State Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today responded to the release of Ohio’s School Report Cards, which gave East Cleveland City Schools its third consecutive “F,” setting the stage for a state takeover under the legislature’s hastily-passed, party-line amendment to House Bill 70 in 2016.


“Today's release of the state report card is further evidence that the biggest hindrance to student performance in Ohio's public schools is not the district leadership of East Cleveland but the politicians of Columbus who take campaign contributions from the charter school industry with one hand as they give public school dollars to charter school operators with the other hand,” said Smith, a member of the House Education Committee.


East Cleveland Schools have lost over $5 million to failing, for-profit charter schools like ECOT while the state has cut the schools by millions of dollars in previous state budgets.


The district is also considered to be the poorest community in the state and the fourth poorest in the nation, with 100 percent of students being considered economically disadvantaged according to ODE data. 


“In spite of these substantial challenges East Cleveland City Schools have made tremendous progress, due in part to the extremely talented core of teachers, most of whom have a master’s degree and average 15 years of classroom experience,” said Smith.


Smith said, according to the latest report card, East Cleveland saw improvement in 15 of 21 state performance measures. The five year graduation rate is 75 percent, which is only ten percentage points below the Ohio average. The district also earned a C on their K-3 literacy rate, which means they were successful in getting struggling readers back on track.


“Have they been successful on all fronts? No,” Smith said. “But considering the challenges they are taking on every day, they should be lauded for their heroic efforts – not subjected to an out-of-town bureaucrat who has zero knowledge of the community and no accountability to the East Cleveland voters.”


Smith said a mid-school year state takeover could have a drastic impact on student achievement, injecting more chaos and uncertainty into an already challenging classroom setting.


“Every Ohio child can change the world. Every East Cleveland child has infinite potential, but Columbus and the next Governor needs to get serious about investing in our future workforce,” added Smith. “Statehouse Republicans need to abandon their ‘Columbus-Knows-Best Education’ model, and they need to stop shortchanging kids as it continues to empower unsuccessful, unproven, unaccountable bureaucrats instead of local leaders who know their communities best.”


House Bill 626, legislation Smith introduced that would stop the state takeover of public schools, picked up bipartisan support and is awaiting a hearing in the Republican-controlled House Education and Career Readiness Committee.

 
 
  

Today the State of Ohio released the 2018 annual Ohio School Report Cards. State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the House Democratic Caucus education lead, believes we need a new state report card system to assess student performance and other measures for school districts.


“Local control and the local perspective is needed to adequately determine the success or growth opportunities for Ohio’s students and educators,” said Rep. Fedor. “Ohio has many different communities. There is no one size fits all approach. We need to be more responsive and responsible in issuing grade cards.”


According to the Ohio Association of Comprehensive and Compact Career Technical Schools (Ohio CCS), Ohio has 91 Career Technical Planning Districts and three career-technical delivery models at the secondary education level focusing on workforce development. The “Prepared for Success” component of the CTE Report Card, however, only includes credentials related to “Ohio’s In-Demand Occupations.” Institutions successfully preparing students for careers will be penalized with low component grades, even if students obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the workforce.


“The current report cards unfairly punish schools, students, and Ohio’s economy,” said Fedor.


Pointing to the role poverty can play in academic performance, Rep. Fedor said the Ohio School Report Cards A-F measurement doesn’t accurately reflect whether administrators and educators are working hard to address the complex challenges within their buildings.


“This GOP scam is just another way to slowly privatize our public school system. Applying a state-based standard to community specific issues opens the door for more school take overs and conversions to charter schools,” added Fedor. “We need to let our school districts have a stronger voice in evaluating their performance based on the specific needs of their school.”


Rep. Fedor is a former educator and an outspoken proponent of public education.

 
 
  

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) today sent a letter to Attorney General Mike DeWine urging him to join other attorneys general across the nation in denouncing the Texas lawsuit that seeks to terminate the Affordable Care Act nationwide.


“The Affordable Care Act has been instrumental in Ohio’s ability to expand Medicaid and provide private insurance options to over 157,000 Ohioans, which dramatically reduced the amount of people without insurance in Ohio,” Rep. Sykes said. “The Attorney General must act to protect Ohioans’ healthcare.”


