COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) announced several changes to further improve Senate Bill 298, legislation that would bring more accountability and transparency to Ohio’s online charter schools. The new substitute bill addresses suggestions that were raised by legislators and interested parties throughout the four legislative committee hearings on SB 298.
“This sub bill demonstrates why public input is critical to the legislative process. We listened to suggestions and strengthened the bill to address the problems we’ve seen in Ohio’s e-schools,” said Senator Schiavoni. “Hopefully, legislators will continue to honor the process by giving this bill a vote and a fair chance at passage.”
One of the additions to Senate Bill 298 affirms that e-schools must “provide” rather than “offer” 920 hours of learning opportunities to students in each academic year. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) argued in a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education that the law does not require e-schools to actively educate students as long as class materials are made available online.
“The Department of Education and the courts have said current law requires e-schools to actually teach their students and not just offer classes. But ECOT continues to claim it does not have to fulfill this basic function of a public school,” said Senator Schiavoni.
Some of the additional changes include:
After four hearings, Senate Bill 298 is currently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) plans to introduce companion legislation to Substitute Senate Bill 298 with the above changes in the Ohio House.
Ashtabula, OHIO – Senator Capri Cafaro will partner with the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) to promote Bike Helmet Safety Awareness, a Signature Program of the Ohio AAP, by hosting a bike helmet distribution and fitting at the Signature Health Community Trunk or Treat.
“Bike helmet safety is an important way we can protect the children in our community, so I’m proud to partner with the Ohio AAP to promote Bike Helmet Safety Awareness,” said Senator Capri S. Cafaro. “Bike riding is a fun childhood activity and by distributing helmets in our community, we can teach our children the importance of wearing a helmet and how to stay safe while riding their bike.”
At 5:30 p.m. on October 28, Senator Cafaro, Jim Timonere, and Ashtabula City Council members will be available at the Signature Health Community Trunk or Treat to provide information on bike helmet safety and bike helmet fitting for children. Children in attendance will be fitted for helmets as quantities and sizes allow, and all families will receive bike safety information; helmets will be available for approximately the first 100 children between 3 and 11 years of age.
“We are truly appreciative of Senator Cafaro and Ohio AAP for their generosity and to help protect our children,” said Jim Timonere, Ashtabula City Manager. “Signature Health’s Trunk-Or-Treat is an outstanding community event and this is a great partnership. We are thrilled to have Sen. Cafaro as well as staff and volunteers from our local YMCA on hand to help fit and distribute the helmets to the kids.”
Over 10,000 bike helmets have been distributed in Ohio this year as part of the Put a Lid on It! Bike Helmet Safety Awareness program, and 18 million people have been reached with the message of bike helmet safety. In 2010, the number of people injured by not wearing a bike helmet was 51,000, enough people to fill Nationwide Arena in Columbus 2½ times, and apart from the automobile, bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product including trampolines, ladders and swimming pools.
A combination of efforts is necessary to effectively increase helmet usage rates among Ohio children including raising awareness of the benefits, encouraging modeling behavior among adults, distributing bike helmets to Ohio children and advocating for supportive public policies.
The Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) promotes the health, safety and well-being of children and adolescents so they may reach their full potential. The Ohio AAP works to accomplish this by addressing the needs of children, their families, and their communities, and by supporting Chapter members through advocacy, education, research, service, and improving the systems through which they deliver pediatric care.
Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement in response to new ratings for charter school sponsors. The ratings show that 21 out of 65 sponsors flunked the ratings and could go out of business. Another 39 were rated as "ineffective."
“Unfortunately, the dismal ratings for most charter school sponsors are not surprising. This is what we suspected based on the poor performance of many of the schools they sponsor. But, thanks to recent reforms, the Department of Education is now able to hold charter school sponsors accountable. That is good news for the students and taxpayers of Ohio.”
COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) announced that he will introduce legislation to prohibit prosecutors who represent counties with 400,000 or more residents from retaining private law practices while they serve as the county prosecutor. The legislation will not prohibit county prosecutors from lecturing or teaching at academic institutions or any local or state bar association forums.
“A county prosecutor interacts with judges and attorneys on a daily basis in his or her official capacity as prosecutor. Engaging in a separate law practice invites conflicts of interest,” said Senator Thomas. “Prosecutors in large counties also take on very demanding caseloads. If the prosecutor has a private practice, there will always be concern that the taxpayers’ interests are not a priority. Ohioans expect and deserve their county prosecutor to be engaged and in the office on a daily basis.”
