FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2019
Innovation Ohio Releases 2019 State Budget Priorities
Calls on DeWine to provide necessary resources to improve our state
Columbus, OH – Today, Innovation Ohio released its 2019 state budget priorities. As Gov. Mike DeWine prepares to introduce his first two-year state operating budget, Innovation Ohio urges the administration to include 15 key policies that will provide the resources our state needs to invest in its communities, children and working people.
These investments and revenues will strengthen our state in the long term and include policies DeWine advocated for during the 2018 election. IO’s budget priorities can be viewed here.
“Gov. DeWine’s budget will show us how committed he is to the policies he has advocated for in his campaign and State of the State speech,” said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King. “He has the opportunity to undo some of the damage done over the last eight years and get serious about investing in Ohio’s families and communities – we hope he takes it.”
Budget policies that Gov. DeWine and the legislature should pursue include:
Investing in Kids: For years, we have watched as our educational outcomes have lagged behind the rest of the country. It is time that we fund our K-12 and higher education systems adequately, and take steps to reform our school choice system and the failed Academic Distress Commissions.
Protect the Dignity of Work: Ohioans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to provide for their families. Our state’s next budget must include policies that strengthen working families, including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and quality childcare options, making paid family leave available to all Ohioans, preserving Medicaid expansion, and addressing wage theft.
Ensure Ohio’s Communities Have Sufficient Resources to Thrive: Our state has spent the last eight years undermining our local communities. It is time to undo harmful cuts to local governments and restore the Local Government Fund. We must also invest in a successful 2020 Census effort to ensure our state is allocated sufficient Congressional seats and federal funds.
Provide Adequate Revenues While Making our Tax System More Fair: Ohio has seen its tax system become steadily more regressive as working and middle-class Ohioans have been forced to shoulder more of the burden. Gov. DeWine’s budget must include adequate revenues in order to fully invest in the future of our state, and do so in a way that restores fairness to our tax system. We suggest two policy changes that would, when combined, recover $1.7 billion each year for investment in needed programs.
A fuller list of the policies listed above can be found here: Innovation Ohio’s 2019 State Budget Priorities
Innovation Ohio and its allies will be monitoring Gov. DeWine’s budget rollout closely and will be available for comment and analysis on Friday.
Founded in 2011, Innovation Ohio is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank that blends policy research and advocacy to fight for working families in Ohio.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 28, 2018
Innovation Ohio Releases New Medicaid Report
Policy report looks at gubernatorial candidates, includes county by county Medicaid numbers
Columbus, OH – Today, Innovation Ohio released a new policy report on what is at stake for Medicaid in this year’s gubernatorial election. The analysis, titled “Healthcare is on the Ballot in Ohio: Medicaid and The Governors Race,” examines the importance of Medicaid and where candidates Rich Cordray and Mike DeWine stand on the program.
The report looks at new state and county-level numbers, as well as the potential impacts of each candidate’s plans. It also lays out the vital role Medicaid expansion has played in combatting Ohio’s opioid epidemic.
In Washington County, where the next gubernatorial debate will be held, nearly a quarter of the population relies on Medicaid for their healthcare. In neighboring counties in Appalachia, that number rises to nearly a third.
“Healthcare truly is on the ballot this fall,” said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King. “Medicaid is a vital program for all of Ohio, but it plays an outsized role in our Appalachian region. It’s important that voters know how their healthcare could be impacted by each candidate.”
While Cordray has expressed his support for Medicaid, DeWine has laid out plans that would cripple the program. DeWine sued to stop the Medicaid expansion and has expressed support for changes that could risk the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. The report notes that DeWine has still not taken a position on the legislature’s passage of a Medicaid expansion freeze, which Gov. John Kasich vetoed.
Other key findings in the report include:
- 21% of Ohioans rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. In some counties, this number is as high as 40%.
- Medicaid expansion has helped to lower Ohio’s uninsured rate from 13.9% to 6% in four years.
- DeWine’s proposed changes to Medicaid could risk the healthcare of at least 318,000 Ohioans.
- 59% of Ohio nursing home residents use Medicaid coverage for that service.
New Report: Mike DeWine’s Overtime Pay Cut Costs Ohio Workers $42 Million Each Year
Lost Overtime Pay Protections Affect 327,000 Ohioans
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2018
Columbus, OH — Researchers from the National Employment Law Project Action Fund (NELP Action) and Innovation Ohio released a new report today that enumerates the wages lost by Ohio workers as a result of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine blocking a federal overtime pay expansion. Overtime pay cuts have cost 327,000 Ohioans $42 million a year in badly-needed higher pay.
The report is available online here. It includes county by county breakdowns of how many local workers are impacted.
