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AAUW Ohio Public Policy E-Newsletter, 5-13-13

AAUW Ohio Public Policy E-Newsletter

By Jackie Evangelista, AAUW Ohio Public Policy Co-Chair, jevangelista@roadrunner.com, 5-13-13

Dear AAUW Ohio Branch Presidents, Public Policy Chairs and Newsletter Editors:

It’s program planning time, a process that is so important to attracting new members and retaining current members. The AAUW Public Policy Program is a fundamental reason for AAUW’s being and developing programs around it should be an important consideration in your planning. This e-newsletter offers ideas about how to do that. It’s also the time of year branches elect new officers. So I am asking that you please e-mail me contact information for any new presidents, public policy chairs or newsletter editors so I can update my listservs. Also, please watch for Ohio Advocate Karen Rainey’s comprehensive Ohio legislative update in the upcoming online edition of The Orbit. Finally, be a good AAUW citizen and cast your ballot at: http://www.aauw.org/resource/one-member-one-vote/. You’ll find your member and pin numbers on your latest Outlook label. Jackie

ACTION ALERT: VOUCHER EXPANSION IS BACK

Rather than introducing a separate bill to vastly expand the Ohio voucher program like they did last year with HB 136, our Ohio governor and legislators are trying to get a similar concept enacted by inserting it into the budget bill, HB 59, where it may be more difficult to eliminate. This new program represents a significant public policy change from the current EdChoice and Cleveland Voucher Program in that it would be imposed in all school districts regardless of their performance. Those with long memories will recognize this as a classic “bait and switch” tactic. Vouchers were sold in the beginning as a way for students to escape “failing public schools.” Now our legislators are suggesting that students from public schools that are not failing should be supported with public dollars in their quest to attend a private school. As you no doubt are aware, AAUW strongly opposes the use of public money for private schools.

Dr. Damon Asbury, legislative director of the Ohio School Boards Association, who has spoken at our two most recent state level meetings, reports that legislators say they are not getting much opposition to this program from their constituents and are balking at removing it unless they do. The House already passed the budget out of committee with the voucher plan included. So we need to focus on our Senators. Please ask your branch members to contact your state senator immediately at: http://www.ohiosenate.gov/members/contacting-your-senator. Attached is a page of talking points from the OSBA to assist you. Note that it suggests this new program will divert “hundreds of millions of dollars” away from public schools. Also, please read the section on charter schools and also ask your Senators to subject charter schools to the same gain caps as public schools.

PLAN PUBLIC POLICY RELATED PROGRAMS

Next year including at least two programs about public policy related topics can earn you a glitter point in the STARZ Award Program. If your branch only meets four times a year or less, one program would qualify you for a glitter point. Remember that you can also earn a glitter point for appointing a public policy chair. A reminder that to earn the STARZ award, you need first to have sent a representative to the convention; then you must send your officer list to the state administrative coordinator by July 1, your dues to the Ohio finance officer of national by July 8, and a representative to the Leadership Conference on Aug. 10 at Otterbein College.

To concept public policy related programs, your planning committee might begin by reviewing the wide range of topics covered in the AAUW Public Policy Program at: http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/public-policy/aauw-issues/. Select program topics based on the interests of your members and those you would like to attract. Your goals should be to inform and motivate action.  Given the fact that the Ohio legislature is now considering actions that oppose our public policy program in the areas of public education, reproductive choice and voting rights, these offer especially fertile, timely ground.

For example, the state budget currently under review includes provisions that would significantly expand both the voucher and charter school programs. These programs are having a major negative impact on the funding of those school districts that receive little funding from the state and rely on local taxes in the main to support their schools. When students come forward requesting a voucher or wish to attend a charter school, local monies sometimes must be handed over when the state contribution is not sufficient to cover the required amount. Even if the amount is sufficient, local public school students are not getting the benefit of a state contribution. Generally, there is an insufficient number of students transfering from any given school to allow an entire classroom to be shut down so the savings to the public system is not significant. Even if that were to be the case, the building and its overhead still must be covered.

Youngstown Branch Public Policy Chair Barbara Brothers found that this situation prevailed in her district and set about developing a program to unmask it, which we encourage you to emulate. She presented a breakout at our recent state convention explaining how she worked with her local Youngstown area school board treasurer to generate information that revealed how much local tax money is being siphoned off to voucher and charter schools, most of whom do not perform as well as the public schools and are not sufficiently accountable to taxpayers. In her roles as a member of both the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown and Youngstown Branch, AAUW, Barbara then planned a public meeting to make the information more widely known. Attached is a document Barbara wrote summarizing the project as well as a chart showing some of the expenditures in question by school district. If you have any question regarding how to implement this important project, please contact Barbara at: bbrothers@neo.rr.com. This information, which sad to say generally goes under the radar, could also be publicized via your website, Facebook page or other social and news media in an effort to reach new and different demographics.

