by German Lopez
65 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
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.
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
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.