September 30, 2014

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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Labor Day Statement from Innovation Ohio President

For Immediate Release: August 29, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Labor Day Statement from Innovation Ohio President
Anti-labor policies, tax-shifting trend increases income inequality and threatens Ohio’s middle class, says McCarthy

COLUMBUS – In advance of the Labor Day weekend, Innovation Ohio President Keary McCarthy released the following statement:

“Labor Day is a celebration of the American labor movement and the workers who fought for it. Every year, we honor the contributions of labor unions because they built the greatest middle class the world had ever seen. But every year it also becomes increasingly difficult to think about the middle-class without considering the sobering fact that it’s disappearing. Growing income inequality is one of our nation’s and our state’s biggest challenges.

“Over the last several decades, the wealthiest Ohioans have seen their earnings grow by 70 percent while working- and middle-class families have seen their earnings decrease.  Nationally, as labor union participation has declined over the last fifty years, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened.

“Ohio’s elected leaders must make it a priority to reverse these trends. Stop making it harder for Ohioans to participate in labor unions. Stop the tax-shifting trend that benefits those at the very top at the expense of everyone else. Without pursuing these basic fixes to Ohio’s economy and a policy agenda that puts the middle class first, Ohio’s income inequality will grow and the promise of the American dream will continue to slip away.” [Read more...]

The Kasich Record: 5 School Funding Facts All Ohioans Need to Know

For Immediate Release: August 28, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

The Kasich Record: 5 School Funding Facts All Ohioans Need to Know

Columbus — With a new school year now underway, Innovation Ohio today highlighted “five facts” it says all parents and taxpayers should know about education funding in the Buckeye state.  Documentation for all the facts below are available on the IO website.

Fact # 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 and his allies have repeatedly blamed this shortfall on the “one-time stimulus money” Ohio received from the federal government during the recession, which they imply was “extra” money they had no duty to replace. In truth, federal law required that stimulus funds  be run through the states’ existing school funding formulas, and was intended to make up the difference between what states had been spending and what their lower tax revenues would  permit them to spend during the recession.  It was always anticipated that states would replace the federal money once their economies recovered.

Fact # 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 his allies 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.

Fact # 3The 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 before Gov. Kasich took office.  And thanks to Gov. Kasich’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.

Fact # 4: Charter School Funding Has Increased by 27% and Charters now receive more state money per pupil than do traditional public schools .  While Gov. Kasich and his allies 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.

Fact # 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.  And under Kasich, 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.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:  “When it comes to schools, Gov. Kasich and his allies have flunked the test.  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 for the entire fiasco.”

Kasich Recovery Yields Low-Wage Jobs

For Immediate Release: August 20, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO: Kasich Recovery Yields Low-Wage Jobs
Think Tank Study Says High & Medium Wage Jobs Decrease; Newly Created Jobs “Don’t Pay Enough to Support a Family.”

Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a new study today which finds that for the first time since 2007, Ohio now has more low wage jobs than medium or high wage jobs.  Using Occupational Employment data from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study also found that while 9 out of 10 Ohio jobs lost during the Great Recession paid medium or high wages, low-paying jobs account for virtually all Ohio job growth during the recovery.

Specifically:

  • Prior to the start of the recession in 2007, 33% of Ohio jobs paid more than $20 per hour, 39% paid between $13.40 and $19.99, and just 28% paid $7.00-$13.39 hourly.
  • At the end of 2013, low-wage positions had jumped to 36% of Ohio jobs, while medium-paying jobs fell to 34% and high-wage jobs dropped to 31%.
  • As a share of the state’s economy, high and medium wage jobs dropped from 72% in 2007 to just 64% in 2013.  Low wage jobs grew from 28% to 36% during that period.

Said IO President Keary McCarthy:

“This report makes clear that Gov. Kasich’s handling of Ohio’s economic recovery warrants serious scrutiny. Not only has the recovery from the great recession been slow and inconsistent, but for the first time since 2007 low-wage jobs now comprise the highest share of the job market.”