There are currently six Ohio counties with populations large enough to fall under the requirements in this bill. These counties are Cuyahoga, Franklin, Summit, Montgomery, Lucas, and Hamilton. Of those six counties, only Hamilton has a part-time prosecutor. Hamilton is also the only county of the largest six with a prosecutor who retains a private legal practice.
COLUMBUS - Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) appointed Nancy Walsh Mosca of Mahoning County to the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee. As outlined in House Bill 523, the Minority Leader of the Senate is responsible for appointing a nurse to the committee.
“With decades of nursing experience under her belt, Ms. Mosca will be a powerful advocate for both the medical community and – most importantly - for Ohio patients in her role on the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee,” said Leader Schiavoni. “While the members have a lot of work on their plate, I look forward to seeing the recommendations that come out of this committee.”
Mosca has several decades of nursing experience, several specialized nursing certifications, and a Ph.D. in Nursing. Her extensive resume also includes time as a nurse educator and service on an advisory committee similar to the marijuana committee assembled through this bill.
Created by the passage of House Bill 523, the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee is coordinated by the Board of Pharmacy. It is responsible for developing and submitting to the Department of Commerce, Board of Pharmacy, and Medical Board any recommendations related to the Medical Marijuana Control Program.
COLUMBUS–This week, Columbus City Hall will light their building in purple Saturday, October 1st through Friday, October 7th, and Nationwide Children’s hospital will light the display on Parsons in purple Saturday, October 1st through Monday, October 31st in recognition of the inaugural Rett Syndrome Awareness Month.
“Rett Syndrome is a devastating disease that affects families all across this state, and awareness is just the first step. We must continue our advocacy for research to hopefully one day find a cure,” said Senator Yuko. “To all of the beautiful girls and families who are affected by this disorder, I support you in this fight.”
Senate Bill 117, legislation jointly sponsored by State Senators Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and Jim Hughes (R-Columbus), designates the month of October as “Rett Syndrome Awareness Month.” SB 117 was passed with unanimous support in the General Assembly last October.
Rett Syndrome is a postnatal neurological disorder that affects females almost exclusively. It currently has no cure. One out of every 10,000 female births is diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, which equates to a girl being born with the disorder every 2 hours. Those affected normally have no verbal skills or purposeful hand use, and on average about half of these individuals are unable to walk.
For more information about Rett Syndrome visit: https://www.rettsyndrome.org/
COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement after a judge denied the Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT)’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Earlier this week, ODE informed ECOT that they had exaggerated enrollment by 9,000 students. That means ECOT received at least $60 million more than they were owed for the 2015-2016 school year.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the taxpayers and school children of the state of Ohio. For far too long, ECOT has been permitted to waste tens of millions of state dollars without evidence that they are educating students. We now have confirmation that our efforts to defend Ohio taxpayers and families have not been in vain.
“This is also a victory for accountability. As legislators, it is our responsibility to ensure state dollars are spent wisely. The judge’s ruling should serve as notice to other online charter schools that they cannot charge the state for funds they did not earn.
“The judge did not mince words in her decision. She made it clear that ECOT’s arguments do not hold water, and they are not likely to succeed if they try to move forward with this case. As we have been saying, ECOT needs to drop their expensive, taxpayer-funded lawsuit and return the unearned money immediately.”
Columbus – Today, State Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), applauded the passage of Senate Bill 332, which would implement many of the recommendations made by the Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality. Senator Tavares introduced the bill with Senator Shannon Jones (R –Warren County) in a bipartisan effort to address Ohio’s abhorrent infant mortality rate. Senate Bill 332 is the most complete and precise infant mortality undertaking by the General Assembly to date.
“I am pleased that my colleagues continue to support our efforts to ensure that all of our babies make it past their first year of life,” said Senator Tavares. “The Ohio General Assembly still has more work to do to combat infant mortality, but Senate Bill 332 is an important step as we continue to try to make Ohio a safe and healthy place to give birth and raise a family.”
According to a report issued by the Commission on Infant Mortality, Ohio is currently ranked 45th in the nation for the overall infant mortality rate and is dead last when it comes to African American babies. While some modest progress is being made as it relates to Caucasian infants, Ohio’s African American infants continue to face daunting challenges. The infant mortality rate has actually increased for African American infants in Ohio, according to the most recent available data.