“Wall Street and CEO pay are booming but paychecks for working Ohioans haven’t budged. Restoring overtime pay is one of the concrete things we can do to boost middle class incomes – but Mike DeWine made it worse by blocking this badly needed raise,” said Paul Sonn, director of NELP Action and the report’s author.
The report details how Ohio’s next governor and legislature can deliver this long delayed overtime raise as leaders in other states are doing. It includes county by county breakdowns of how many local workers are impacted.
“It’s basic fairness – you should get paid for the hours that you work. But Attorney General Mike DeWine’s lawsuit is keeping 327,000 Ohioans from getting the pay they deserve,” said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King. “It’s imperative that Ohio’s next governor work with the legislature to reverse this setback and ensure that hardworking Ohioans are paid for the work they do.”
NELP Action and Innovation Ohio also released a new video based on the report.
In 2016, the U.S. Labor Department updated federal overtime standards for the first time since 2004 to restore overtime coverage for more middle class workers. But Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined with other states and filed a lawsuit that blocked the overtime expansion. The Trump Labor Department is now holding listening sessions as it develops a weaker, replacement proposal that will protect fewer workers.
The report’s key findings include:
- Statewide, 327,000 Ohioans lost overtime pay protections as a result of DeWine’s lawsuit
- Workers in every county across the state lost overtime pay protections. The largest impacts were 37,000 workers in Franklin County, 34,000 in Cuyahoga County, and 22,000 in Hamilton County
- Other major impacts include 17,000 in Montgomery County, 16,000 workers in Summit County, 13,000 in Lucas County and 13,000 in Stark County
- As a result, this year and every year Ohio workers are losing $42 million in higher pay that they would have received under an overtime increase. That’s $42 million in badly needed raises that workers across the state are losing ever year because of the lawsuit brought by DeWine to block the overtime raise.
- In other states, including California, New York, Washington State and Pennsylvania, governors and state legislatures are responding to the blocked federal overtime pay expansion by acting under state law to deliver this raise
- Ohio’s next governor and legislature should follow those states’ lead and act quickly to deliver this badly needed overtime raise for the state’s workers
- Past polling found that Ohio voters support an overtime pay expansion by an overwhelming 80 to 14 percent margin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2018
Columbus, OH — Today, Innovation Ohio released a new poll showing a tied race between Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray, as well as close races up and down the ballot. The poll, conducted by Change Research, is the first from Innovation Ohio’s new Polling Collaborative.
“We’re excited to announce our Polling Collaborative, which will further Innovation Ohio’s mission of providing quality, research-based products about policy and politics in Ohio,” said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King. “This new project will supply quantitative data to inform voters, policymakers, and the media, adding value to the conversations around important issues being debated in our state. We will also use our expertise to analyze and respond to polling released publicly from other sources over the coming months.”
>>View polling memo and crosstabs.
Change Research conducted an online poll of 822 likely voters in Ohio from August 31 to September 4. Responses were solicited from verified registered Ohio voters reached online. The margin of error, as traditionally calculated, is 3% (although they believe that margin of error is overemphasized and can be misleading in polling analysis). Change Research was recently the only pollster to correctly predict the results in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary
In head-to-head matchups, the poll found the following:
In the Governor’s race, Democrat Rich Cordray is tied with Republican Mike DeWine, 43% – 43%. When all four candidates are included, DeWine leads by a narrow 45% – 43%.
In the Senate race, Democrat Sherrod Brown leads Republican Jim Renacci 46% – 42%.
In the Attorney General’s race, Republican Dave Yost leads Democrat Steve Dettelbach, 41% – 37%.
In the Auditor’s race, Republican Keith Faber leads Democrat Zack Space, 40% – 36%.
In the Secretary of State’s race, Republican Frank LaRose leads Democrat Kathleen Clyde, 42% – 40%.
In the Treasurer’s race, Republican Robert Sprague leads Democrat Rob Richardson, 41% – 38%.
The poll also tested issues recently in the news surrounding the gubernatorial race:
On the ECOT issue, the poll found that 75% of voters were less likely to support a candidate who received significant campaign contributions from ECOT’s founder while the school defrauded the state.
74% of voters would be less likely to support a candidate who protected his friends and allies by interfering with sexual harassment investigations in his office.
Nearly three quarters of voters would be less likely to support a candidate who ignored complaints of police officers in his office and forced them to wear expired bulletproof vests.
>>View polling memo and crosstabs.
Innovation Ohio is a 501(c)4 nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization located in Columbus. Our mission is to provide high-quality research and to construct winning narratives on the issues and fights important to Ohio.
