Three years after it was exposed that Gov. John Kasich’s handpicked charter-czar David Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was illegally changing charter school grades to allow failing charter schools to draw down on more taxpayer funding, little has happened at the Republican-controlled Statehouse to crack down, once and for all, on Ohio’s largely unregulated charter school industry.


“Three years after Governor Kasich’s handpicked charter school head was caught defrauding taxpayers, an historic amount of tax dollars continue to flow to Ohio charter schools,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the lead Democrat on the House Education Committee. “Instead of wholesale changes to hold Ohio charters accountable to the same standards and rules as traditional schools, the legislature has, in effect, loosened standards.”


Just recently, it came to light that the now-defunct ECOT, the largest online charter that bankrolled numerous GOP campaigns, was using tax dollars to pay off students for attending graduation ceremonies and taking required statewide tests.


“As this scandal unfolds and more problems come to light, the political will at the Statehouse to make substantive reforms is overshadowed by the failure to act during the last three years,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid), a member of the House Education Committee. “Operating in a system where charter school operators bankroll the campaigns of elected officials tasked with holding them accountable has stalled any meaningful reform and opened to door to more corruption.”


Recently, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine recused himself from the ECOT Supreme Court case a year after hearing oral arguments. DeWine took campaign cash from ECOT, like his father, Attorney General Mike DeWine.


The senior DeWine shied away from cracking down on ECOT after some $80 million in tax dollars was found to be fraudently received by overinflating student attendance records. After saying there was nothing his office could do, AG DeWine recently decided to pursue collections of the ill-gotten money after numerous news reports and mounting public pressure.


Over a year ago, an ECOT whistleblower contacted Auditor Dave Yost about fraud and corruption at the school, a call Yost ignored until acknowledging the apparent fraud at ECOT recently. At the time, Fedor called on Yost to thoroughly investigate ECOT and Hansen’s illegal data scrubbing at ODE, something Yost failed to do. Yost also took substantial campaign donations from ECOT’s founder.


 

 
 
  
 
Rep. Clyde Denounces Pay Raises For Retirement System Executives
Raise follows three-year freeze on cost of living adjustments for retirees
July 13, 2018
 
 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today denounced the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) of Ohio’s decision to raise salaries of its employees, including highly paid executives, by 3 percent while a three-year freeze on cost of living adjustments (COLA) for retirees is in place.


“The decision to raise salaries for executives who make over $250,000 annually while there is a three-year freeze on retirees’ cost of living adjustments leaves thousands of Ohio workers in dire economic straits,” said Representative Clyde.  “Highly paid executives are giving themselves raises while forcing retirees to tighten their belts. Ohioans deserve better care for its workers and retirees and better stewardship of retirement system dollars.”


See the letter below:


July 13, 2018


Richard Stensrud, Executive Director


SERS of Ohio


300 East Broad Street


Suite 100


Columbus, OH 43215


Dear Director Stensrud,


I write to express my concern over the SERS board’s decision to increase salaries by 3% for executives making between $250,000 and $320,000 annually. Just last year, the board voted to freeze retired workers’ cost of living adjustments (COLA) for three years. While executives will see an additional $625 and $800 in their paychecks every month, the COLA freeze approved in October 2017 continues to squeeze retirees’ income as the cost of living rises.


I am deeply disappointed with this decision. It is a careless allocation of resources that shows disregard for the basic living needs of workers who served Ohio’s children and communities. Ohioans who worked hard and played by the rules are living on too small pensions which no longer reflect the rising cost of living, and they struggle to pay for basic necessities such as groceries, gas, utilities, and healthcare.


I urge the SERS Board of Trustees to rethink its decision and prioritize the needs of the workers who dedicated decades of their lives to caring for our school children. Thank you for your time and careful consideration.


Respectfully,


Kathleen Clyde


State Representative


75th District

 
 
  
 
State Lawmakers Support Retired Workers, Fight To Save Pensions
Urge action on legislation to protect mine workers
July 12, 2018
 
 

As workers and retirees from across the nation gathered on the Ohio Statehouse lawn today to speak out for pension protections for hundreds of thousands of retired American workers, Ohio House Democratic lawmakers spoke out in support of American retirees and urged the Ohio legislature to take up legislation, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 8, that would urge members of congress to protect coal miner pensions.


“Ohio coal miners sweat, bled, worked and saved their whole lives to make ends meet in their retirement,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the lead sponsor of the HCR 8. “The greatest, most prosperous nation in the world shouldn’t be turning its back on people who sacrificed so much to make this country what it is. We should go above and beyond to protect the pensions of workers – they earned it.”


Cera’s resolution calls on Congress to pass the American Miners Pension Act, federal legislation that would safeguard pensions for more than 100,000 coal miners and their families with unused funds from the Abandoned Mine Land program and low-interest U.S. Treasury loans that would be repaid over 30 years.


“It is fundamentally unfair and anti-American to force retirees and their families into poverty after they’ve helped build and power this country,” said Assistant House Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “We need leadership in the state legislature that is willing to step up and do the right thing. We need to tell Congress we can’t pull the rug out from under people who have worked and saved their whole lives to earn retirement security.”


