November 23, 2014

Ohio bill bad for teachers, great for charters

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House Bill 343 is moving quickly through the Ohio House and could become law in the lame duck session. Earlier this week, the bill was loaded up with goodies for public education opponents and for-profit charter school operators before it was passed by the House Education committee on a party-line vote. Here are just some of the bill’s provisions we are concerned about:

  • Eliminates the state’s $20,000 minimum teacher salary for bachelor’s prepared teachers. This would allow teachers to be paid less than someone working the McDonald’s grill.
  • Allows Dropout Recovery charter schools (that graduate as few as 2 out of 155 students in four years) the ability to collect money for GED candidates. It also makes these schools eligible for federal funds for these adult literacy programs.
  • Allows these Dropout Recovery charter schools to enroll students up to 29 years of age (up from 22) for diploma or GED programs at a cost to taxpayers of $5,000 per student (pro-rated for how long they’re in the program). The 2014-2015 cost is capped at 1,500 students, or $7.5 million.
  • Allows Teach for America teachers to be certified to teach in Ohio as long as they carried a 2.5 grade point average in college (regardless of major), pass a state exam in the area they’d be teaching and complete Teach for America’s 5-week summer training program. Teach for America teachers are recruited to go into school buildings with the greatest challenges. And this bill will now allow them to be paid less than $20,000 a year.

This isn’t the first gift this legislature has granted dropout recovery schools, many of them run by individuals who give millions in campaign contributions to Ohio lawmakers. Last year we wrote about legislation that kept data about dropout recovery schools off state report cards and made them more difficult to close.

House Bill 343 was approved by the House Education committee and could receive a vote from the full House as early as today. It will then go to the Ohio Senate, where lame duck legislative action is expected to continue for at least another two weeks.

Bill That Would Reduce Local Revenue Is On Fast Track In Ohio Senate

Moves are underway in the Ohio Senate to ensure quick passage of legislation that will reduce revenue for cities already struggling to cope with four years of state budget cuts. Yesterday, Senator Bob Peterson was named Chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee, an unusual move when his predecessor has two months left of his term. But Peterson is the lead advocate in the Senate for the passage of House Bill 5, so the move — combined with last week’s re-assignment of the bill to Peterson’s committee — is a sure sign it’s on a fast track to passage during the current lame duck session.

HB5 would make filing more consistent across over 600 cities and villages in Ohio that levy an income tax. But the bill goes beyond a uniform process and imposes mandates on what types of income cities can tax and which deductions they must allow. For many cities, this aspect of HB5 will result in substantially lower revenue to pay for local services.

HB5 comes in the wake of four years of budget cuts and a global recession that has left many Ohio cities with no choice other than to increase income taxes or cut services — often both. Many, including including Dayton, Lima and Mansfield, have not yet seen local revenue return to pre-recession levels. Over 100 Ohio municipalities have increased income taxes since 2011. Starting with the passage of the first Kasich budget in 2011, revenue shared with local communities through the state’s Local Government Fund has been cut in half. That budget also eliminated the estate tax, 80% of the proceeds of which go to local communities.

Combined with the impact of State cuts, Ohio cities and villages are in no condition to absorb yet another hit from the passage of HB5. Last Tuesday, voters in Ohio opted to increase local income taxes in 18 communities. Another 17 communities saw tax increases fail at the ballot.

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In Chillicothe, rejection of the City’s proposed $280,000 increase in income tax led to the immediate announcement that fire and police personnel would be laid off, and that two of the City’s fire stations would close. If House Bill 5 passes, Chillicothe officials estimate they would lose an additional $100,000 each year, making the budget situation even more dire.

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The headline in Chillicothe the day after voters rejected city tax hike.

House Bill 5 receives its first hearing in the Senate Ways and Means committee tomorrow morning.

Bipartisan Group of Mayors Call for Ohio’s Attacks on Cities to Stop

2014.11.10 - cinci editorial

We recently attended an eye-opening meeting of over a dozen mayors — Republicans and Democrats — from Hamilton County and the editors of the Cincinnati Enquirer to discuss the continued impact of deep cuts to Ohio’s cities and their impact on local services. As the resulting editorial explains, communities hit by drastic cuts in the past two state budgets and are facing yet another attack in the form of House Bill 5:

But the totality of the pressures on local governments are beginning to take a toll, and state officials should restore at least part of the cuts they’ve made. The cuts have been indiscriminate, hurting the places that need to share services as well as those that are already doing a good job. Strengthening the state at the expense of local services is no victory at all.

– Enquirer editorial 11/8/14

Many communities have already had to raise taxes or cut services to cope with these threats. IO will continue to work with local mayors to research the statewide impact of these policies including the potential damaging effects of HB5.