New Analysis: ECOT Stole Nearly $200 Million from State
Estimate shows ECOT scandal is largest in state history
Columbus, OH – Today, Innovation Ohio Education Policy Fellow Stephen Dyer released a new analysis of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) scandal, finding that the shuttered charter school defrauded the state by at least $189 million since 2000. This is the first published estimate of the total amount stolen by ECOT.
When ECOT was caught billing the state a total of $80 million in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 for students they couldn’t prove they actually educated, the immediate question arose: how much more did they potentially rip off taxpayers during their entire 18 years in operation?
In 9 of the 18 years of ECOT’s existence, the Department of Education found and documented overpayments of various sizes. Based on these findings, Dyer took the percentage overpayment in each of those years, calculated an average percentage of overpayment during those FTE reviews, then applied that to the years in which ECOT’s enrollment wasn’t scrutinized. The estimated overpayment was combined with the previously reported overpayments, and the result is that approximately $189 million was overbilled during the school’s time in operation.
“This is easily the largest scandal in Ohio history,” said Dyer. “ECOT stole nearly $200 million in taxpayer money that should have gone to educate our children. Instead, this money enriched ECOT’s founder and his political allies.”
In terms of scale, the infamous Tom Noe “Coingate” scandal in 2006 involved $50 million in unemployment insurance money (technically not taxpayer money). Even with this relatively conservative estimate, the ECOT scandal could be four times larger than Coingate – likely even more.
Tom Noe was given more than 20 years in prison for his scandal. Will this much larger, taxpayer funded scandal produce similar results?
“While it is important to have this number and understand the scope of this scandal, this also raises many more questions that must be answered. The Department of Education and state Auditor owe us a full explanation of how they allowed this to happen for 18 years,” Dyer continued.
Despite the size and scope of this scandal, lawmakers have yet to address the underlying issues that allowed this to occur.
KEY NUMBERS IN THE ECOT SCANDAL
Total taxpayer dollars diverted to ECOT since 2000 – More than $1,000,000,000
Total diverted since 2012 that we can document by each school district – $591,000,000
Estimate for the total amount stolen – $189,000,000
For more information:
All of Innovation Ohio’s ECOT research can be found here: innovationohio.org/ecot
Ohio Taxpayers Forced to Pay $588,000 in ECOT Hush Money
Columbus, OH– The Electronic School of Tomorrow (ECOT) paid $588,000 in hush money to 201 former employees, according to records that the now-shuttered online charter school provided in response to a public records request.
Because ECOT was a public charter school, these severance packages were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Filed by Common Cause Ohio and Innovation Ohio, the request came after a whistleblower refused to take the money, then told reporters that ECOT purchased and manipulated new software to extract millions of dollars from the state that it did not deserve. Ohio officials are attempting to recover more than $80 million from ECOT, and ECOT is in court, insisting it owes taxpayers no money at all.
All the money was paid out in 2017 as part of a “severance and release agreement,’’ the records show. In addition to “non-disclosure” clauses, the agreements also contained “non-disparagement” clauses.
“Public funds should never be used to pay hush money,’’ said Common Cause Ohio Executive Director Catherine Turcer. “A severance package is supposed to give employees a cushion when they leave – not hide problems from elected officials, administrators, the press and the public.’’
ECOT’s attendance padding has been referred to the FBI and Franklin County Prosecutor for further review, and the scandal has emerged as a central issue in this year’s statewide elections.
The agreement’s “non-disparagement” clauses stipulate that former employees receive severance packages only if they agree that they “have not and will not make statements to anyone that are in any way disparaging or negative towards ECOT, including disparaging remarks about individuals associated with ECOT or the service it provides.”
Stephen Dyer, a lawyer and Education Policy Fellow for Innovation Ohio, said the agreements are not standard.
“The agreements ban employees from making statements to ‘anyone that are in any way disparaging or negative toward ECOT, including disparaging remarks about individuals associated with ECOT or the services it provides,’” Dyer said. “ECOT’s lawyer notes that employees are free to talk with law enforcement. What he does not tell you is that these types of agreements cannot legally prevent people from cooperating with law enforcement.’’
The records request asked for the amount of hush money paid over a five-year period.
While ECOT said it fully complied with the request, charter school researcher Sandy Theis said she is aware of other former employees who signed non-disparagement agreements in exchange for money who are not included in the information that ECOT provided.
The documents turned over by ECOT are online here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 06, 2018
Contact: Katherine Liming – 419-956-8196, email@example.com
Nearly $600 Million Dollars Went from Local School Districts to ECOT
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) scandal grows bigger as new data shows that $591 million of taxpayer money went to the online charter school over local school districts. Today, Innovation Ohio (IO) released new data that shows the district-by-district breakdown of money each Ohio school district lost to ECOT since 2012.