In another public policy breakout about public education featured at our recent convention, Dr. Damon Asbury returned to summarize current developments related to school funding. Unfortunately, we won’t know until the budget in finalized next month exactly what the legislature will do; however, his organization is following significat expansions in both vouchers and charters that have been proposed and recently posted this alert: http://ealerts.osbaohio.org/msgs/1782.html. We will keep you informed so you can consider whether you want to plan programming around the topic.

EMULATE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PROGRAM

If you want to attract a large audience and perform a public service, consider opening your 2013-14 schedule with a program explaining how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will work. My Northeast Branch co-sponsored such a program on April 23, and we were swamped with attendees. It was originally to be held in a room that holds 190 at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland; however, advance registration (which was suggested but not required) rose to nearly that number the day before the program. Since we announced that we would welcome walk-ins, the program had to be moved to a larger venue on the campus. We ended up having nearly 300 present. The experience convinced us that the public is hungry for this kind of information. The timing could not be better for a program on this topic in the fall as the Obama Administration will be focusing on explaining the ACA to the public in the next six months.

If you haven’t closely read the AAUW Public Policy Program, you might think that this is not one of our issues. If so, you would be wrong. AAUW’s Public Policy Program advocates for “greater access to quality, affordable health care.” Read our position paper, entitled “Health Care: A Basic Right,” at: http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/position-on-health-care-112.pdf. One of the more interesting bottom lines of our program was learning that all the stakeholders involved believe that the ACA will ultimately improve health care in the country and are completely invested in implementing it.

The format we followed was to devote the first hour of the program to a keynote speaker who is knowledgeable about the economics of health care as well as how the ACA will work. Finding such a person would be your main challenge, but you might begin by exploring the economics faculty at the college or university closest to you and asking if there is a professor who specializes in the economics of health care. In the second hour we had a panel that included two representatives of our local hospital, Lake Health, who explained how the ACA is changing their business and what they are doing to prepare, and a physician from each of Cleveland’s two major hospitals—the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University Hospital, who explained how the ACA will impact care for individual patients. During each hour we set aside some time for questions that audience members submitted on cards.

We worked with our local League of Women Voters chapter and the Women’s Center at the college. Those most involved in planning were a nurse and nursing professor, who had the contacts needed to secure high quality speakers. In advance, we were able to get mention of the event in a magazine our local hospital publishes as well as on the front page of our local newspaper. The college also printed a couple thousand copies of a flyer (attached) that members of our organizations circulated and that we also circulated via e-mail and on our AAUW Ohio website. All the sponsoring groups were recognized in the program and put out displays and brochures at the venue.

CLOSE OUT PROGRAM YEAR BY USING 50TH ANNIVERSARY

OF EQUAL PAY ACT JUNE 10 TO ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE

The AAUW Public Policy Department urges us to use the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act on June 10 as another opportunity to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act. As AAUW Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator said in a recent e-mail, “The law is outdated, contains too many loopholes, and quite simply, hasn’t worked. That’s why Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 377/S. 84). In the meantime, the president should issue an executive order to implement part of the Paycheck Fairness Act.” Deborah adds that branch members can use the anniversary as the centerpiece of events and activities that advocate for change.

One novel idea that some branch members might enjoy is delivering a cake featuring the attached Paycheck Fairness Act art on the box and/or the cake to a legislator who has not yet signed on as a supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Branches near Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo could consider visiting Senator Rob Portman’s local office with a cake. His office locations are listed at: http://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/office-locations. Attached is an AAUW handout describing how to carry out this project as well as the circular art.

You might also ask your local mayor or city council to issue the attached proclamation recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and calling on Congress to act. Letters to the editor or op-eds are also encouraged. Consult the brochure AAUW has produced entitled “The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap” for details: http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/. Highlight AAUW’s recent study showing that only one year out of college, young women make 82% of comparable men: http://www.aauw.org/resource/graduating-to-a-pay-gap-executive-summary-and-recommendations/. For more ideas, read the AAUW Pay Equity Resource Kit: http://www.aauw.org/resource/pay-equity-resource-kit/. If you plan an activity, Swerdlow asks that you share details with her by filling out a form at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RHKSMt1lt_4fgJgaas74xlyM5oeJBZV55AjifpZCMQ0/viewform?usp=sharing&edit_requested=true&pli=1.

 

 

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