Five School Funding Facts All Ohio Voters Need to Know

As voters head to the polls, it’s worth looking back at how the past four years have been for public education in Ohio. Here are our Five School Funding Facts All Ohio Voters Need to Know:

  1. Traditional public schools, which educate 90% of Ohio’s kids, now receive $515 million less state funding than before Gov. Kasich took office. The Governor’s first two-year budget cut $1.8 billion from schools, and he and his legislative allies failed to restore all of that in the budget that followed. Three out of four school districts receive less state funding today than they did four years ago.
  2. Ohio’s school funding system remains “unconstitutional” because of its over-reliance on property taxes. Although the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled four separate times that Ohio’s school funding system is unconstitutional, Gov. Kasich and state legislators have not only refused to fix the problem, but their most recent state budget devotes, according to the non-partisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the smallest percentage of overall state spending to schools since FY 1997 — the year before the first Supreme Court ruling.
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  3. The cost of local school levies has jumped 34% under Gov. Kasich.  To offset state funding cuts, local taxpayers have been forced to pass levies raising 34% more new operating money than was required just four years ago.  And thanks to the state’s elimination of the 12.5% property tax roll-back, those levies have already cost local taxpayers $10 million more than they otherwise would have.
  4. school cuts more taxesCharter school funding has increased by 27% and charters now receive more state money per pupil than do traditional public schools .  While the Governor and his allies in the legislature have slashed state funding for traditional public schools, they simultaneously increased state funding to privately-run charter schools by $193 million, even though many have performance and graduation rates that are worse than urban school districts.  In fact, nearly 1 out of every 4 state dollars paid to charters since their inception have gone to poorly performing charters operated by David Brennan or William Lager who, together, have contributed over $5.4 million to Republican candidates and causes.
  5. Private school vouchers have doubled under Kasich.  State funding for vouchers at private schools (over 90% of which are religiously affiliated) has risen from $99 million the year before Kasich took office to over $200 million this school year.  In the past four years, the original rationale for vouchers (to allow desperately poor children to escape “failing” public schools in a few urban districts) has been turned on its head. Today, middle class kids from districts rated “excellent” receive private school vouchers. And since voucher money is deducted from the amount public school districts would otherwise receive, the end result is that taxpayers are now subsidizing religious and private school educations at the direct expense of the traditional public schools attended by their own children.

Over the past four years, traditional public schools are now receiving less money, and poorly performing charters are receiving more.  Local school levies have jumped dramatically, as have private school vouchers. And Ohio taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill.

 

What Do School Performance Index Scores Mean Anyway?

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Ever wonder how the state comes up with a Performance Index Score for public and charter schools? As part of our work on the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project, we recently published a brief explanation of how the Performance Index Score is calculated and why it is considered to be the key measurement for evaluating schools.

Read it here: A Performance Index Primer: What do PI Scores Mean, Anyway?

KnowYourCharter.com – New Charter Website Compares Charter And Public Schools

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2014
Contacts: Dale Butland (IO), 614-783-5833 & Michele Prater (OEA), 614-378-0469

“KnowYourCharter.com” – New Website Provides Detailed Comparison of Charter and Traditional Public Schools; Improves Data Transparency
OEA, Innovation Ohio Unveil New, Easy to Use Online Tool for Parents, Educators, Policymakers and Taxpayers

Columbus – The Ohio Education Association and Innovation Ohio today announced the launch of a new website for parents, taxpayers and educators that will allow detailed comparisons between charter schools and traditional public school districts. The new on-line tool – KnowYourCharter.com – not only provides access to the state’s most recent Report Card information, but improves transparency by aggregating this and other relevant data at a single, easy-to-use website. Previously, locating this data required visiting multiple sites and extracting the information from numerous and often confusing spreadsheets. At KnowYourCharter.com, visitors will be able to compare schools in a particular geographical area across a wide variety of indices, including State Report Card grades, the amount of state money the schools receive, the percentage spent on classroom instruction, and the average number of years of teacher experience.

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State expands charter investigation after IO raises questions about testing

horizonJust over a month ago, Innovation Ohio released an analysis of test scores at Horizon charter schools around the state, after reports emerged of possible test tampering at the chain’s Dayton location. In it, we showed that Horizon’s Columbus High School showed indications that state test scores were abnormally high when compared to how the school performed on independently-administered ACT exams.

Today, the Ohio Department of Education announced that it was expanding the scope of its investigation to Horizon’s Columbus school.

We’re happy that the state has concluded that the questions IO raised concerning test score discrepancies at Horizon’s Columbus school bear further investigation.

Charters Make Up Most of Bottom Spots on State Performance Index Rankings

report_cardAs we continue to dig into the state report cards, another fact jumps out:

The bottom 88 of 894 districts and charters when ranked by Performance Index scores are Charters. And this is with only 300 of the state’s 400+ charter schools included, because recent state law changes removed traditionally low-scoring dropout recovery schools from the rating system.

Of the bottom 200 districts evaluated, fully 179 are charters. Meanwhile, of the top 200 scores, just 10 were posted by charters.

State Report Card: Ohio Charters Get More Fs than As, Bs, and Cs Combined

The Ohio Report Cards are now all out, and the news is worse for Ohio’s embattled Charter Schools than it was last year. Charter Schools received more Fs than As, Bs and Cs combined. Their percentage of Fs went up from about 41% last year to nearly 44% this year. Meanwhile, Ohio’s public school districts saw their As jump to the largest percentage and number of grades. This chart shows the breakdown:

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As can be seen, Ohio’s Charter Schools continue to struggle with their performance, with now nearly 62% of their report card grades registering D or F. Remember that Ohio school districts lost $914 million to these schools last school year.
Will Ohio’s policy leaders take note?

More Ohio Districts Get As on State Report Card Than Any Other Grade

Ohio’s new Report Cards were released today. While detailed spreadsheets won’t be available until this afternoon, the School District spreadsheet was made available this morning.

What it shows is that Ohio’s School Districts received more As this year than last, as well as slightly more Ds and Fs. The highest percentage of grades for Ohio’s school districts are now As. Last year, it was Bs. Ds and Fs remain the lowest percentage.

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