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.

 

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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.”

 
 
  

CLEVELAND—Today, State Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) released the following statement to address the legislative intent of the affirmative defense provision in HB 523, the bill establishing a medical marijuana program in Ohio. The senator's statement is in response to the guidance to physicians issued yesterday by the State Medical Board of Ohio.
 
“The goal of the affirmative defense is to expedite access for patients who have a qualifying condition and a recommendation from their doctor. It would protect them from a possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia conviction. This was considered an appropriate compromise to avoid forcing those in significant need to wait while Ohio took the important time to effectively establish the regulatory system.”
 
“The affirmative defense section spells out everything a physician would need to do to provide patients with this limited, short-term protection without having to wait for the agencies. It simply wouldn’t make sense to read it any other way.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has illegally removed names from voter registration rolls: 

“No one should show up at their polling place on Election Day to find out their name has been removed from the voting rolls simply because they have not voted recently. Imagine if there were time limits on Ohioans' ability to exercise freedom of speech or other constitutionally protected rights. 

"I am grateful the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Secretary Husted’s policy of ‘use them or lose them’ when it comes to our fundamental freedoms.  The right to vote should never be subject to the arbitrary bureaucratic whims of Ohio’s Secretary of State.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus introduced a resolution to honor Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio as it celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

“For 100 years, Planned Parenthood has opened its doors to women and men all across this country,” said Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). “Families continue to choose Planned Parenthood because of their reputation as a trusted provider for reproductive healthcare services and educational programs. I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood, and I look forward to the great work they will do for Ohio’s families and communities for years to come.”

"I am proud of Planned Parenthood's work over the last 100 years in providing comprehensive, quality and affordable health care for women and men,” said Assistant Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus).  “Planned Parenthood has been the only provider in many communities to serve the needs of women and ensure healthy, wanted pregnancies, prevent STDs and cancer, and plan for the health and well-being of their babies." 

In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Since then, Planned Parenthood has opened 650 health centers throughout the United States. It is estimated that 2.5 million women and men annually visit Planned Parenthood affiliated health centers for their healthcare needs.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement, calling on parents and guardians to destroy toy guns that closely resemble actual guns.  The death of 13 year-old Tyre King in Columbus is the most recent episode of a fatal police shooting of a juvenile who was carrying a realistic imitation firearm. In each instance, police stated they believed the child had a real gun.

“Although we may have different opinions about this recent tragedy, I think we can all agree that realistic toy guns make many situations worse. I am making a plea for parents and guardians to throw away children’s toys that resemble real weapons. Once again an Ohio child has been shot and killed by a police officer who says they believed the child posed a legitimate threat. Children do not understand the danger these imitation weapons pose.

“I am not commenting on whether the shooting was justified, as we do not have all of the facts.  However, I do know we have lost too many children in Ohio and in the nation to this type of senseless, avoidable tragedy.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus) released the following statement on the death of 13 year old Tyre King who was shot and killed this week during an incident involving Columbus Police: 

“I extend my condolences to the family, friends and middle school classmates of Tyre King while they grieve the loss of their child and friend. As we look for answers to explain why the life of one of our community’s children was taken so tragically, I ask everyone to keep the King family in their prayers.

“I call on the Columbus Police Department to do a complete and thorough investigation into all aspects of the shooting including whether or not Tyre was involved with the alleged robbery that took place. While I understand officers face dangerous situations every day, this is an appropriate time to take a look at the Department’s policies for incidents involving children and how they can be modified to avoid future tragedies. The Department should also investigate whether officers need further training in de-escalation tactics to avoid the use of force.

“I am also considering legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of imitation firearms that look like actual weapons. There is absolutely no reason why a child should have access to a toy that is indistinguishable from a real gun. These toys are dangerous and they are getting our children killed.

“As the investigation goes forward I ask that Safety Director, Ned Pettus and the Columbus Police Department keep the community informed as we attempt to recover and heal from this heartbreaking event.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement after the Ohio Department of Education released report cards for all the schools districts in the state.  The report cards are the first since Ohio switched testing companies from PARCC to AIR.

"Today’s results confirm what I’ve heard traveling around the state meeting with parents, students, teachers and school administrators: There is too much emphasis on standardized tests and the tests are constantly changing.

"I know today’s results are difficult for many to understand because the report cards are overly complicated.  The letter grades don’t necessarily represent the learning that is going on every day in our classrooms.  In fact, 14 of the 16 report card categories are based, at least in part, on standardized tests.

"It is important for everyone to realize that we are in transition to new tests and higher standards, and because of that, districts are not yet receiving overall grades.

"I have faith that our schools will continue to improve through the hard work and dedication of our students and teachers.  But, clearly we have to do more at the state level to work with everyone to ensure our schools have the resources they need to succeed." 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – This week, Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) joined workers and faith leaders from across Ohio and the nation for a Moral Day of Action. The event stemmed from a call to action by Reverend William J. Barber II. It included speeches and a silent march to the Statehouse to demand that legislators address issues such as systemic injustice, racism, poverty, and voting rights.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ Poverty, racism, basic civil and human rights – those topics can’t wait. They must be our priorities," said Senator Thomas. "This peaceful gathering can be a catalyst for discussion about some of the most critical issues facing our most vulnerable populations today.”

The event began at First Congregational Church UCC, and attendees then marched silently to the Ohio Statehouse. Marchers represented a wide variety of social justice and faith organizations, including SEIU, Crazy Faith Ministries, Faith in Public Life, Nuns on the Bus, Ohio AFL-CIO, Common Cause, Democratic Voices of Ohio, ProgressOhio, and Ohio Unity Coalition.

Event attendees chronicled the event on social media using the hashtag #MoralDayOfAction.

 
 
  
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Senate Democrats Lauch Statewide Tour Of Ohio Schools

 

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.



 
 

Senator Tavares To Introduce Eyewitness Protection Act

 

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. 



 
 

Senate Democrats Submit More Than 500 Budget Amendments

 

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. 



 
 

Senator Thomas Testifies To Reinstate Pete Rose To Major League Baseball

 

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.