Thursday, April 17, 2014
When it comes to getting your address correct, you'd think most people would be pretty good at it.
Admittedly, there are some people who are dyslexic and might have trouble writing down their own address, but they at least know what it is and take steps to make sure they are accurate when communicating it.
Apparently, that's not the case with Robert C. Stainbrook II and the forms that have been submitted to the Board of Elections in his name.
Robert is the brother of Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party and a member of the Board of Elections. He moved from Ottawa County and registered to vote in Lucas last year.
He's not registered to vote in both places, which is a good thing.
He's registered to vote at 2526 Amara Drive, Toledo, 43615.
But there's a problem: there is no such address, according to the Auditor's AREIS system:
If you drive down the street, you won't find a house or dwelling - or a part of a house or dwelling - with that address on it.
When you register to vote, the BOE sends you a postcard telling you the ward and precinct numbers and your polling location. The postcard they sent to Robert was returned as undeliverable.
That wasn't the only one.
The Fallen Timbers Republican Club invited all candidates for precinct committee to attend a training/educational session. Their postcard to him was also returned.
Trying to give Robert the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he had the numbers mixed up, the FTRC reversed the numbers and sent a notice to 2625 Amara, which is in the Auditor's AREIS system. That didn't work. That postcard was also returned.
The returned mail isn't enough to make a fuss over, as there are many reasons such items are returned. However, combine the returned mail with the fact that no such number exists in the AREIS system and there is no such number on any dwelling and now you have too many questions with not enough answers.
The range of possibilities go from innocent to nefarious.
On the innocent side, Robert made a mistake when he put his address on his registration card. That's simple enough to fix - he just corrects it with the Board of Elections.
On the nefarious side, he doesn't live on the street and is fraudulently registered - with or without his knowledge.
To complicate matters, I've been told that the handwriting on Robert's voter registration card and his petition for precinct committee belongs to Meghan Gallagher.
Gallagher is the former executive director of the BOE who was recently fired. She is also known as a 'sometime' girlfriend of Jon Stainbrook.
Now, it's not too uncommon to have someone else fill out your forms so they're ready for your signature. But then there are what appear to be discrepancies in the signatures themselves.
Here is the signature on the voter registration card:
Here is the signature on Robert's petition for central committee:
And here is his signature on his voter registration card in Ottawa County:
I'm not a handwriting expert but I think there are enough differences to raise the question of whether or not all three are really Robert's.
Combining the signature discrepancy with the non-existent address, the information that the handwriting on the registration and petition forms is Meghan Gallagher's and even non-doubting people might begin to wonder.
I share this information not to cast dispersions on Robert Stainbrook II, but to ensure that the correct address is recorded for him and that he votes in the correct precinct.
And if the worse case scenario is true and the voter registration card and petition were NOT signed by him, the person who did so can be held accountable.
Monday, April 14, 2014
|The Ohio AG has approved the petition|
filed by Freedom to Marry Ohio. The
next step is the Ohio Ballot Board.
This means that it will be sent to the Ohio Ballot Board to ensure the amendment contains a single issue and, if so, petitioners can begin to gather the signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot.
Interestingly, today a federal judge is expected to issue a ruling on whether or not Ohio must recognize the marriages of gay couples who marry in other states.
Ohio voters approved a state-wide gay marriage ban in 2004.
According to the summary, the amendment would repeal and replace Section 11 to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution to:
- Allow two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousin, and not having a husband or wife living, the freedom to enter into a marriage regardless of gender.
- Define religious house of worship as one where the primary activity is religious worship and provides that no house of worship or its clergy shall be required to perform a marriage.
- Provide that all legally valid marriages shall be treated equally under the law.
Here is the press release with a link to the petition:
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today determined that the proposed Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment seeking to amend Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution submitted the required 1000 valid signatures of Ohio electors and a summary of the amendment that is a "fair and truthful "statement of the proposed law.
