by German Lopez
66 days ago
Kasich tax plan criticized, JobsOhio records due today, workers demand prevailing wage
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite
parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused
on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set
aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other
complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and
school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax
expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money
to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general
revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in
fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio
today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under
criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he
should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which
include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only
public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit,
privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development,
which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid.
In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing
wage established in state law because the project is using public funds
and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology
with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use
expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city
promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find
new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference
today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will
seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The
initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which
would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions
if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a
statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight
is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think
this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000
for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility
for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s
entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
A new report from the state auditor found
Cincinnati Public Schools and Winton Woods City Schools manipulated
attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to
lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school
by German Lopez
102 days ago
Posted In: Education
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
State auditor lays blame on state policy
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating
attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay
much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine
school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing
students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their
attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely
manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance
reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that
encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and
no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a
statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's
current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and
in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even
outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including
increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students,
better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to
pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report
issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton
Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues
were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four
of the 15 issues
couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed
the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled
students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure
school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The state auditor Oct. 4 criticized both
the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts
in an interim report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming
months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for
the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the practice of
“removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Interim report highlights attendance scrubbing in a minority of school districts
The state auditor today criticized both the Ohio Department of
Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim
report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the
practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”
Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating
claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for
better results in Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and
school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for
different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.
results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in
Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a
fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on
the honor system” to report their own data.
“The current system relies upon local schools and school
districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the
outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before
labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”
The report advised the state government to reform ODE to
introduce “independent oversight.” Specifically, Yost asked for
oversight to be transferred to “an independent agency or commission
appointed by the General Assembly” instead of relying on schools to be
honest. This oversight should be conducted throughout the year, not just
at the end of the school year like it's done today, according to
The state auditor’s report also asked ODE to develop
better methods for tracking students. In particular, the report suggested
using SSIDs — ID numbers that are given to students in the Ohio’s
school database — to track all withdrawals and transfers for students.
But those were only a few of the many suggestions. The report laid out other proposals: Set clear attendance rules for school
boards, provide due process to students being kicked out for poor
attendance, require stricter attendance records at each school, stop
providing school report card data early, create a centralized source or
manual for accountability resources and establish a statewide student
information system with clearer uniform rules and standards.
John Charlton, spokesperson for ODE, says the state will
look into enforcing “additional safeguards.” He says ODE already
“upgraded” EMIS, which is the system used by schools to report data,
this year, but more is coming.
“We’ve been cooperative with the auditor’s office, and
we’ve established a productive working relationship about his inquiry,”
he says. “We’ll take the input that’s provided from the auditor’s office
into consideration when we make upgrades for next year’s (EMIS)
But the report did not just blame ODE and the state
government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with
evidence of school scrubbing. Columbus City School District, Toledo
City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Marion City
School District and Campbell City School District were the main
offenders. Other school districts were found to have errors but no scrubbing.“We’re actually encouraged but not surprised that this
interim report shows that most Ohio schools and districts that have been
visited to date have been following the rules for reporting data to the
state,” Charlton says.Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was partially investigated as part of the auditor's interim report, but results for CPS were found to be “indeterminate” as the school district finishes gathering all its data.The full report can be read here.
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, Foreign Relations
, President Obama
at 03:16 PM | Permalink
Local Republicans criticize president's record on deficit in counter-rally
President Barack Obama announced a new trade action
against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also
took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on
Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native
automakers and auto-parts producers.
The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the
WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products
ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American
manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade
practices by China.
“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that
encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,”
Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion
in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and
women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the
“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American
workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means
something. And when the playing field is level, America will always
Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger,
saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and
shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized
Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American
interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.
The Romney campaign countered with an email after the
rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private
sector and harmed manufacturing.
“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have
hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while
middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda
“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for
manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal
policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”
The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.
Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a
news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they
focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that
Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in
budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled
House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with
Speaker John Boehner.
“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.
Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the
president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious
with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.
The president in his speech said he did have a plan to
reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the
next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.
Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this
campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the
state 18 times during his campaign.
Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value
Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the
findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in
Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple
including potential conflicts of interest.
by German Lopez
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber released its positions
on this November’s ballot issues. The chamber supports the Cincinnati
Public Schools tax levy and Hamilton County mental health and services
levy, but it does not support extending City Council’s terms to four
years. The chamber also opposes Issue 2, which would place the
redistricting process in the hands of an independent citizens commission
instead of a commission run by politicians. The chamber said it opposes
Issue 2 partially because it excludes “some Ohioans” from the
redistricting process. The excluded Ohioans are lobbyists and
politicians, who have a vested interest in redrawing district boundaries
in politically advantageous ways in a process known as
“gerrymandering.” In Cincinnati’s district, the district was redrawn by
the Republican-controlled commission to include Warren County, which
puts more emphasis on the rural vote that tends to vote Republican
instead of the urban vote that tends to vote Democrat. CityBeat
previously covered the redistricting issue here and here.Related to Issue 2, the controversial ballot language that
was approved by the state seems to be weighing down the amendment. Public Policy Polling said voters are confused by the ballot initiative.Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost found Value Learning and
Teaching (VLT) Academy, a charter school in downtown Cincinnati, to be
wasteful and unethical. According to a state audit, the school had
multiple instances in the 2010-2011 school year in which it made
excessive payments in possible conflicts of interest.In another audit, Yost also criticized his own political
party. Yost found the Ohio Republican Party accepted prohibited
contributions and improperly spent money.A recent police chase that resulted in a crash and the the injury of minors is coming under scrutiny. The cop involved was found to be in violation of department procedure.Even though he resigned abruptly, the University of
Cincinnati Board of Trustees is considering separation payments for
former UC President Greg Williams. Board Chairman Fran Barrett says the
payments will tie up “loose ends” and buyout Williams’ tenure.Gov. John Kasich is asking public colleges to collaborate
on a funding formula. He says the schools should have a better idea than the state government of
what they need. The schools previously collaborated on a construction
wishlist, which apparently impressed Kasich.A proposed state policy will force schools to keep better
track of who is kept in seclusion rooms and for how long, but the
details will be closed to the public.The fired Democrats suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon
Husted will be getting their day in court. Yesterday, a federal judge
agreed to a hearing on Sept. 21. The fired Democrats are suing Husted
after he dismissed them for attempting to extend in-person early voting,
which broke Husted’s uniform rules on voting hours.
Even Republicans are now demanding more substance from presidential candidate Mitt Romney.A North Dakota college football player says he got kicked off his
team for kissing his boyfriend.Scientists planted false short-term memories in the brains of rats.
by German Lopez
Hamilton County school overpaid in potential conflict of interest
State Auditor Dave Yost released an audit today looking at Value
Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy’s 2010-2011 school year, and the findings are not pretty. The charter school, which is located in downtown
Cincinnati, was found to be potentially overpaying in multiple instances —
including potential conflicts of interest.
“Those who are entrusted with taxpayer dollars must take
special care and spend them wisely,” Yost said in a statement. “This
school appears to have management issues that must be addressed
In a potential conflict of interest, the school paid
Echole Harris, daughter of the school’s superintendent, $82,000 during
the school year and $17,000 for a summer contract for the position of
EMIS coordinator, who helps provide data from VLT Academy to the state. Mysteriously, the school did not disclose the summer contract
in its financial statements. The school says the superintendent abstained from all decisions related to Harris and presented the summer contract to the school board. Still, Yost referred
the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The audit also criticized VLT Academy for approving a
$249,000 bid for janitorial services that were owned and provided by a
school employee. The bid was the most expensive among other offers
ranging between $82,000 and $135,600. According to the school’s own
minutes, “Each company states that they can deliver a work product that
will meet or exceed the standards provided in our checklist,” adding
little justification to the high payment and potential conflict of
interest. The school insists its pick was the best qualified because it offered additional services. The bid approval was also
referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
The school was found to be overpaying its IT director as
well. Keenan Cooke’s salary for the 2010-2011 school year was supposed to
be $55,000, but the school overpaid him by $3,333 with no record of
intent. The state asked for Cooke and Judy McConnell, VLT Academy’s
fiscal officer, to return the excess payment to the state. The school acknowledged McConnell's responsibility.
To make the potentially excess payments worse, VLT Academy had a net asset
deficiency of $412,754 as of June 30, 2011, according to the audit. The
school promised the auditor it will cut costs and find revenue
generators to make up for the loss.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 1, 2012
This year’s first human case of West Nile Virus in Ohio
has been found in an 85-year-old Clermont County man and arrived about a
month earlier than expected, thanks to an unseasonably dry, warm
summer. CINCINNATI -2