“We are trying to figure out the scope and scale of this thing,” said Stephen Dyer, IO’s Education Policy Fellow, “and today we are releasing how much has been lost to ECOT in the past six years.”
This is another piece of the growing ECOT scandal that has effected taxpayers in every corner of the state. The numbers show that all but six of Ohio’s 613 school districts lost state funding to ECOT.
In a press conference, Dyer announced the launch of the website innovationohio.org/ecot, which aims to tell the full story of the ECOT scandal. On the website, viewers can see the taxpayer money their individual district lost to ECOT over the years.
Dyer was joined by local schools officials from across the state that gave testimony to the devastation ECOT has brought to their localities.
“Maple Heights has been able to stay away from asking for new tax dollars since 2003, but are rapidly approaching the time when we will have to go back to the tax payers,” said Robert Applebaum, treasurer of Maple Heights City Schools. “With an additional $3 million paid as restitution that ECOT owes us, we would be in a position not to go back to the tax payers for several more years.”
The press conference not only focused on ECOT’s impact on Ohio school districts, but also the impact it had on the children in these schools and ECOT’s own students.
“When the smoke cleared we were advised of half a dozen students that had still not come to us to register or registered in another school,” said George Wood, superintendent of Federal Hocking Local Schools. “In each case, after reaching out to the family, we found that these students had not been logged on to ECOT in recent memory and were vastly credit deficient. None of them returned to school.”
“Schools need to be for kids, not for profit,” said Richard Murray, executive director of Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools.
To see the money your school district lost to ECOT since 2012, visit innovationohio.org/ecot.
For more information:
Full press conference can be viewed on our Facebook page
For Immediate Release
April 30, 2018
COLUMBUS – The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s decision to offer taxpayer-financed hush money to past employees prompted strong criticism from watchdogs – and calls for reform – during a Monday press conference.
News that several past employees were offered public money in exchange for agreeing not to disparage the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) follows an Associated Press story that quoted a whistleblower saying the Department of Education was informed last August that ECOT manipulated software to garner unearned money from the state. The whistleblower also provided the information to Auditor David Yost last year.
“Charter schools are also public schools,’’ noted Common Cause Executive Director Catherine Turcer. “These non-disclosure agreements are an effort to circumvent transparency and accountability and they highlight the need for better transparency in all quasi-governmental bodies.”
The whistleblower turned down two weeks of severance pay by refusing to sign the agreement – a decision that freed him to tell the public about ECOT’s attendance padding.
The agreement included two signature lines, one for the whistleblower, the other for Brittny Pierson, Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Staff for ECOT.
The agreement includes these provisions:
- “Non-Disparagement. You agree that you have not and will not make statements to anyone that are in any way disparaging or negative toward ECOT, including disparaging remarks about individuals associated with ECOT or the services it provides.”
- “Waiver & Release of Employment Claims. You, for yourself and your successors, assigns, heirs, agents and legal representatives, knowingly and voluntarily agree to waive and release ECOT, including its directors, officers, employees, representatives and agents, and its related, affiliate, and associated companies (including without limitation the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West and Altair Learning Management) (collectively, ‘Released Parties’), from any and all claims, causes of action, and liabilities of any kind, known or unknown, in law or in equity, that you had or have as of the effective date of this Agreement, and that are in any way connected with or arise out of your employment or the termination of your employment with ECOT, including but not limited to claims, causes of action and liabilities….”
Stephen Dyer, a lawyer and Education Fellow for Innovation Ohio, took issue with the release of claims provision.
“It’s truly stunning that the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West would be included in this non-disclosure language,’’ Dyer said. “The ESC is supposed to be the public’s watchdog over ECOT, not its partner in silence and secrecy.”
It is unclear whether Lake Erie West knew that it was included in the agreement.
“If the ESC knew it was included in this provision, that’s a problem,” Dyer told the news conference. “And if they didn’t, then that indicates how lax their oversight has been.”
Sandy Theis, a member of Ohio’s Charter School Accountability Project, said she personally has spoken to six people offered hush money from ECOT. Two took the money, two did not.
Dyer and Turcer filed a public records request with the ESC seeking copies of all non-disclosure agreements offered to ECOT employees from 2012-2017 and the total amount paid.
Columbus lawyer Fred Gittes echoed concerns that it is inappropriate to use public money as hush money, and he called for improvements to Ohio’s whistleblower law.
“Ohio has one of the worst whistleblower laws in America,” Gittes said. “You can only be protected if you first report your concerns to your boss or someone with authority in the company. And you have to report it in writing.”
Gittes said he has counseled many people who have considered reporting crimes their employers have committed.
“When I tell them about Ohio’s whistleblower law, most of them choose not to blow the whistle,’’Gittes said. “The heroes here are the whistleblowers.”