“If the lawsuit is successful, thousands of Ohio families will lose the foundation and security of affordable healthcare,” said Rep. Galonski. “It is unconscionable to heap that kind of worry onto hardworking people.”


“It is imperative the people of Ohio know their elected leaders will stand up and fight for their interests,” said Sen. Sykes. “Those with pre-existing conditions should not be refused health insurance just because they had the misfortune of a prior illness. We are calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to publicly pick a side between everyday Ohioans who need this coverage and out-of-state ideologues trying to take it away. It shouldn’t be a difficult choice.”


Since the Affordable Care Act’s inception in 2010, nearly 20 million people have received insurance coverage nationwide, reducing the uninsured rate in Ohio to 6.5% in 2016. If successful, the Texas lawsuit would eliminate Medicaid expansion, end premium tax credits, allow insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, remove seniors’ prescription drug discounts, and strip funding from the public health system, which includes funds to combat the opioid epidemic.

 
 
  

"As Americans we believe in the value of hard work, and know that punching a time clock, laying brick, or standing behind a cash register shouldn’t mean you can’t afford to plan for you and your family’s future.


But when a wealthy CEO can make millions on Wall Street by betting against American people, and a working mom with kids can’t afford to take a family vacation once a year, something’s wrong.


Indeed, our fundamental belief in the power of everyday people seems overshadowed by too many extreme politicians and corporate special interests who have forgotten the value of hard work and how their own paths to success were paved – not just by their individual God-given talents, but by the hard work of countless men and women who pay taxes, play by the rules and make America the greatest nation in the world.


From the standard work week to a basic minimum wage and safe working conditions, working people joining together to speak out with one voice built the largest middle class the world has ever seen. Thanks to the hard work of labor unions and American workers, millions of Ohioans go to work each day knowing they will come home to their families.


That’s why Labor Day is the quintessential American celebration. No matter our nation’s struggles or setbacks, this one day each year stands as a bold reminder of the spirit, ingenuity and pride of the working families who built this country and the countless workers who continue to tirelessly contribute to our success.


Together, we can continue to build a country rich with opportunity that rewards hard work and respects the dignity of the American Worker.  It starts with setting aside politics and putting people first."


 


 

 
 
  
 
As Opioid Crisis Deepens, Officials Look To Create Ohio Office Of Drug Policy For Unified, Strategic Statewide Plan
Approach would strengthen state and local partnership to fight opioid crisis
August 30, 2018
 
 

As Ohio’s opioid addiction crisis deepens and shows little sign of letting up, state Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) and local officials from Central Ohio and Dayton today announced new legislation to create a unified cabinet-level Office of Drug Policy to serve as a coordinated, comprehensive entity for community officials, law enforcement officers, social workers and local communities to seek out best practices, available grants, state rules, new education programs, and more anti-drug abuse resources.


“We read it in the news. We see it in our neighborhoods. We hear about it at work and at home. And, sadly too many Ohio families are forced to face the grim reality every day that Ohio is the face of the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester). “It is clear more can be done to take on this crisis in a strategic and unified way. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation today and look forward to working with members of both political parties who want to ensure addiction no longer holds our state back from living up to our full promise and potential.”


A historic number of Ohioans – 5,232 a year or 14 every day—are dying of unintentional overdose, a 39% spike in the last year. Ohio’s rates are three times the national average. According to a congressional study, Ohio’s current efforts won’t be enough to slow the historic number of deaths from opioids.


“We need more than a piecemeal, ad-hoc approach. What works in Dayton may or may not work in Columbus or Canal Winchester, but we frankly just don’t know without a strategic partnership from the state,” said Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton. “A coordinated Office of Drug Policy would offer more hands-on guidance to local communities by serving as the state partner with regional opioid taskforces, counties, cities and community providers.”


The legislation introduced today, modeled after suggestions from the bipartisan Ohio Mayors Alliance, will:


-Coordinate anti-drug efforts from across state and local governments.


-Act as a source of information on innovative new programs communities are adopting and better publishing best practices.


-Help to facilitate cooperation between local governments.


-Seek new sources of funds, through private and public means, for drug prevention and treatment.


-Review existing agency rules to remove barriers to treatment.


-Establish a telephone hotline for community leaders to be able to contact with questions and information.