Some of the provisions of Senate Bill 332 include: eliminating the sale of crib bumpers, providing annual safe sleep education to parents and infant caregivers, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), requiring the Ohio Housing Authority to include pregnancy as a priority in its housing assistance programs, and better data tracking so that outcomes can be effectively measured – especially as they relate to race and ethnicity.
“We are investing in evidence-based and promising practice strategies to reverse this negative and painful trend. We must change our strategies if we want to see a positive change in the lives of Ohio’s infants,” concluded Tavares.
COLUMBUS—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) sent the following letter to the members of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The letter requests that the Board explore hiring an independent auditor to examine the records of the embattled Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT).
"Dear President Gunlock and Superintendent DeMaria:
I write today to request that the State Board of Education explore its ability to employ an independent auditor to examine the financial records of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). I believe a substantial review of all ECOT’s record keeping is necessary to restore the public’s faith in the way their tax dollars are being spent.
Based on the recent Full Time Equivalency (FTE) review conducted by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), ECOT has failed to provide documentation to verify that the majority of students received 920 hours of learning opportunities. In fact, the FTE review concluded that ECOT over-reported their student enrollment by 58.8%, which equates to more than $60 million that is owed back to the state. Other developments documented in ongoing court proceedings have called into question both the ability and willingness of ECOT to maintain accurate and complete records that might reduce the funding it receives from the state.
While ODE is charged with reviewing attendance records, the Auditor of State is tasked with ensuring state funds are expended properly and that these expenditures are recorded in a manner that can be supported in subsequent audits. However, Auditor Yost’s relationship with ECOT and its officials requires a second opinion regarding ECOT’s finances and recent audits.
Earlier this month, ECOT superintendent Rick Teeters admitted under oath that he convinced Auditor Yost’s office not to ask for ECOT’s student login durations during a special examination in 2014. This is especially concerning given that the examination took place after an ECOT teacher sent a detailed letter describing fraudulent billing practices related to student attendance. Before conducting the 2014 examination, the auditor’s office agreed that they would only examine certain records, and “could offer no opinions or note management weaknesses,” according to The Columbus Dispatch. The auditor then gave ECOT an award for a clean audit in 2014.
In addition, Auditor Yost spoke at ECOT’s commencement in 2015 and, just recently, awarded ECOT the “Auditor of State Award with Distinction,” an honor that implies an endorsement for record keeping best practices. Auditor Yost’s ongoing relationship with ECOT raises questions about the impartiality and completeness of previous audits of ECOT’s records.
Given the urgent need to conduct a thorough investigation of ECOT’s records, the high level of public interest in this issue, and the present relationship between Auditor Yost and ECOT, I urge the State Board of Education to explore hiring an independent auditor to examine ECOT’s finances and their compliance with state law."
A pdf version of the letter can be found here.
COLUMBUS - Today, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) released the following statement after the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) found in their final review that the Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT) exaggerated student attendance by nearly 60%. This finding could potentially mean ECOT owes upwards of $60 million in funding back to the state.
“This attendance review proves beyond any doubt that ECOT has been ripping off taxpayers and cheating students out of a proper education. Senate Democrats have been sounding the alarm for many months that ECOT needs to be held accountable, and today’s news confirms what we have been saying is true.
“Clearly the General Assembly has failed to provide enough oversight of online charter schools to prevent this from happening. We, as a legislature, must do more to make sure students at online schools are logging in and learning so they can graduate. That’s why we should pass Senate Bill 298 and other charter school bills introduced by Democrats in both the House and Senate.
“It is time for ECOT to drop its lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education. No more tax dollars should be wasted on high priced lawyers and lobbyists and on television ads that attack ODE for doing its job. And ECOT should pay back the money it owes the state immediately.”
COLUMBUS - Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have launched a series of trips around the state to gather opinions from parents and educators on ways to improve education in Ohio.
Columbus—Next week, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) will introduce legislation aimed at protecting citizens who record law enforcement and civilian involved incidents. The Eyewitness Protection Act will give a person the right to lawfully record any incident involving law enforcement or the public and to maintain custody and control of that recording and the device used to record the incident.
Columbus—Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus submitted more than 500 amendments to House Bill 64, the biennial state budget. The amendments represent the commitment of Senate Democrats to help Ohio families, grow our communities through targeted investments and increase opportunities for everyone.
Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) testified before members of the State and Local Government Committee on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 to urge Commissioner Robert Manfred to reinstate Pete Rose to Major League Baseball. The resolution also encourages the Baseball Writers' Association to consider Pete Rose for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.