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Public Policy News – January 2017

2017 January 7

By Karen Rainey, Public Policy Chair, AAUW of Ohio

Happy New Year! Here’s to a fresh start and renewed resolve to make a difference for women and girls.

In this issue

  • Issue of the Month: Update on Education issues
  • March on Washington Jan. 21; State March Jan. 15
  • Congressional Redistricting: Kasich Endorsement
  • Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Update on Education Issues

School funding. In the last moments of the 131st session of the General Assembly, Rep. Andrew Brenner, Chairman of the House Education Committee, dropped a bill that would totally change how schools are funded. House Bill 628 was, its sponsor said, intended to be a starting point for discussion of school funding reform. The plan would do away with all local levies and fund schools with a new statewide property tax, Ohio Lottery profits, and General Revenue funding. Under the bill, the state would also assume all local bond debt for school districts. (Cost savings would be achieved through the state’s better bond ratings.

Essentially, the money would follow the child. Charter schools and traditional public schools would be funded at the same rate, except that e-schools would be funded at a 70% rate because they have less overhead. All state scholarship programs would be eliminated. Transportation would be handled by educational service centers on a regional basis.

The state property tax would likely be set at 38 mills. Brenner is not pushing to include his proposal in the governor’s budget; he expects months and possibly years of discussion to reach a consensus and bipartisan support.

So, what do you think of the possibilities? No more local levy campaigns? No more special vouchers? More coordinated transportation? Let us know your reaction.

Graduation rates. Concerned that large numbers of students are not meeting the new standards for graduation, the State Board of Education has voted to form a workgroup of parents, legislators and education officials to recommend how to proceed by April. Lowering the standards was discarded as an option at this time.

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). ECOT lost in the courts again in a bid to prohibit the state from reviewing its log-in duration data to determine enrollment—and reimbursement. ECOT plans to appeal.

State Ranking. A Quality Counts report by Education Week, a national education trade newspaper, has given Ohio’s education system a “C.” That places Ohio 22nd among the states and the District of Columbia. The ranking is based on factors including student achievement, education financing, preschool enrollment and graduation rates. The Ohio Department of Education responded to the ranking as an opportunity to evaluate ways to improve performance and to raise expectations for students. Achievement gaps attributed to poverty are a major problem.

Marches on Washington and in Ohio

AAUW has now endorsed the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. A recent email notes that the national office will be open to marchers as a gathering/warming center (1310 L St., NW). You can check the association website for details. More recently plans have been made for a Sister March on Sunday, Jan. 15, in Columbus, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at COSI and marching to the Statehouse. The Facebook link for the state march is:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1839160356298611/. Events include a Save Health and Social Rights Rally at the Sheraton Hotel beginning at 6 p.m.   If you plan to participate, please share your photos and your impressions on our Facebook page.

Congressional Redistricting

The latest development in the efforts to reform congressional redistricting is a request from Governor Kasich to include a reform measure in the state budget. The governor suggested that the legislature follow the model for change that was adopted by voters in 2015 for redistricting state legislative districts. In citing the need for reform, he noted that politicians and voters alike are locked into conservative and liberal “silos” and do not respect or tolerate other views. The unexpected endorsement by the governor was met with skepticism on the part of legislative leaders, who do not want to give up their current prerogative to draw the lines.

The coalition Fair Districts=Fair Elections continues to be our vehicle for pursuing reform. You can add your personal endorsement at www.fairdistrictsohio.org.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

The 8th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day will be held at the Statehouse on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This year, a second event is planned: the first annual Ohio Youth Trafficking Prevention Summit, on Feb. 3, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., also at the Statehouse. Events are free but tickets are required.  You may register at Eventbrite. These events are hosted by Rep. Teresa Fedor. 

As always, your questions and comments are welcomed. You can email me at kgraauw@yahoo.com, or call 740-368-9001.

 

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