The congressional House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions will meet Friday at the Ohio Statehouse for a field hearing on pension protection. The state lawmakers hope the state legislature can help the conversation at the federal level by passing HCR 8 in the coming weeks as the Republican-controlled Ohio House is expected to reconvene to consider payday lending reform legislation.


In addition to the Miners Protection Act, the lawmakers support U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s Butch Lewis Act, a broader push to keep America’s pension promise to workers in other fields outside of coal mining.

 
 
  

By his own admission, Republican Auditor of State Dave Yost is now indicating he gave the now-defunct online charter school ECOT taxpayer funded awards for outstanding financial records while the same records show ECOT was writing taxpayer-funded checks to students to take standardized state tests and attend commencement ceremonies.


“If Auditor Dave Yost was doing his job and really looking at ECOT’s financial records during the last seven years, why would he let ECOT use taxpayer dollars to pay students to take tests and attend graduation,” state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) questioned. “The crooked irony is that Auditor Yost was taking thousands in campaign donations from ECOT and giving them clean audit awards while they were paying off students with your tax dollars.”


In 2016, Auditor Yost gave ECOT his office’s highest award for clean and accurate financial records while the e-school was writing taxpayer-funded checks to students for basic classroom requirements, like test-taking. The awards from Auditor Yost are funded by taxpayers and usually involve some sort of commemorative plaque or engraving.


It’s unknown how much the official Auditor awards cost taxpayers.

 
 
  

After cutting almost $1 billion from local schools and $2 billion from communities throughout the state, Ohio Republicans announced today additional funding for the state’s budget reserve fund. House Finance Committee member and state Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) issued the following statement in response:


“It is time for Ohio Republicans to be honest about their political game-playing with Ohio’s state budget reserves. Though the previous administration made tough decisions to put Ohio in a stronger place during the global financial recession of 2009, Republicans today continue to fill the fund with money that has been cut from local communities and schools throughout the state. That’s not governing or making tough decisions, it’s passing the buck to local taxpayers with new and increased levies to make up for the failure of leadership at the state level.”   

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today announced he sent a letter to Richard Stensrud, executive director of the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, asking him to rethink the recent decision to cut cost-of-living pay to SERS Pension holders while giving SERS administrators a three-percent pay increase.


“Any time you are giving raises to six-figure salary employees while cutting benefits to pension holders, questions need to be asked,” said Cera. “These SERS employees served our communities for decades, always trusting that they would be taken care of in retirement. Now they are watching as rent, gas, and other necessities get more expensive while their pensions remain the same. If there is money available to be handing out raises, those dollars should be invested in the people who have worked tirelessly to earn their retirement benefits.”


The letter, sent June 28, says SERS executives making $250,000 to $320,000 are included in the three-percent increase while many retirees barely get by on $1,200 per month. SERS has yet to respond.

 

Related Content

 
 
  

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the below statement in response to Secretary Husted’s orders to resume his voter purging after the November 2018 election.


“Secretary Husted’s overly-aggressive purging of infrequent voters hurts the integrity of our elections and is a waste of state resources. Although the Supreme Court recently ruled that this process is permissible under federal law, the court did not hold that the process is required or that it is good policy.


“These directives ordering county officials to resume targeting infrequent voters for purging will cost taxpayers over $330,000 in unnecessary mailing expenses. In addition, the timing of the purge mailing is troublesome. Voters in the 12th Congressional District could receive the mailing on the day of the August 7th special election. There also will be a general election less than 100 days later. Many voters get confused by these postcards and how they relate to their eligibility to vote and causing confusion just before an election is not good policy.


“Another provision from the orders is Husted’s elimination of a ballot protection rule that’s been in place since 2016. The rule required ballots cast by voters who were purged but still eligible to vote to be counted. Roughly 7,500 voters had their ballots counted under this rule in 2016 and now Husted is going back to tossing those voters’ ballots. This will exacerbate our already huge problem of throwing out too many voters’ ballots. Ohio is one of the worst states in the country at throwing out votes after eight years of Husted’s desperate pursuit of new reasons to toss ballots.


“This sloppy and costly purge process uses flimsy guesswork to take away people’s fundamental right to vote. The Secretary of State should stop this harmful and discriminatory use-it-or-lose-it voter purge.”

 
 
  
 
Ohio Legislature Continues Effort To Punish Cities
Bill Would Penalize Cities that Charge Higher Water or Sewer Rates Outside of its Territory and Labels Cities that seek Annexation with the extension of services as 'Predators'
July 09, 2018
 
 

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) criticized some of his colleagues today for going out of their way to punish cities for extending vital services. House Bill 602 sponsored by Rep. Michael Duffey (R-Dublin) penalizes municipal corporations who extend water or sewer service to communities outside its territory at a higher charge. The penalties in the bill cover a range of consequences including a 20-percent reduction, to outright forfeiture of all Local Government Fund (LGF) distributions from the State of Ohio. The bill makes the municipality ineligible for state water and sewer development assistance. 


