Thursday, January 30, 2014

Waniewski 1 of 4 recommended to fill PUCO seat

Toledo city councilman Tom Waniewski, R-District 5, is one of four individuals recommended to fill a seat on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

The others, all Republicans, are former Rep. Thomas Johnson, Stacey Polk and Patrick Donlon.

Gov. John Kasich has 30 days to select one of the nominees to replace Todd Snitchler, or he can request a new list of recommendations from the Nominating Council.

The open position is a five-year term beginning in April. The governor's nominee will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Johnson, who was a state rep from 1977 to 1999, also served as director of the Office of Budget and Management.

Polk is an attorney based in Cleveland who works as a sustainability consultant helping businesses implement green and advanced energy measures. She previously served as an assistant director in the City of Cleveland's of the Department of Economic Development.

Donlon currently works for the PUCO as a utility rates and tariff administrator. He previously worked for American Electric Power and for Time Warner Cable.

Waniewski, who is also a member of the Ohio Public Works Commission, chairs the Environmental Services Committee.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Choices abound - why is k-12 education the exception?

It's National School Choice Week - seven days devoted to sharing the story of parents who were able to make a choice in the best interest of their children. It's also a time to remind everyone that ALL parents should be able to choose the education that best meets the needs of their children.

As I've previously written, school choice takes many forms. This is not an anti-public schools effort as charter schools are public and traditional public schools are often the preferred choice for parents.

Choice is everywhere in our lives. When you go to the grocery store, there are shelves of bread - everything from traditional white to low-fat, high-fiber, cinnamon raisin. Do bread makers think everyone should be forced to choose the traditional white bread?

When you go to the mall there are multiple stores carrying clothes and multiple choices within those stores. When you go to a department store, look at how many types of socks are for sale - even basic white socks have multiple options!

We're not expected to settle for one single option for cars, furniture, tools, computers (laptops or tablets), printers, cameras, internet providers or even browsers. Restaurants, coffee houses, cell phones, gasoline, ... the list goes on where choices abound.

Think about all the choices you make in a day - from coffee in the morning to the television shows you watch at night.

We even have a choice when it comes to college: on-line or brick-and-mortar, two-year or four-year or a combination of the two; opting for the school that has the best reputation in the field we want to follow.

Why is k-12 education the exception?

Why is a choice in educational options the one area where a variety of options is fought?

This is the question those who oppose school choice need to answer. If it really is "for the children" we should not restrict their ability to find and receive the education that best fits them, their learning styles and their goals.

Join with others as we amplify choice and ensure that opportunities are available to all - and that education is not based upon something so arbitrary as a zip code.

For a list of school choice events in your area, go here to enter your zip code.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Ohio parents defeated the ‘worst-ever’ home schooling bill

UPDATE: I have confirmed that Sen. Cafaro did withdraw the bill Wednesday, Jan. 22nd.

It all started with a press conference Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, held announcing her bill to introduce Teddy’s law.

Theodore “Teddy” Foltz-Tedesco was brought to Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley with head trauma Jan. 21, 2013. His injuries, the result of a beating, were so severe he was immediately transferred to St. Elizabeth Health Center. Teddy died in the hospital on Jan. 26. He was 14.

Teddy was tortured and killed by his mother’s boyfriend. Despite suspicions and reports to child protective services, Teddy’s case was not investigated. When teachers reported the suspected abuse, his mother withdrew him from school – either to home-school him or move him to a charter school – it’s not clear which.

Teddy’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for child endangerment and obstructing justice. Zaryl Bush, her boyfriend at the time who was not living with Widdersheim or Teddy, was sentenced to life in prison for Teddy’s murder and for child endangerment, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with evidence.

Teddy’s grandmother tried to intervene. Friends and neighbors contacted social services. Police were told and Teddy’s teachers noticed and initiated a complaint with the county children services agency.

Teddy is a tragic example of a system that failed.

Perhaps there is a need for a new law, but the one Cafaro came up would not have helped Teddy if it had been in place – and it was as misguided as it was wrong.

Cafaro’s solution to a myriad of system failures in the reporting and investigation of child abuse was not to fix the gaps or address how Teddy’s case seemed to fall through the cracks. Her solution was to require all home schooling parents to go through a background check by local children services social workers to determine if they were ‘qualified’ to home school their kids.

The law would “require a public children services agency to recommend whether a child should be admitted to an Internet or computer-based community school or excused by a school district superintendent from attendance at school for home education.”

The Home School Legal Defense Association was more specific in their analysis:

“It requires all parents who home school to undergo a social services investigation which would ultimately determine if homeschooling would be permitted. Social workers would have to interview parents and children separately, conduct background checks and determine whether homeschooling is recommended or not. If it is not recommended, parents would have to submit to an ‘intervention’ before further consideration of their request to home school.”