-Require quarterly public reports of opioid addiction progress and challenges to the General Assembly.


-Require the Governor to appoint a Director of Drug Policy to oversee the new department.


This new office would be in regular contact with local leaders to help share information and resolve issues, unlike the “Opiate Action Team” which offers more generalized data and tips online without the assurance of a quick response. Gov. Kasich’s recent executive order to create an “Opioid Action Team” is only a temporary solution and lacks the long term focus to make cross-coordination a priority, like communities and many local mayors have been asking for.


“It is clear that more needs to be done, and can be done, to help us put best practices in place, draw down on critical resources, and equip first responders and communities with better tools to take on this crisis,” said Kim Maggard, Mayor of Whitehall. “The families that this historic statewide drug emergency is tearing apart cannot afford to wait another day for lifesaving state action.”


Local communities have been doing everything they can to prevent and treat drug abuse, but many are not equipped or adequately funded to fight the opioid crisis alone after losing over $2 billion in state cuts since 2011. Additionally, Ohio has already lost $3.8 billion in economic productivity due to the opioid crisis.


“By creating a central statewide Office of Drug Policy, we can better connect individuals with proven plans to curb drug abuse and prevent overdoses in each and every community,” said Jean Ann Hilbert, Groveport Councilwoman. “I look forward to working with Rep. Brown and my colleagues here today to help pass this potentially lifesaving legislation.”


Supporters of the proposed Office of Drug Policy present at the news conference this morning include Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard, Whitehall Fire Chief Preston Moore and Groveport Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert.

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today issued the following statement in response to FirstEnergy Solutions’ announced plans Wednesday night to close the W.H. Sammis power plant in Stratton, Ohio:


“The economic impact of First Energy in Eastern Ohio is critical to the stability of families, small businesses and our local community. The working men and women of Eastern Ohio have powered and help build this nation over many generations, making it even more important that state and federal officials come together to work toward a fair solution that puts our people and businesses first.


“After talking to First Energy, it’s clear we need an all hands on deck approach from JobsOhio, PUCO, local leaders, PJM and Trump and Kasich Administration officials to solve what will turn into a regional economic crisis if we fail to work together. After recently meeting with leaders at the Sammis plant, I will focus every effort of my state office on opening lines of communication with Governor Kasich and President Trump to seek a resolution for the continued economic competitiveness and stability of our community, businesses and workers.”

 
 
  

State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today responded to a new report that shows Hurricane Maria is responsible for the deaths of 2,975 American citizens in Puerto Rico, becoming one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern U.S. history.


“It is an absolute travesty that Maria’s actual death count is now 46 times higher than originally reported,” said Ramos. “As an American, and as a Puerto Rican descendant, I am heartbroken by our federal government’s inaction and overall mismanagement following last September’s historic hurricane. Unless we take action to provide emergency relief, this unprecedented devastation to the island will be remembered as one of the most deadly natural disaster for American citizens.”


Rep. Ramos plans to introduce an official resolution condemning the Trump administration for its silence on this issue and nearly nonexistent relief effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.


Rep. Ramos is in his fourth term at the Ohio House and is the first Ohioan of Puerto Rican descent to be elected to the state’s General Assembly.

 
 
  

Marking the 55thrd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington, State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) today reflected on the challenges that lie ahead for civil rights, and acknowledges the importance of preserving Dr. King’s legacy.


“While the progress attained by Dr. King and so many others has faced multiple threats in recent years, it is our duty to counter these obstacles with the unity and action that has long defined our nation,” said Reece. “As we come together to honor the significance of this day, we must continue to move forward in the never-ending fight for equality and justice to realize the full potential and promise of the American Dream.”


Reece, who represents parts of Hamilton County, is a long-time voting rights advocate and spoke at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.


She also leads the ongoing push for a Voter Bill of Rights, a grassroots effort to amend the state constitution to protect all Ohioans’ right to vote. The Voter Bill of Rights would amend the state constitution to define the right to vote as a fundamental right, establish early voting dates and times, allow the legislature to prescribe proper training and staffing for polling locations, create an online voter registration system, protect against voter ID requirements and voter registration tests, and include safeguards that ensure provisional ballots are counted.

