February 1, 2015

Kasich proposes expanded eligibility for child care assistance

Today, Governor Kasich offered a sneak preview of his budget plan, and there may be some good news for working parents. The Governor proposed expanding eligibility for the state’s publicly-funded child care assistance program to more low-income working families.

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Today, working parents become eligible for reduced cost child care from the state if they earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), or $19,662 for a single mom with one child. That equates to a full-time job paying $9.45/hour.

Once in the program, parents continue to receive help with the cost of child care as their income grows, up to 200 percent of FPL, or $31,460 ($15.13/hour). At this level,a small pay increase could translate to the loss of thousands of dollars worth of child care benefits, leaving a family worse off financially. This is what advocates call the eligibility “cliff,” and it creates a perverse incentive for working parents to avoid pay increases for fear of losing assistance with the high cost of child care.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Kasich intends to tame the cliff into a gradual slope:

Instead of cutting off all child-care benefits when a family hits 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($3,298 a month for a family of three), Kasich proposes to gradually phase out benefits until a family hits 300 percent of the poverty level ($4,948 a month for a family of three).

What the Governor didn’t say is whether his budget will address other shortcomings of the program that allow families to lose eligibility because of a change in jobs or schedules – both sad facts of life in today’s low-wage economy, and forcing them to go back to the initial income threshold to get back into the program.

No program aimed at lifting people out of poverty should create an incentive for working parents to earn less.

Policy Matters Ohio published a detailed report in 2014 on the many problems with Ohio’s child care program, providing a clear blueprint for lawmakers on needed fixes for the program. We hope there is more to Kasich’s proposal than meets the eye when it emerges on Monday.  If not, lawmakers are advised to listen to the stories of working parents and design a program that aims to lift families out of poverty and off of public assistance for good.

Kasich’s Contradiction

No amount of message reframing will change the fact that conservative economic policies hurt poor and middle-class families.  In Ohio, under Gov. John Kasich:

  1. Lower-income Ohioans now pay more as a share of their income in taxes than those at the top;
  1. State funding for education is now at its lowest share of the state budget since 1997 – the same year that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our school funding system was unconstitutional; and
  1. State funding to communities has been cut in half, which means that those who can afford them the least have to pick up a greater share of the tab for basic quality-of-life issues such as police and fire protection, trash collection and road repair.

Gov. Kasich’s inaugural address focused on lifting up the poor. Because of the Affordable Care Act, Ohio was able to expand Medicaid. As I pointed out in a column in The Dispatch over the weekend, as far as policies that lift up the poor under Gov. John Kasich, Medicaid expansion is the exception not the rule.

Perhaps this could change in the upcoming state budget, which is due out in the first week of February.  The state budget is a massive document that affects every level of state government and can impact the lives of Ohioans in every corner of the state.

As we prepare for this year’s upcoming budget debate, we thought it would be helpful to look back at some of the more notable provisions from the last state budget. We’ll be sharing our analyses from the last budget over the course of the week on Twitter and Facebook.

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Six Ohio Proposals For Women We Hope To See Again

The 131st General Assembly begins its work soon, and the caucuses are rolling out their priority legislation later this week.

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While we don’t know if women’s issues will be on the agenda or how proposed ideas will impact women, we’ve listed some pro-women pieces of legislation from the last General Assembly that we would like to see again.

  • Contraceptive Coverage (House Bill 604, Representative Clyde; Senate Bill 355 Senators Tavares and Turner) – This bill would require health insurers to provide coverage for contraceptive drugs approved by the FDA. It would also prohibit employers from discriminating against employees’ reproductive health decisions on the basis of personal beliefs.
  • Gender Pay (House Bill 120, Representatives Lundy and Driehaus) – This bill would create the Gender Pay Disparity Task Force to determine the extent and causes of pay disparity between men and women in Ohio. The Task Force would be required to issue a report with its findings and recommendations to decrease pay disparity. The Task Force would be eliminated once their work is complete.
  • Campus Dating Violence (House Bill 626, Representative Barnes) – This bill would enact the “Respect Your Date Act” to require each state institution of higher education to adopt a policy addressing dating violence and rape on campus.
  • Economic Council on Women (House Bill 575, Representatives Baker and Anielski) – This bill would create the Economic Council on Women to examine the economic concerns and needs of women in Ohio, including employment policies and practices, educational needs and opportunities, child care, property rights, health care, domestic relations, and the effect of federal and state laws on women.
  • HPV Vaccine (Senate Bill 39, Senators Brown and Schiavoni) – This bill would require health insurers to cover expenses related to HPV screenings and vaccinations.
  • Pay Equity (Senate Bill 92, Senators Turner and Tavares) – This bill would enact the “Fair Acceptable Income Required (FAIR) Act” and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. It would also prohibit employers from paying different wages for the performance of equal work.

As always, a complete list of Ohio legislation impacting women can be found on our Women’s Watch page. We will add information and analysis on bills as they emerge during the 2015-2016 legislative session. Follow Ohio Women’s Watch on Twitter and Facebook to receive updates and alerts on legislative action.

Ohio Senate Committees to be Led by Mostly White Men

Oops! They did it again.

Just a week after we learned that the Ohio House of Representatives will feature men in charge of 21 of 25 committees, Senate Senate President today introduced the team that will head up the chamber’s 21 standing committees, and once again, women and people of color are nearly absent.

And the Senate picture (literally — look at it) is even more bleak. The 33-member Senate will see women= in charge of only 3 of 21 committees and subcommittees, or 14%. And zero people of color.

SenateLeaders [Read more…]

Male-Dominated House Leadership Announced

This week, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger announced the leaders of the House’s 25 standing committees, and women will be outnumbered by men 5 to 1.

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Legislative committees are where the hard work of lawmaking gets done. The chairs of these committees wield considerable power in deciding which bills are heard and will advance to a vote. In the past two legislative sessions, at least 10 new restrictions were enacted that restricted women’s healthcare choices. The significance of who runs these committees cannot be overstated. [Read more…]

Join Ted and Frances Strickland for a Reception to Support IO

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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

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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.