“My colleagues are finding new and innovative ways to cripple the economic engines of our state,” Rep. Boccieri said. “Ohio has sixteen metro areas that constitute eighty-one percent of the state’s population, eighty-four percent of the state’s jobs and eighty-seven percent of the state’s economic output. Many water and sewer lines are extended for economic development and financed through a rate system that is included within the development package.”


The legislation labels a city a “predatory municipal corporation” if it engages in the following:


-Annexation of outside territory as a condition of furnishing water or sewer services.


-Any “unreasonable requests” by a city for furnishing water or sewer services.


-Withdrawal of water or sewer service from a township or neighboring city for failure to comply with certain conditions by the “predatory city.”


“This legislation is not well thought-out,” Boccieri added. “If the state is going to punish cities for chagrining a fair rate to finance the extension of all that infrastructure, then I see communities not being able to pay for the water and sewer lines, or worse yet – not extending these vital services at all. This law would hurt townships who are looking for water and sewer lines for economic development purposes.”


As a consequence of being labeled a “predatory municipal corporation” the forgone revenue from the LGF is redistributed to the affected areas outside of the city. The bill also states these cities become ineligible for any state sewer and water system development assistance awarded by the Ohio EPA, Ohio Public Works Commissioner, Ohio Water Development Authority and the Development Services Agency. This prohibition applies to any form of assistance, including loans and grants, but doesn’t impact any funds stemming from the Federal Government.

 
 
  

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) will honor Bellaire High  School’s Cole LaRoche with a Statehouse Resolution Monday, July 9 at 6:00 p.m. for his achievement as the 2018 statewide track and field champion in the shot put throw.


“It’s important that we take every opportunity we can to support and honor the achievements of students and student athletes like Cole,” said Cera. “They are the future leaders of our community and state.”


With a top throw of 55-feet and 11-inches, LaRoche is Bellaire’s first male state track and field champion since 1990.


Cera will present the Resolution at Bellaire’s School Board meeting.


 

 
 
  

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) today announces House Bill (HB) 1, her bipartisan legislation to modernize Ohio’s domestic violence laws, will officially become law tomorrow, Friday, July 6. HB 1 will allow victims of dating violence to obtain civil protective orders against their attacker, a protection currently allowed in every state except Ohio and Georgia.


“I am thrilled that House Bill 1 will become law tomorrow,” Sykes said. “By working together with advocates, survivors and fellow lawmakers, we have closed this outdated loophole in Ohio that will not only help victims to live without fear of their abuser, but also save lives.”


“After a long and arduous process, I am excited to see House Bill 1 finally go into effect on Friday. More importantly, I am relieved to know that victims of dating violence in my community will now have a better course of action to aid in protecting them from their abusers,” Mickey Valdez of the Victim Assistance Program said. “I am honored to have been asked by Rep. Sykes to join her on this quest to improve the lives of all Ohioans.”


The National Dating Violence Hotline defines intimate partner violence, which includes dating violence, as a repetitive pattern of behaviors – including physical or sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation – used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.


“Victims of dating violence had few protections under the law prior to the passing of House Bill 1. I want to thank House Minority Whip Emilia Sykes for making House Bill 1 a priority,” said Judge Ron Cable.


Prior to HB 1’s passage, Ohio law did not allow victims of dating violence to obtain civil protection orders because these relationships did not fit the definition of domestic violence. HB 1 now includes individuals in dating relationships under Ohio’s definition of domestic violence for the purpose of obtaining a civil protection order, gaining access to battered women’s shelters, and mention in the Attorney General’s victim’s bill of rights.


If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse you can find help locally at Victim Assistance Program of Summit County at 330-376-0040 or at https://victimassistanceprogram.org/ or statewide at Action Ohio at 1-800-799-7233 or via the web http://www.actionohio.org/

 
 
  
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Rep. Clyde Denounces Pay Raises For Retirement System Executives

 

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) today denounced the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) of Ohio’s decision to raise salaries of its employees, including highly paid executives, by 3 percent while a three-year freeze on cost of living adjustments (COLA) for retirees is in place.



 
 

State Lawmakers Support Retired Workers, Fight To Save Pensions

 

As workers and retirees from across the nation gathered on the Ohio Statehouse lawn today to speak out for pension protections for hundreds of thousands of retired American workers, Ohio House Democratic lawmakers spoke out in support of American retirees and urged the Ohio legislature to take up legislation, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 8, that would urge members of congress to protect coal miner pensions.



 
 

Cera Supports Retired School Employees, Asks State Board To Rethink Administrative Raises At Retirees' Expense

 

State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) today announced he sent a letter to Richard Stensrud, executive director of the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, asking him to rethink the recent decision to cut cost-of-living pay to SERS Pension holders while giving SERS administrators a three-percent pay increase.



 
 

Clyde Statement On New Purge Directives From Secretary Husted

 

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) issued the below statement in response to Secretary Husted’s orders to resume his voter purging after the November 2018 election.