- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The Plain Dealer, Feb. 4

At last, it’s open season on Ohio’s worst charter schools. Even Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a strong supporter of charters, promised in December to get tough on the poor performers - and he’s not alone.

The charter-school reform proposal that Kasich presented Monday as part of his state budget is a good start despite a few blind spots.

It ought to be more comprehensive, but it does make it harder for poorly performing charters to stay in business by focusing on sponsors and banning those that are rated poor by the Ohio Department of Education. Charter schools can’t operate without a sponsor.

The proposal to give the best charter schools - however that is defined - access to a new $25 million facilities fund sounds like a worthy idea as long as high-performing public schools have access to similar funds.

However, giving top charters the ability to ask voters for tax-levy money seems a step too far, especially since many charters in Ohio have for-profit operators with limited transparency and deficient oversight. Such a proposal also further jeopardizes the funding of public schools.

Kasich’s measure should also make it harder for unscrupulous operators to fudge attendance and their finances. House Bill 2, a recently proposed charter school reform bill, also falls short by not demanding that charter school finances be open to the public.

Sen. Peggy Lehner, chairwoman of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, is still working on a charter school reform bill. That bill should take the best elements of Kasich’s plan and House Bill 2 and close any loopholes.

Online: https://bit.ly/1KFUabx


The Lima News, Feb. 7

After looking over the school-funding plan that Ohio Gov. John Kasich released last week, Bob Humble had a simple question.

“How can a state in the best financial shape it’s ever been in, be cutting funds to any district?” the superintendent of Fairbanks Schools, near Marysville, asked a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch…

The funding plan actually may not be as bad as Humble tends to paint it.

Kasich set up a $300 million innovation fund that offers incentives for public schools willing to change the way they operate. The governor also maintains that public school districts with low property values will receive more money to help ease the disparity with rich districts. There also will be more money for preschool in poor districts.

However, the more school officials and legislators examine the governor’s plan, the more puzzled they seem to become as to why they are receiving either more or less money under the proposal.

In that regard, Kasich has fallen into the same trap that has snared every Ohio governor since the state Supreme Court ruled Ohio’s school-funding system unconstitutional in 1997. Kasich caused himself more grief than needed by putting together a funding formula that is so complex that staff members have trouble explaining it…

David Varda, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, told the Dispatch he wants more information, but as he looks at the district breakdowns, “It doesn’t seem that it matches up totally with what (Kasich) said. It’s not what I would have thought based on his speech.”…

Online: https://bit.ly/1CLRYjD


The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 6

First the good news: Bans on smoking in public places are working. A federal study found that the share of American nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke fell by more than half over a decade, to 25 percent in 2012 from 53 percent in 2000.

Now the bad news: This means that 1 in 4 U.S. nonsmokers still are exposed to tobacco toxins. Health experts estimate that secondhand smoke kills 41,000 people from lung cancer and heart disease every year. And it is blamed for the deaths of 400 babies a year from sudden infant death syndrome…

The findings make an even stronger case for relatives and friends to intervene when parents smoke around their children or during pregnancy. Children ages 3 to 11 had the highest exposure, with about 40 percent of them at risk, according to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

And children who are black or poor have the highest exposure levels: 43 percent of nonsmokers living in poverty were exposed, compared with 21 percent of those not poor. Seventy percent of black children were exposed, compared with 40 percent of white children and 30 percent Latino children.

The overall reduction in exposure testifies to the beneficial effect of smoking bans enacted in recent decades by more than 700 cities and 26 states, including Ohio. But far more needs to be done to eliminate the risks faced by poor and black children still breathing secondhand smoke at home.

Online: https://bit.ly/1IDX19p


Warren Tribune Chronicle, Feb. 9

What’s not to like about a $500 million tax cut for small businesses and low- to middle-income working people in Ohio? The possibility the money will come out of other pockets.

Gov. John Kasich is including $500 million in tax cuts in his proposal for the new two-year state budget. The governor wants to virtually eliminate state taxes on small businesses and increase income tax exemptions for low- and middle-income individuals and families.

It sounds good, at first glance…

But at least some of the money to provide those breaks could come from higher taxes. Kasich is considering higher “sin taxes” on products such as cigarettes, which would increase from $1.25 to $2.25 per pack.

Higher taxes on the gas and oil drilling industry also are on Kasich’s agenda. That is something the governor has attempted previously. State legislators said no. They may have to do so again now that Kasich has raised the issue again.

Buckeye State motorists no doubt have noticed a drastic drop in gasoline prices. With it has come a similar decrease in what natural gas buyers are willing to pay…

That has prompted most energy companies to pull back dramatically on drilling activity. Ohio is among states affected.

A substantial increase in the taxes gas and oil drillers pay would be an incentive for them to take what limited operations they have elsewhere.

Gas and oil drilling has been the one very bright aspect of the economy in East Ohio. If Kasich’s plan threatens that, legislators should reject it.

Online: https://bit.ly/1FqaPyK

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