Attorney General DeWine has sent letters to both the committee that represents the petitioners and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
"Without passing on the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred but pursuant to the duties imposed on the Attorney General's Office under Section 3519.01(A) of the Ohio Revised Code, I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed constitutional amendment," Attorney General DeWine stated in a letter to the petitioners.
Once the summary language and initial signatures are certified, the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a single or multiple issues. The petitioners must then collect signatures in 44 of Ohio's 88 counties, equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the vote cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election
The full text of today's letter and of the amendment petition may be found at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/BallotInitiatives.
Friday, March 14, 2014
|Gina Kaczala being sworn in as the new |
executive director of the Lucas County
Board of Elections. Her first act: fire one
of the temporary employees in the office.
(Toledo Blade photo)
The Blade has the story about Republican booth official Melissa Brogan being fired by the new Republican executive director, Gina Kaczala, and Democrat deputy director Dan DeAngelis.
She was a temporary employee, subject to employment "at will," so she could be let go without any cause or reason.
Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican Party Chairman and one of three members of the BOE, strongly objected, as the news story reported:
“The only reason they did it is because they don’t like it, and they don’t like her,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “She did an exemplary job for more than two years and was an intricate part of the election process. They are abusing their new-found authority right off the bat.”
But public records tell a different story.
|Brogan's time sheet|
That's not an unusual event, but that's only part of the story.
On Feb. 5th, nominating petitions for five candidates were turned in to the BOE. The circulator was Melissa Brogan.
In total, she collected 25 signatures on the petitions - all on Feb. 3rd.
|One of the petitions|
Brogan turned in.
Now, it is conceivable that she gathered these signatures after she was feeling better, but if you're going to take a sick day and then turn in petitions all signed on the day you call off sick, you should expect questions to be raised.
In fact, I'm surprised that no one asked about it at the time the petitions were filed.
Certainly others in the office would have known she'd gone home sick. At the very least, the director and deputy director should have asked for an explanation.
Perhaps, though, such 'oversights' in managing the staff are what contributed to the Board deciding to fire Meghan Gallagher and replace her with Kaczala? Who knows?
One insider commented that they wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing had been coordinated by Gallagher. But that speculation is probably more indicative of the lack of trust in Gallagher and Stainbrook, than of the truth.
Regardless, the existence of the questionable circumstances definitely belie Stainbrook's comment that she did an "exemplary job."
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Gongwer is reporting that a conference committee dealing with the House and Senate version of calamity days has agreed to four extra snow days and no teacher in-service requirements.
According to the report, House language was that would have required teachers to go to work for extra professional development as a condition of the extra days was eliminated.
The committee also increased the number of days from the three in the Senate version to four. Schools are still allowed to make up missed days in 30-minute increments added onto regular days.
Final votes in both bodies are expected Wednesday.
Friday, February 14, 2014
This is not good news for drivers on Ohio roads....
But no salt companies responded to the bid, ODOT announced today.
They said they would continue to explore alternative ways to get salt into Ohio and onto Ohio roads.
They also provided the following statistics:
* since the beginning of winter, ODOT alone, has used more than 880,000 tons on Ohio roadways.
* they've treated 11 million miles of roads
* this is one of the most active seasons in history.
Friday, February 07, 2014
Essentially, the lawsuit says that advertising to Ohio residents did not follow Ohio laws - and numerous attempts to get the dealership to comply have failed. In fact, it says previous agreements with the firm regarding Ohio laws were not honored.
Here is a copy of the lawsuit.
Here is the press release:
TOLEDO, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a lawsuit against Monroe Dodge-Chrysler, Inc., which does business as Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Superstore, of Monroe, Michigan. The Attorney General’s lawsuit accuses the dealership of using deceptive advertisements.
“Businesses that advertise to Ohio consumers must follow Ohio’s rules,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Otherwise, it’s not fair to consumers or to businesses that do follow the rules. The office has worked with this dealership on many occasions to address advertising violations, but the problems continue to resurface.”
Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Superstore is located at 15160 S. Monroe St. in Monroe, Michigan. The dealership sells new and used vehicles and advertises online and in print to consumers in Michigan and Ohio.