Added IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“Last month, Ohio led the nation in job losses.  Ohio’s job creation rate ranks 41st and has lagged the national average for 20 straight months. Unlike the rest of America, Ohio is still 140,000 jobs short of where we were before the recession hit.  And if all this isn’t bad enough, today we learn that the few jobs Gov. Kasich has managed to create don’t pay a living wage or enough to sustain a family. Some miracle. Some recovery. “

Read the report.

IO Raises Concern About Cheating at Columbus Horizon school

For Immediate Release: July 29, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Is the Horizon Academy in Columbus Cheating?
Innovation Ohio Says Test Score Discrepancies Raise Red Flags

Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a study today that shows a large discrepancy between two sets of academic performance scores at the Horizon Science Academy Columbus (hereafter, “Horizon Columbus”).

The IO finding follow on the heels of recent news stories in which former students and parents allege that test and attendance scores were tampered with at the Horizon Academy in Dayton. As a result of those stories, IO looked at the four Horizon schools in Ohio that operate up to Grade 12 and compared the scores those students received on the state Performance Index with the scores those same students received on the ACT college entrance exam. Performance Index tests are administered by the schools themselves, while ACT tests are administered by an independent testing company. For most schools and school districts — including 3 of the 4 Horizon schools — ACT and state Performance Index scores are closely correlated. That is not the case at Horizon Columbus, however.

According to the latest State Report Card data, Horizon Columbus students scored 98.6 on the state Performance Index, slightly below the state public school district average of 98.9.  But on the ACT test, Horizon Columbus students had an average score of just 17, which put them in the 28th percentile of all students taking the ACT.  In other words, 72% of all ACT test-takers scored higher than Horizon Columbus students — and just 16 of Ohio’s 612 school districts had ACT scores that were the same or worse.  Yet Horizon Columbus students somehow managed to achieve a higher Performance Index score than 269 Ohio school districts.

The extent of the discrepancy at Horizon Columbus is dramatic.  In the 60 Ohio school districts that scored, like Horizon Columbus, between 98 and 99 on the Performance Index, the average ACT score was 21.1 — and none of those 60 districts had average ACT scores below 19, let alone the 17 scored by Horizon Columbus students.  Columbus City schools, for example, also had an average ACT score of 17.  But their Performance Index score, at the height of the data manipulation scandal, was 79.2 — far below Horizon Columbus’ score of 98.6.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“Today’s report raises the possibility that the cheating and data manipulation alleged in Dayton may have occurred at Horizon’s Columbus campus too.

“While a discrepancy between ACT and Performance Index scores doesn’t prove the existence of cheating, it’s hard to fathom how the same students at a single school could have such wildly varying test performance scores. What makes it even more suspicious is that one test — the ACT — is independently administered, while state Performance Index tests are administered by schools themselves; in this case, by Horizon Columbus personnel. This could be especially significant in light of the story in last Sunday’s Dayton Daily News in which a former student claimed he was paid to alter Performance Index tests at Dayton’s Horizon Academy.

“Equally curious is why Horizon Columbus supporters feel impelled to falsify that school’s graduation results.  In a July 26 letter to the Columbus Dispatch, for example, one prominent Horizon Columbus supporter said the school’s graduation rate, like that of the Cleveland Horizon school, is “typically over 90%.”  In fact, Horizon Columbus received a graduation grade of “F” on the latest State Report Card.  The letter also claimed that Horizon Columbus seniors have such “high GPAs and ACT scores” that they are “sought out by some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Notre Dame and MIT.” But according to the websites of those three universities, the median ACT scores for admitted students is 33-35, roughly twice as high as Columbus Horizon’s average score of 17.