 
 
  

State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today issued the following statements in response to the release of a U.S. Department of Justice subpoena into allegations of Ohio House Republicans’ pay-to-play culture of corruption at the Statehouse:


“As this investigation into the Republican culture of corruption unravels at highest levels of power in the Ohio House, Republican House leadership is working overtime to distance themselves from their involvement while trying to paint Cliff Rosenberger as the sole actor in any illegal, pay-to-play schemes.


“Though Rosenberger was the first House speaker in history to resign amid a federal corruption investigation, his leadership team and former roommate, Speaker Ryan Smith, is still in control of the Ohio House and potentially illegal campaign funds, creating more questions than answers as to how deep this river of corruption runs at the Statehouse.”—Rep. David Leland


“Unfortunately we don’t have a clearer picture today of how deep the Republican culture of corruption and pay-to-play stems than we did when former Speaker Rosenberger resigned in April. However, we know by looking at their legislative priorities that this Republican leadership team has been putting special interests above Ohio’s future for a long time.” —Rep. Kristin Boggs 

 
 
  
 
Sykes Appeals To Kasich For State Agencies To Join Anti-bias Discussion
Asks governor to bring state heads to mediation table in civil rights investigation
August 22, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) recently sent a letter* to Gov. John Kasich asking him to bring his administration to the mediation table to resolve her Ohio Civil Rights Commission investigation into reported discrimination and bias surrounding Statehouse security practices.


“You frequently talk about bringing people together to solve problems and making sure our actions reflect our American values of equality and fairness,” Sykes wrote to Kasich. “I appeal to you in an effort to gain your assistance in bringing your Department of Public Safety and Department of Administrative Services to the mediation table with me and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to resolve experiences of gender discrimination and racial bias in Statehouse security practices.”


Sykes noted that she has tried working with Kasich’s director of public safety, Col. John Born, to resolve her and others’ complaints, but that the agency and the State Highway Patrol have yet to even acknowledge the issues, let alone issue an apology.


“After a lot of thought, prayer and reflection, I felt I had no choice but to file a civil rights violation complaint after numerous meetings with Public Safety and the patrol went nowhere,” Sykes continued in the letter. “Now, we are faced with a unique opportunity to bring all responsible parties together around one table to reflect on these instances of discrimination and bias to ensure nobody is ever treated this way by a state agency or officer again.”


In position statements filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission on Aug. 16, all agencies denied a request for mediation, prompting a full investigation by the commission. Sykes says there is still time to reverse course and come together.


“I respectfully urge you to compel your DPS director and DAS director to reconsider mediation. Not only would this avenue save taxpayers significant time and money by sidestepping a full OCRC investigation, but by working together we can build long-lasting results and a deeper understanding of each other to make sure everyone feels welcome in our state,” Sykes concluded in the letter.


*A full copy of the letter is attached.

 
 
  
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Clyde Commemorates 53rd Anniversary Of VRA With Voting Facts For Tomorrow's Special Congressional Election

 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today issued a statement commemorating the 53rd anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and putting out information on frequently asked voting questions in advance of tomorrow’s August 7 special congressional election in central Ohio.



 
 

Clyde Statement On Court Order Reinstating Voting Rights For Purged Voters

 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today issued a statement following a recent federal court order requiring Secretary Husted to issue a directive reinstating the “APRI exception.” The court-ordered directive will require purged voters’ ballots to be counted in the upcoming central Ohio congressional race that will occur next Tuesday, August 7. 



 
 

Ashford's Bipartisan Predatory Lending Reform Bill To Become Law

 

State Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo), a joint sponsor of House Bill 123, today issued the following statement in response to Gov. Kasich’s signing of the bill to crack down on predatory short-term lenders in Ohio:



 
 

With Fair Season In Full Swing, Amusement Ride Safety Protections Linger At Ohio Statehouse

 

As summer heats up and families flock to fairs and festivals, including the Ohio State Fair which opened this week, beefed up safety standards for amusement rides sit dormant in the Ohio House.

After last year’s Fireball amusement ride failure at the Ohio State Fair tragically claimed the life of Tyler Jarrell and sent seven others to the hospital with serious injuries, state Rep. John Patterson’s (D-Jefferson) attention turned to ensuring such a tragedy never takes place in Ohio again.