Mark Stevenson, director of Ohioans for Educational Freedom, a state-wide political action committee, saw the press conference through a link on Facebook. Even though it was the week before Christmas, he sprang into action.

“We looked at the press conference and analyzed the text (of the bill),” he said. “We sent Facebook posts to regional home school groups late Monday (Dec. 16, 2013) and by Tuesday it was all over Facebook. By Tuesday mid-afternoon, it started hitting Ohio home-schoolers email lists.”

“It caught everyone’s attention,” he explained, “and by the time they read it, they understood how important it was.”

But sharing the news of what they began calling the “worst-ever homeschooling bill” was not enough.

“With watching the press conference, you could deduce that personally reaching out to (the Senator) was not going to be to our benefit,” Stevenson said, “so we constructed a message urging people to call her office and ask her politely but firmly to withdraw the bill.”

Withdrawing the bill was the only option, as there wasn’t much in the text Stevenson thought they could agree upon.

“It would have had such far-reaching consequences,” he said.

He explained that home-schoolers just want to be left alone to do what they need to do to teach their kids. “If you want to maintain freedom,” he explained, “you have to get politicians to understand they can’t do something like this just because of one bad apple.”

Stevenson said they spoke to people in the Senator’s office to ask that the bill be withdrawn. They didn’t make much headway until Wednesday.

“By then,” Stevenson said, “she was starting to show signs of backing away from the bill due the number of phone calls she was getting.”

He said that by Wednesday, the sponsors of the bill were getting phone calls all day long. But it wasn’t just the sponsors. Home schooling parents called their own senators to object to the bill. Stevenson said their website registered 305,589 hits over two days. They put hourly updates on the web page to keep parents and other school choice groups informed of the progress they were making.

Stevenson knows it was the combination of calls, groups coming out against the bill and the concerns expressed by other senators that caused her to reconsider.

“And remember,” he said. “this was the week before Christmas.”

The plan was to start an educational effort via Twitter on Thursday, but Cafaro announced that she was going to withdraw the bill.
Three days of mobilized opposition and the worst-ever home schooling bill was going away.

“Home-schoolers are used to jumping on such issues very quickly,” Stevenson said. “We have to be on top of infringements upon our freedom. Home-schoolers are pretty well connected within the state and across the country in terms of our network. We are concerned, just like everyone else, with how our freedoms are eroding.”

But the fight isn’t over.

The Senate was not in session when Cafaro announced she was withdrawing the bill. The formal action to do so had to wait until the after the holidays. She was scheduled to formally request the withdrawal on Jan. 14, 2014, but was not present that day in order to do so, according to the Senate President’s office. It is now scheduled for formal action on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

Stevenson and homes-choolers across the state will continue to monitor it to ensure the bill is actually withdrawn, as promised, but they are still cautious.

“There’s been some chatter with Teddy’s law people who say they support the bill,” Stevenson said. “Home-schoolers are sympathetic to the situation, but you can’t just write legislation that attacks law-abiding citizens and regulates people who are obeying the law.

“Teddy’s law people have made it clear that they’re not done with this,” he explained. “Since the initial legislation had such bad language, we can’t be anything but cautious and will be monitoring this for some time.”

But, Stevenson said, this is not a fight just for home schooling parents. It’s something charter schools, private schools, online schools and those who believe in school choice need to pay attention to.

“Everyone needs to be involved or one day, your rights are going to be gone,” he warned.

***UPDATE: Mark Stevenson will be Fred LeFevbre's guest on Monday, January 27th at 7:05 a.m. You can listen to 1370 WSPD live at

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toledo school officials to be investigated in data scrubbing scandal

The Ohio Department of Education is going to investigate whether to suspend or revoke the licenses of staff in seven school districts, including Toledo, that scrubbed student attendance data. Non-licensed staff in the districts could received other types of punishments.

The ODE's professional conduct office will investigate whether any licensed individuals participated in "conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession" by contributing to the inaccurate data that was submitted to the state.

ODE said it found seven improperly reported Education Management Information System data during the 2010-11 school year. The other districts are Campbell City, Cincinnati Public, Cleveland Metropolitan, Marion City, Northridge Local, and Winton Woods City schools.

"Misreporting of attendance data or 'scrubbing' jeopardizes the entire accountability system in Ohio and will not be tolerated," Superintendent of Public Instruction Dick Ross said in a release. "These actions will be investigated and may result in professional conduct sanctions up to and including suspension or revocation of licensure."