“Last week, Auditor of State Dave Yost said he would restrict his investigation to the Horizon school in Dayton. Today, Innovation Ohio calls on Auditor Yost to expand that investigation to include Horizon Columbus as well. When it came to exposing data manipulation in Columbus city schools, Mr. Yost was a tiger. If similar wrong-doing has occurred at charter schools like Horizon Columbus, we hope he will not be a pussy cat. “

Read the analysis: “More on the Horizon”

Keary McCarthy Is New President of Innovation Ohio

For Immediate Release: July 9, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Keary McCarthy Is New President of Innovation Ohio
Janetta King remains Board Chair

Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, announced today that Keary McCarthy will become its new President and CEO in early August.  McCarthy, a long- time fixture in Ohio progressive politics, will take over as President/CEO for IO founder Janetta King, who will retain her role as Chair of the Board. For the past two months, King has been splitting her time between Columbus and Washington, D.C. where she serves as Chief of Staff to CAP Action President (and former Ohio Governor) Ted Strickland.

Since 2011, McCarthy has been Minority Chief of Staff at the Ohio House of Representatives where he managed all operational and administrative duties for the lower chamber’s Democratic members.  In that role, McCarthy provided strategic direction for all policy, legislative and communications matters.  He previously held top policy and communications posts for former House Speaker Armond Budish, the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign in  Ohio, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and the transition team for then-newly elected Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald. Prior to his work in government, McCarthy served as communications director for ballot measures in 2005 on redistricting and election reform, and a successful effort in 2006 to increase Ohio’s minimum wage. McCarthy, a life-long Ohio resident, lives in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus with his wife, Lori, and their two young children.

Said IO Board Chair Janetta King:

“As the founder of Innovation Ohio, I’m absolutely thrilled that Keary has agreed to become its President. While I will remain deeply involved with IO, the organization needs a full-time, hands-on President, which was no longer possible for me because of my duties at CAP Action in Washington. Keary’s work at the Ohio House has been first-rate — and he is deeply committed to the progressive causes that are at the heart of our organization. Fortunately, the rest of IO’s incredibly talented and hard-working team remains in place — and with Keary at the helm, I know IO won’t miss a beat in providing the kind of research, analysis and communication for which we’ve become known.”

Said McCarthy:

“Innovation Ohio’s hard-hitting policy analysis has been an important counterweight to the conservative ideology that has dominated state government over these last three years. I believe that having a strong, Ohio-based progressive think tank in the mother-of-all swing states is critical both now and in the future.  I’m thrilled at the opportunity to lead this organization, build on its success, and find new ways to strengthen the progressive voice in Ohio and beyond.”

IO Assails “Hobby Lobby” Decision

For Immediate Release: June 30, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO ASSAILS “HOBBY LOBBY” DECISION
Think Tank Calls Ruling “Another Blow to Women’s Rights”

Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, today strongly criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the so-called “Hobby Lobby” case.

Communications Director Dale Butland issued the following statement:

“By finding in favor of Hobby Lobby today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck another blow against women’s rights, and took another step toward corporate rule in America.

“In the Citizens United case of 2010, the Court’s conservative majority ruled that corporations have ‘free speech’ rights.  Today, they granted corporations ‘religious rights.’   While we can only guess what new rights companies may be granted next, there can be no doubt that five of the Court’s nine Justices agree with Mitt Romney’s view that ‘corporations are people, my friend.’

“The clearest victims of today’s ruling are female employees, who must now effectively get their bosses’ permission if they want access to birth control under company insurance policies.  Tomorrow’s victims may include any worker who needs a medical treatment  — including, say, a blood transfusion — to which his or her employer has a religious objection.

“There was a time in America when the First Amendment was not interpreted to  include the right to impose one’s religious beliefs on others.  We can only hope that day will come again. “

Local Taxes Up 34% Under Kasich

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Local Taxes Up 34% Under Kasich
Budget Cuts Force Taxpayers to Pass $700m in New Levies;
IO Says Kasich Playing “Shell Game” On Taxes

Columbus – Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a new analysis today showing that $670 million in new school operating levies have been passed by Ohio taxpayers between May, 2011 and May, 2014.  The local tax hikes represent a 34% increase over the corresponding 3 year period prior to Kasich’s governorship (May, 2007 – May, 2010.) * Read the analysis here.