According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, the dealership violated Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act by advertising prices for which not all consumers qualified, failing to disclose all required terms, and failing to clearly disclose important exclusions or conditions of a sale. The Attorney General seeks an injunction to stop further violations, reimbursement for any affected consumers, and civil penalties.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office had entered into past agreements with the dealership to address similar advertising violations, but the Attorney General’s Office found that violations continued.
To assist dealerships in complying with Ohio law, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers a publication called “Guidelines for Motor Vehicle Advertising,” which is available on the Attorney General’s website, and works cooperatively with dealer associations to provide advertising compliance presentations.
Consumers who suspect unfair or deceptive advertising or other violations should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on the Attorney General's website.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
The others, all Republicans, are former Rep. Thomas Johnson, Stacey Polk and Patrick Donlon.
Gov. John Kasich has 30 days to select one of the nominees to replace Todd Snitchler, or he can request a new list of recommendations from the Nominating Council.
The open position is a five-year term beginning in April. The governor's nominee will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Johnson, who was a state rep from 1977 to 1999, also served as director of the Office of Budget and Management.
Polk is an attorney based in Cleveland who works as a sustainability consultant helping businesses implement green and advanced energy measures. She previously served as an assistant director in the City of Cleveland's of the Department of Economic Development.
Donlon currently works for the PUCO as a utility rates and tariff administrator. He previously worked for American Electric Power and for Time Warner Cable.
Waniewski, who is also a member of the Ohio Public Works Commission, chairs the Environmental Services Committee.
Monday, January 27, 2014
National School Choice Week - seven days devoted to sharing the story of parents who were able to make a choice in the best interest of their children. It's also a time to remind everyone that ALL parents should be able to choose the education that best meets the needs of their children.
As I've previously written, school choice takes many forms. This is not an anti-public schools effort as charter schools are public and traditional public schools are often the preferred choice for parents.
Choice is everywhere in our lives. When you go to the grocery store, there are shelves of bread - everything from traditional white to low-fat, high-fiber, cinnamon raisin. Do bread makers think everyone should be forced to choose the traditional white bread?
When you go to the mall there are multiple stores carrying clothes and multiple choices within those stores. When you go to a department store, look at how many types of socks are for sale - even basic white socks have multiple options!
We're not expected to settle for one single option for cars, furniture, tools, computers (laptops or tablets), printers, cameras, internet providers or even browsers. Restaurants, coffee houses, cell phones, gasoline, ... the list goes on where choices abound.
Think about all the choices you make in a day - from coffee in the morning to the television shows you watch at night.
We even have a choice when it comes to college: on-line or brick-and-mortar, two-year or four-year or a combination of the two; opting for the school that has the best reputation in the field we want to follow.
Why is k-12 education the exception?
Why is a choice in educational options the one area where a variety of options is fought?
This is the question those who oppose school choice need to answer. If it really is "for the children" we should not restrict their ability to find and receive the education that best fits them, their learning styles and their goals.
Join with others as we amplify choice and ensure that opportunities are available to all - and that education is not based upon something so arbitrary as a zip code.
For a list of school choice events in your area, go here to enter your zip code.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
UPDATE: I have confirmed that Sen. Cafaro did withdraw the bill Wednesday, Jan. 22nd.
Theodore “Teddy” Foltz-Tedesco was brought to Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley with head trauma Jan. 21, 2013. His injuries, the result of a beating, were so severe he was immediately transferred to St. Elizabeth Health Center. Teddy died in the hospital on Jan. 26. He was 14.
Teddy was tortured and killed by his mother’s boyfriend. Despite suspicions and reports to child protective services, Teddy’s case was not investigated. When teachers reported the suspected abuse, his mother withdrew him from school – either to home-school him or move him to a charter school – it’s not clear which.
Teddy’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for child endangerment and obstructing justice. Zaryl Bush, her boyfriend at the time who was not living with Widdersheim or Teddy, was sentenced to life in prison for Teddy’s murder and for child endangerment, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with evidence.
