasich taking office.

As a result of the state’s continuing focus on school choice, Medina County schools now receive 5.2% less state revenue per student than the state’s funding formula says they need. [Read more...]

State Senate to consider rolling back Ohio’s green building rules

Tomorrow, the Ohio Senate will hold its first hearing on new legislation that, if passed, could set back a program to make Ohio’s public buildings more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.

SCR 25 is part of an effort by the chemical lobby to ban the use of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) green building rating system for the state’s public buildings in favor of an alternative certification supported by the chemical industry.

The resolution would urge public agencies in Ohio to scrap its use of the LEED building standard for construction projects funded with public dollars. Currently, billions in state funding for school construction are tied to achieving LEED certification. This requirement has helped Ohio become the No. 1 state in the nation for green schools that are healthier and more efficient. To date, nearly 100 public K-12 schools have been certified under the program, and hundreds more are under way.

Resolution SCR 25, backed by chemical lobby groups, will undo the progress that has been made to save on energy costs for Ohio taxpayers. Additionally, if passed, SCR 25 will discredit investments made by hundreds of Ohio companies in jobs, products, safer materials and services for energy efficient buildings.

Since 2007, Ohio communities have invested in schools to create a healthy environment to learn and work. Ohio has 549 LEED registered and certified K-12 and Higher Education projects. The State’s green schools program is leading the nation, a proud achievement. Ohio lawmakers should keep it that way.

SCR 25 will have its first hearing tomorrow in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which meets at 9:15 a.m. in the South Hearing room. More information on how to contact your senator is available at leedworksoh.nationbuilder.com.

IO’s Dale Butland on poor results of Ohio charter schools.

Innovation Ohio’s Dale Butland speaks with NBC4 about a new state report that shows over 60% of Ohio charter schools scored an overall grade of D or F.

Watch the video:

As Innovation Ohio has previously reported, charter schools cost taxpayers twice as much per pupil and deliver worse results.