In 2012, State Auditor Dave Yost began looking into the practices of some districts to un-enroll students and then re-enroll students in a presumed effort to exclude those students' test scores from the districts' report card calculation.

The department reviewed more than 8,500 student records including:

  • 39 records in Campbell City Schools and found 37 were improperly withdrawn.
  • 34 in Canton City Schools and found zero were improperly withdrawn.
  • 148 in Cincinnati Public Schools and found 130 were improperly withdrawn.
  • 7,624 in Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and found 3,540 were improperly withdrawn.
  • 58 in Marion City Schools and found zero were improperly withdrawn.
  • 63 in Northridge Local Schools and found 44 were improperly withdrawn.
  • 614 in Toledo Public Schools and found 425 were improperly withdrawn.
  • 14 in Winton Woods City Schools and found 11 were improperly withdrawn.

Report cards for the 2010-11 school year will be recalculated and rereleased for the six districts that had improperly withdrawn students, adding those students' test scores back into the grade card calculation, ODE said.

"We are committed to collecting accurate data and will require districts to submit corrective action plans to address these concerns," Ross said. "We also determined that approximately 50% of the records reviewed indicated the improper withdrawal of students from schools and should be included in the district and school report card calculations."

ODE said it will investigate districts' 2011-12 school year EMIS data to determine whether improper reporting of student withdrawals occurred in that year as well.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Federal judge issues preliminary injunction against new Ohio law limiting minor parties

Writing for Ohio Watchdog, I've previously covered the so-called Gov. John Kasich reelection protection act, also known as Senate Bill 193 which would impose stricter requirements on minor political parties in the state.

The Ohio Libertarian Party opposed the law and filed suit in federal court to stop it from taking effect for the 2014 elections.

Today, Judge Michael Watson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a preliminary injunction against the law.

Here is the press release from the Ohio Libertarian Party:

COLUMBUS—An Ohio law known as the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” will not be able to ban the Libertarian Party and other so-called “minor” parties from the 2014 ballot, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The preliminary injunction in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted blocks the state of Ohio “from retroactively applying SB 193 to Ohio’s 2014 primary and general elections.”

Political analysts from Ohio and across the nation have speculated that SB 193 was designed to protect Kasich’s 2014 re-election chances against a challenge from Libertarian Charile Earl, a former state legislator who is very popular with liberty-oriented and Tea Party groups in Ohio angered by Kasich’s support for Obamacare, his crony capitalism, and lack of fiscal responsibility.

The ruling from Judge Michael H. Watson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio means that challenger parties in Ohio will be allowed to continue to participate in the 2014 election cycle without being forced to comply with the several onerous “party formation” requirements mandated by SB 193.

“Once again, the courts stand with us and with the First Amendment rights of all Ohioans to political freedom and suffrage in Ohio,” said Kevin Knedler, chair of the LPO executive committee. “The foundation of a democratic society is the right to vote and to have real choices on the ballot. A lot of voters—especially young voters—refuse to be put in either the Republican or Democrat boxes, and the Libertarian Party offers a true alternative for voters who want individual freedom in every area of life.”

Tuesday’s victory is the fourth in federal court for the LPO since 2006, when LPO v. Blackwell struck down a ballot law concerning "minor" political parties. The LPO won two more federal court fights over ballot access before SB 193 was passed, while consistently, but unsuccessfully, lobbying the state legislature for a fair election law.

State attorneys may appeal Tuesday’s ruling, Knedler said, but “they would have almost no chance of winning” less than a month before the February 5 deadline by which petitions are due for candidates running in the May 5 primary.

Kasich signed SB 193 in November after it was rushed through both houses of the Ohio legislature with all but a handful of GOP legislators voting for it. In the several hearings on the bill in both houses, no one testified in favor of SB 193, save the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Bill Seitz.

“Kasich and the Republican party thought they were silencing the growing liberty movement in Ohio, but now they have one hell of a fight on their hands,” said Aaron Keith Harris, LPO central committee chairman and candidate for secretary of state. “Voters no longer trust them when they pretend to oppose Democrats on issues like health care freedom and the runaway growth of government power over their everyday lives.”

One Libertarian statewide candidate—attorney general hopeful Steven Linnabary—has already submitted his petition, as have several Libertarian state legislature and state central committee candidates.

Libertarian governor candidate Charlie Earl, along with a full slate of statewide candidates and up to 50 other Libertarian candidates across the state will file by February 5, Knedler said.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Everything you never really wanted to know about the national debt - in one picture

Courtesy of The Heritage Foundation comes this handy little infographic giving you all the details you never really wanted to know about the national debt.

But then again, if everyone knew this, maybe it wouldn't be so large.

Feel free to share ...

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