Teddy’s grandmother tried to intervene. Friends and neighbors contacted social services. Police were told and Teddy’s teachers noticed and initiated a complaint with the county children services agency.
Teddy is a tragic example of a system that failed.
Perhaps there is a need for a new law, but the one Cafaro came up would not have helped Teddy if it had been in place – and it was as misguided as it was wrong.
Cafaro’s solution to a myriad of system failures in the reporting and investigation of child abuse was not to fix the gaps or address how Teddy’s case seemed to fall through the cracks. Her solution was to require all home schooling parents to go through a background check by local children services social workers to determine if they were ‘qualified’ to home school their kids.
The law would “require a public children services agency to recommend whether a child should be admitted to an Internet or computer-based community school or excused by a school district superintendent from attendance at school for home education.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association was more specific in their analysis:
“It requires all parents who home school to undergo a social services investigation which would ultimately determine if homeschooling would be permitted. Social workers would have to interview parents and children separately, conduct background checks and determine whether homeschooling is recommended or not. If it is not recommended, parents would have to submit to an ‘intervention’ before further consideration of their request to home school.”
Mark Stevenson, director of Ohioans for Educational Freedom, a state-wide political action committee, saw the press conference through a link on Facebook. Even though it was the week before Christmas, he sprang into action.
“We looked at the press conference and analyzed the text (of the bill),” he said. “We sent Facebook posts to regional home school groups late Monday (Dec. 16, 2013) and by Tuesday it was all over Facebook. By Tuesday mid-afternoon, it started hitting Ohio home-schoolers email lists.”
“It caught everyone’s attention,” he explained, “and by the time they read it, they understood how important it was.”
But sharing the news of what they began calling the “worst-ever homeschooling bill” was not enough.
“With watching the press conference, you could deduce that personally reaching out to (the Senator) was not going to be to our benefit,” Stevenson said, “so we constructed a message urging people to call her office and ask her politely but firmly to withdraw the bill.”
Withdrawing the bill was the only option, as there wasn’t much in the text Stevenson thought they could agree upon.
“It would have had such far-reaching consequences,” he said.
He explained that home-schoolers just want to be left alone to do what they need to do to teach their kids. “If you want to maintain freedom,” he explained, “you have to get politicians to understand they can’t do something like this just because of one bad apple.”
Stevenson said they spoke to people in the Senator’s office to ask that the bill be withdrawn. They didn’t make much headway until Wednesday.
“By then,” Stevenson said, “she was starting to show signs of backing away from the bill due the number of phone calls she was getting.”
He said that by Wednesday, the sponsors of the bill were getting phone calls all day long. But it wasn’t just the sponsors. Home schooling parents called their own senators to object to the bill. Stevenson said their website registered 305,589 hits over two days. They put hourly updates on the web page to keep parents and other school choice groups informed of the progress they were making.
Stevenson knows it was the combination of calls, groups coming out against the bill and the concerns expressed by other senators that caused her to reconsider.
“And remember,” he said. “this was the week before Christmas.”
The plan was to start an educational effort via Twitter on Thursday, but Cafaro announced that she was going to withdraw the bill.
Three days of mobilized opposition and the worst-ever home schooling bill was going away.
“Home-schoolers are used to jumping on such issues very quickly,” Stevenson said. “We have to be on top of infringements upon our freedom. Home-schoolers are pretty well connected within the state and across the country in terms of our network. We are concerned, just like everyone else, with how our freedoms are eroding.”
But the fight isn’t over.
The Senate was not in session when Cafaro announced she was withdrawing the bill. The formal action to do so had to wait until the after the holidays. She was scheduled to formally request the withdrawal on Jan. 14, 2014, but was not present that day in order to do so, according to the Senate President’s office. It is now scheduled for formal action on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Stevenson and homes-choolers across the state will continue to monitor it to ensure the bill is actually withdrawn, as promised, but they are still cautious.
“There’s been some chatter with Teddy’s law people who say they support the bill,” Stevenson said. “Home-schoolers are sympathetic to the situation, but you can’t just write legislation that attacks law-abiding citizens and regulates people who are obeying the law.