According to the IO analysis, there has also been a 13% increase in the number of operating levies for schools on local ballots (with a total value of nearly $1.7 billion) over the past three years. And the think tank calculates that the levies which passed are costing taxpayers nearly $11 million more than they would have previously — thanks to last year’s repeal of the so-called “property tax roll-back” in which the state picked up 12.5% of the cost of local levies. The ballooning number of levies — and their increased cost — are both directly attributable to policies pursued by the Kasich administration and its legislative allies.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland: “Like Christian Bale and Amy Adams in American Hustle – or Paul Newman and Robert Redford before them in the Oscar-winning movie, The Sting – Gov. Kasich and his allies have mastered ‘The Big Con.’ They cast themselves in the roles of ‘budget and tax cutters.’ But in reality, their budget cuts have only put taxpayers on the hook for $700 million in higher local taxes — and left school officials holding the bag and struggling to explain why these tax hikes are necessary. “

Meanwhile, Kasich’s state income tax cuts have disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Ohioans who earn over $300,000 per year. And how did the Governor pay for this give-away to the rich? By repealing the property tax roll-back — which sticks local taxpayers with an even bigger bill.

“Worse yet, the con continues. Right now, higher than projected revenues and lower than projected expenditures have given Ohio a surplus of over $1 billion. But instead of using this money to restore the funds they slashed from schools and local governments, Kasich and his allies are pushing for even more income tax cuts that will primarily benefit the wealthy.

“Ohioans aren’t stupid. They know a shell game when they see one. And sooner or later, they’re going to hold the con men accountable.”

* Operational levies differ from capital improvement levies and bond issues — and the money raised by each can only be spent on items germane to that type of levy. In other words, the money raised through a school operations levy cannot be spent on capital improvements, and vice versa. This is why new operating levies are directly linked to diminished state support for school and local government operations, while capital levies and bond issues generally are not. Nevertheless, the Kasich administration has sought to hide the impact of its budget cuts by disingenuously lumping all 3 levy types together — and then triumphantly proclaiming there has been “no increase” in the overall number of levies on local ballots and, therefore, “no impact” from their budget cuts to schools and local governments. For the reasons outlined above, their argument is fundamentally dishonest.

IO: Charter School Funding Short-Changes Traditional Public School Students By 6.6%

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2014
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO: Charter School Funding Short-Changes Traditional Public School Students By 6.6%
93% of Ohio Students Get Less Money than State Says They Need;
Study Also Finds Majority of Charter Transfer Students Leave Districts With Higher Performance Scores

Columbus — Using data provided by the Ohio Department of Education, Innovation Ohio released a study today that raises a host of questions concerning the funding and operation of charter schools in Ohio, especially those run by for-profit operators.  Innovation Ohio is a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus. Read the report here.

The study’s principal findings are:

  • The “flawed” manner in which charter schools are funded has resulted in traditional school students receiving, on average, 6.6% less state funding this year than the Ohio Department of Education says they need;
  • A number of high-performing suburban school districts are now among the biggest per-pupil funding losers;
  • Well over half of all state money sent to charters goes to schools that perform worse than traditional public schools on either or both of the state’s two performance measurements (the Report Card and the Performance Index);
  • 53% of children transferring into charter schools are leaving districts whose performance is better than the charters into which they are going;
  • On average, Ohio charters spend nearly double the amount spent by traditional public schools on non-instructional administrative costs (24% vs. 13%)

Said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King:

“From the way they’re funded to the way they perform, Ohio’s charter schools are different from those in other states. Until Ohio’s funding mechanism is fixed, the 93% of children who stay in traditional public schools will continue to be penalized — and cheated out of receiving the level of state funding that even the Ohio Department of Education says they need. Until there is true accountability for charters, too many students and their parents will continue to be victimized.

