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Public Policy News – April 2017

2017 April 3

By Karen Rainey, AAUW Ohio Public Policy Chair, kgraauw@yahoo.com

Now that the ACA is safe for the time being, we can turn our attention to other issues.

Equal Pay Day April 4

It’s that time again—the day that we mark the gender pay gap. One example is found in AAUW’s Graduating to a Pay Gap: Even after accounting for factors including college major, occupation, hours worked, age, geographical region and marital status, there is a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates a year after graduation.

AAUW is asking us to write letters to the editor and op-eds to build awareness of the pay gap issue and has provided the resources to do so by email. Other AAUW resources include the publications The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap and Quick Facts on the Gender Pay Gap; and the fact sheet “The Gender Pay Gap: Ohio,” which includes the earnings rations of men to women by congressional district (the data are from 2015, but the fact sheet was updated this February).

There are other resources as well: the National Committee on Pay Equity lists numerous fact sheets and can be found at www.pay-equity.org.  And if you google “gender pay gap,” you’ll find numerous recent articles referencing the gap. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding out there—do what you can to change that.

School Testing Under Study

The Ohio Department of Education has chosen to delay submitting its plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the federal Department of Education in order to review the state’s testing program. The delay until September will allow the state department to appoint an advisory committee on assessments to study ways to streamline testing and to develop a better strategy. Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said the committee will focus on the full range of testing issues — including state-required tests, as well as district-level tests.   The committee’s first meeting was March 21. Its work is expected to be completed in June.

In addition to the concern of too many tests and teaching to the test, there is concern about unequal resources for testing around the state.   In particular, the third grade reading test is computerized, but students in school districts with fewer technological resources are at a disadvantage in using computers and do not fare as well. Some districts have asked to give the test on paper, but have been refused. The “paper vs. computer” controversy needs to be dealt with as well.

Planned Parenthood Still Threatened

Having dodged defunding in the failed American Health Care Act (AHCA), one would hope that Planned Parenthood health centers could relax a little—but no. The US Senate is preparing to overturn a Title X rule put in place in the Obama administration. That rule forbids states from withholding Title X funding for family planning providers for any reason other than an inability to provide services effectively, thus banning attempts to defund providers that also offer abortion services. (Title X provides the funding for family planning and other preventive care.) The vote may occur before you receive this, but if you have the opportunity, please call your senator and ask that the rule not be overturned.

Update on Legislation

House Bill 1, the bill to allow for civil protection orders to be obtained by victims of domestic violence in dating relationships, has had two hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee chair is Sen. Kevin Bacon—his number is 614-466-8064; call to express support.

Senate Bill 4 is also in Sen. Bacon’s committee; there’s been no change in its status since February. It would expunge the records of victims of human trafficking who committed crimes as a result of being trafficked. Again, call Sen. Bacon to urge action.

House Bill 86, to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10, has seen no action.

House Bill 49, the state operating budget, is now being discussed in the Senate Finance Committee in informal hearings, although it has not yet passed the House. A number of agencies have appeared in House hearings asking for larger appropriations. Among these, the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association is seeking a $30 million per year increase to serve the children caught up in the opiate crisis, $10 million a year from TANF funds for expanding kinship caregivers, and $4 million for child support programs.   The opiate crisis has led to children losing their parents and being placed in foster care or with relatives, often grandparents, straining the budgets of agencies serving them.

Another concern likely to be dealt with in the budget is the popular College Credit Plus program, where high school students can take college courses at no cost. The problem is that costs are unpredictable to the schools and the colleges and several private colleges have dropped out of the program. Several reforms, including a cap on the cost of text books, are suggested.   Eligibility standards are also proposed.

K-12 school funding is still up in the air.

House Bill 102, School Funding Reform, is a reintroduction of a bill introduced in the lame duck session and described in the January newsletter. 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. The state would pay a specified amount per student that each student may use to attend the public or chartered nonpublic school of the student’s choice, without the requirement of a local contribution. 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 bill has been referred to the House Finance committee; no hearings have been scheduled to date.

Senate Bill 85, the Opportunity Scholarship Program Creation, had its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee on March 22. Sponsored by Sen. Matt Huffman, it was described in the March newsletter; it would create a unified school voucher program and educational savings accounts. Several concerns were raised by committee members—one, that it creates a state preference for private schools, not only paying tuition but giving a bonus via the educational savings account (ESA), according to Sen. Peggy Lehner, committee chair. The ESA would be funded by the difference between the cost of private school tuition and the amount of the student’s voucher, with students encouraged to shop for lower-priced private schools in order to save the difference. It was suggested by Sen. Vern Sykes that the program would be unfair to students in public schools as they would not receive any funding for an educational savings account.

A fiscal analysis of the bill is not yet available, but Huffman believes the bill would reduce the amount of money necessary to educate children in Ohio.

FOCO Advocacy Day May 3

Mark your calendars—Freedom of Choice Ohio will hold its annual advocacy day on Wednesday, May 3, at the Columbus Athenaeum, 32 North 4th Street, Columbus 43215 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The cost is a nominal $15 for early registration; this ends on April 23. For students, the cost is $5 for early registration. You can register at www.eventbrite.com/e/roe-together-columbus.  As a member of FOCO, AAUW Ohio is a co-sponsor of the event.

The program will explore the multiple threats to reproductive health care and introduce a proactive legislative agenda. Participants will be prepared for meetings with their legislators to show that they do not support abortion bans or attacks on funding.

As always, your questions and comments are welcomed. I’d really like to hear what public policy programs your branches have held this year, and what issues you would like to address next year.

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