“Teddy’s law people have made it clear that they’re not done with this,” he explained. “Since the initial legislation had such bad language, we can’t be anything but cautious and will be monitoring this for some time.”
But, Stevenson said, this is not a fight just for home schooling parents. It’s something charter schools, private schools, online schools and those who believe in school choice need to pay attention to.
“Everyone needs to be involved or one day, your rights are going to be gone,” he warned.
***UPDATE: Mark Stevenson will be Fred LeFevbre's guest on Monday, January 27th at 7:05 a.m. You can listen to 1370 WSPD live at www.wspd.com.
Monday, January 13, 2014
The Ohio Department of Education is going to investigate whether to suspend or revoke the licenses of staff in seven school districts, including Toledo, that scrubbed student attendance data. Non-licensed staff in the districts could received other types of punishments.
The ODE's professional conduct office will investigate whether any licensed individuals participated in "conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession" by contributing to the inaccurate data that was submitted to the state.
ODE said it found seven improperly reported Education Management Information System data during the 2010-11 school year. The other districts are Campbell City, Cincinnati Public, Cleveland Metropolitan, Marion City, Northridge Local, and Winton Woods City schools.
"Misreporting of attendance data or 'scrubbing' jeopardizes the entire accountability system in Ohio and will not be tolerated," Superintendent of Public Instruction Dick Ross said in a release. "These actions will be investigated and may result in professional conduct sanctions up to and including suspension or revocation of licensure."
In 2012, State Auditor Dave Yost began looking into the practices of some districts to un-enroll students and then re-enroll students in a presumed effort to exclude those students' test scores from the districts' report card calculation.
The department reviewed more than 8,500 student records including:
- 39 records in Campbell City Schools and found 37 were improperly withdrawn.
- 34 in Canton City Schools and found zero were improperly withdrawn.
- 148 in Cincinnati Public Schools and found 130 were improperly withdrawn.
- 7,624 in Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and found 3,540 were improperly withdrawn.
- 58 in Marion City Schools and found zero were improperly withdrawn.
- 63 in Northridge Local Schools and found 44 were improperly withdrawn.
- 614 in Toledo Public Schools and found 425 were improperly withdrawn.
- 14 in Winton Woods City Schools and found 11 were improperly withdrawn.
Report cards for the 2010-11 school year will be recalculated and rereleased for the six districts that had improperly withdrawn students, adding those students' test scores back into the grade card calculation, ODE said.
"We are committed to collecting accurate data and will require districts to submit corrective action plans to address these concerns," Ross said. "We also determined that approximately 50% of the records reviewed indicated the improper withdrawal of students from schools and should be included in the district and school report card calculations."
ODE said it will investigate districts' 2011-12 school year EMIS data to determine whether improper reporting of student withdrawals occurred in that year as well.
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Writing for Ohio Watchdog, I've previously covered the so-called Gov. John Kasich reelection protection act, also known as Senate Bill 193 which would impose stricter requirements on minor political parties in the state.
The Ohio Libertarian Party opposed the law and filed suit in federal court to stop it from taking effect for the 2014 elections.
Today, Judge Michael Watson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a preliminary injunction against the law.
Here is the press release from the Ohio Libertarian Party:
COLUMBUS—An Ohio law known as the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” will not be able to ban the Libertarian Party and other so-called “minor” parties from the 2014 ballot, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The preliminary injunction in Libertarian Party of Ohio v. Husted blocks the state of Ohio “from retroactively applying SB 193 to Ohio’s 2014 primary and general elections.”
Political analysts from Ohio and across the nation have speculated that SB 193 was designed to protect Kasich’s 2014 re-election chances against a challenge from Libertarian Charile Earl, a former state legislator who is very popular with liberty-oriented and Tea Party groups in Ohio angered by Kasich’s support for Obamacare, his crony capitalism, and lack of fiscal responsibility.