“While a handful of Ohio charters do an excellent job, the vast majority do not. And that is why  legislators and other state officials must stop using “school choice” as a mindlessly repeated mantra divorced from real world consequences. All public schools and administrators should be held to the same level of accountability, regardless of whether their buildings are called ‘charter’ or ‘traditional.’ And students who choose to say in traditional public schools should not suffer inadequate funding simply because others made a different choice.

‘Finally — and especially because the majority of students transferring into charter schools are leaving districts that actually perform better – it is vital that parents be provided with accurate and up-to-date information concerning comparative academic performance. Surely the state has no interest in promoting “choices” which result in worse poorer academic outcomes and fewer educational opportunities for our young people.”

Will $2.7 Million in Campaign Contributions Mean Higher Electric Bills for Consumers?

For Immediate Release: December 3, 2013
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Will $2.7 Million in Campaign Contributions Mean Higher Electric Bills for Consumers?
Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a study today showing that Ohio’s four electric utility companies have made political campaign contributions totaling nearly $2.7 million since May, 2008, most of which went to Republican legislators and officeholders who are strategically positioned to pass a bill giving the companies a nearly $4 billion windfall at the expense of Ohio consumers.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), SB 58 would gut Ohio’s existing energy efficiency and renewable energy laws, and could receive a Senate vote as early as tomorrow. It is opposed by a broad coalition of business, environmental and consumer groups, including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA), the Ohio AARP, and the Ohio Office of Consumers’ Counsel.

The OMA characterizes the bill as a “huge giveaway” to electric utilities — which a study from Ohio State University estimates would be nearly $4 billion over the next 12 years. The OSU study also projects that nearly 6,500 fewer Ohio jobs would be created if SB 58 is enacted. Meanwhile, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel estimates that passage of SB 58 “could cause “4 million Ohio households to pay an additional $528 for their electric bills.”

According to the IO analysis:

  • From May, 2008 through June, 2013, Ohio’s four electric utilities (First Energy, AEP, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light) contributed nearly $2.7 million to political parties, office-holders and candidates who either play a role in regulating the energy industry or who have a leadership role in deciding what legislation receives a vote in the General Assembly. Over half of that amount —$1.37 million — went to individuals who are current members of the state House and Senate.
  • The overwhelming majority of these contributions (81%) went to Republicans, who received over $1.1 million of the $1.37 million total given to lawmakers.
  • First Energy of Akron — widely considered to be the SB 58′s main champion — was the largest single corporate contributor, accounting for nearly $700,000 in campaign contributions to current legislators.
  • Because campaign contributions given or received after June 30 will not be reported until January 31, 2014, the total amount given by the utility industry is likely to be far higher than this Report suggests. Since July 1, at least 127 additional fundraisers have been held by current members of the General Assembly. Donors, recipients, and dollar amounts raised are unknown.

Said IO President Janetta King: “Nobody wants to believe Ohio legislators can be bought. Nobody wants to think the Ohio General Assembly would put the interests of utility companies over the interests of consumers. And certainly no one wants to contemplate losing 6,500 jobs at a time when Ohio ranks a dismal 44th in the nation in new job creation. But we’ll find out when Senate Bill 58 comes up for a vote.

“It defies belief that First Energy and the other utilities are handing out millions in campaign contributions simply to support ‘good government.’ If that were the goal, they wouldn’t be concentrating their largesse on the legislators who are best positioned to pass a law that will put an extra $4 billion in their corporate pockets.

“The bottom line is that if the utilities win, Ohio consumers lose.

“So the question is simple: whose side is the General Assembly on? Will they stand up for the people they were elected to represent? Or will they roll over for the utilities that are filling their campaign coffers?”

View the report: Rate of Return: What Will Ohio’s Utilities Get for Campaign Cash?