The ruling from Judge Michael H. Watson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio means that challenger parties in Ohio will be allowed to continue to participate in the 2014 election cycle without being forced to comply with the several onerous “party formation” requirements mandated by SB 193.
“Once again, the courts stand with us and with the First Amendment rights of all Ohioans to political freedom and suffrage in Ohio,” said Kevin Knedler, chair of the LPO executive committee. “The foundation of a democratic society is the right to vote and to have real choices on the ballot. A lot of voters—especially young voters—refuse to be put in either the Republican or Democrat boxes, and the Libertarian Party offers a true alternative for voters who want individual freedom in every area of life.”
Tuesday’s victory is the fourth in federal court for the LPO since 2006, when LPO v. Blackwell struck down a ballot law concerning "minor" political parties. The LPO won two more federal court fights over ballot access before SB 193 was passed, while consistently, but unsuccessfully, lobbying the state legislature for a fair election law.
State attorneys may appeal Tuesday’s ruling, Knedler said, but “they would have almost no chance of winning” less than a month before the February 5 deadline by which petitions are due for candidates running in the May 5 primary.
Kasich signed SB 193 in November after it was rushed through both houses of the Ohio legislature with all but a handful of GOP legislators voting for it. In the several hearings on the bill in both houses, no one testified in favor of SB 193, save the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Bill Seitz.
“Kasich and the Republican party thought they were silencing the growing liberty movement in Ohio, but now they have one hell of a fight on their hands,” said Aaron Keith Harris, LPO central committee chairman and candidate for secretary of state. “Voters no longer trust them when they pretend to oppose Democrats on issues like health care freedom and the runaway growth of government power over their everyday lives.”
One Libertarian statewide candidate—attorney general hopeful Steven Linnabary—has already submitted his petition, as have several Libertarian state legislature and state central committee candidates.
Libertarian governor candidate Charlie Earl, along with a full slate of statewide candidates and up to 50 other Libertarian candidates across the state will file by February 5, Knedler said.
Monday, January 06, 2014
Courtesy of The Heritage Foundation comes this handy little infographic giving you all the details you never really wanted to know about the national debt.
But then again, if everyone knew this, maybe it wouldn't be so large.
Feel free to share ...
Friday, December 27, 2013
City of Toledo to provide drop off locations for Christmas tree disposal
Six sites available across the city
The City of Toledo Division of Parks, Recreation and Forestry will again provide drop off locations for Christmas tree disposal. Collections sites will be operational between December 26, 2013 and January 17, 2014 at six of the Toledo’s city parks. Trees should be cleared of all decorations, bags or other materials, and may be dropped off at any of six selected sites around the city. Collected trees will be ground into mulch by forestry crews. No disposal fees are charged for the service.
Drop off sites include Jermain Park; Schneider Park; Ravine II; Detwiler Park; Bowman Park, Laskey Rd. entrance and Greenwood Park, Darrell entrance. All sites will be marked with signage indicating drop off points.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Yes, I'm a big kid at heart and I have - and always will - believe in Santa.
Even if someone can possibly prove to me that he does not exist physically (which I doubt), I will continue to believe in his spirit and impact on us.
But - in case you were doubtful about the jolly man in a red suit, let me share with you this explanation: physics proves Santa exists. Don't worry - it's short and easy to understand - unlike most physics we might recall from our days in school.
If that's not enough, the Christmas Tree Market provides this infographic to show how Santa manages to do it all - from the making to the delivery of the presents (click for full view):
If you're still skeptical, how about some physical proof?
"A weather camera posted on the east deck of the late actor Don Knott's former estate high above Los Angeles captured still pictures of something very very unique and enchanting. Looking like a plane or helicopter at first glance, when experts zoomed in on the image, they found themselves face-to-face with what really does appear to be a sleigh and reindeer soaring through the sky. It was a monumental capture in the search to prove that Santa is indeed very real."
"On a Moscow bound flight from Athens, Greece during the early morning hours of Christmas Day, 2001, a man traveling home to his family in rural Russia took a picture out of the plane window high above the icy wilds of the Ukraine. Do you see what I see? What he saw? Yeah, the proof is in the pudding, as they say."
Then there is NORAD - who tracks Santa's progress across the globe. Are you really going to doubt NORAD?
Santa is magical, yes. But he definitely exists and I hope you get to experience the joy of believing this year, and every year.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The first in a series leading up to National School Choice Week January 26 - February 1, 2014.
Franklin Center designed to inform citizen journalists about school choice in advance of National School Choice Week. I thought I was pretty well informed about the subject, but I was wrong.
It turns out that school choice - or education choice as many think it will evolve into - is a lot more than just charters and vouchers.
First, let's clear up some misconceptions. There are six types of school choice currently available:
Traditional Public Schools - (yes, this is actually a choice!) where you are assigned to a school to attend based upon your zip code or neighborhood. Some areas have open enrollment in the school district which allows a child to attend another school in the system based upon request, need or other criteria.
Public Charter Schools - they are PUBLIC schools as well, but with greater curricular independence than traditional public schools and entry is usually by applications and then lottery when applications exceed spots available. For the record, students attending these schools are not hand-picked, chosen or stolen, as some have claimed.
Private Schools - these are often sponsored by a church or other organization and are privately run but often must meet certain state criteria for certification and student test results.
Magnet Schools - these are rigorous public schools that specialize in a certain curriculum. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and performing arts are two of the most common types. For example, in Toledo we have the Toledo School for the Arts and the Maritime Academy of Toledo.
Home Schools - where children are educated in their own homes by their parents, usually with the support of network or organization of other parents and/or experts.
Online Schools - these can be stand-alone schools are can be used to support traditional brick and mortar schools or homeschooling. They are commonly used by students who are training to be professional athletes or performers with demanding schedules, by students who need flexible learning hours, and to provide GED education for adults or formerly incarcerated individuals.
The point is, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' choice, no matter what other people may say.
The entire premise of school choice is that parents should be able to select the school that best meets the need of their child because what works for one can never work for all.
Every parent makes a choice, whether they realize it or not. It is a choice to send your child to your neighbor traditional public school, as much as it is to send them to a private church-sponsored school or to educate them at home.
What should also be remembered is that making a decision other than the traditional public school does not mean you want the traditional public school to fail or be eliminated. Property values and taxes give every parent and resident a vested interest in the success of their local school systems.
How you get to a school choice is where such things as vouchers, educational scholarships and tax credit scholarships come in.
All are methods by which public funds or credits are used to help cover the costs of the school choice.
Knowing and understanding the options, along with how to take advantage of them, is the important thing so parents can make an informed choice based upon their child's needs. And no one knows their child like they do.
We all know that no one school can meet the individual needs and interests of every child. And no single school should be expected to be the best at every single thing, whether it be STEM or athletics, or be the perfect fit for every child.
But if we accept that we can have numerous restaurants in a community to effectively meet the food cravings and needs, why shouldn't we think of schools the same way?
Why is K-12 education thought of so differently than college? We wouldn't expect all students wanting to attend college to be forced to attend the single institution in their city, would we? Then why do so many reject the *concept* of school choice, even when some of those choices are still part of the *public* education?
The trends are not on the side of forcing kids into a single zip-code-based system.
Nationally, the under-18 population is projected to increase 11.3 million, from 74.4 million in 2010 to 85.7 million by 2030.
In 2010 in his home state of Arizona there were 1.7 million people aged 18 and under. By 2030, the population of that age group is projected to be 2.6 million. Where are they all going to go?
"If we went to universal school choice in Arizona tomorrow," he said, "the traditional public schools will still see growth."
Ohio's under-18 population is projected to decline slightly - about 100,000 - from 2010 to 2030, while the over-65 population is projected to increase, the Census Data shows. This continues a trend seen from 2000 to 2010.
But there's an even bigger problem for our nation: our aging population. Baby boomers (those born between 1944 and 1964) have already hit retirement age and many states and localities give property tax breaks to retirees, including on school levies, which will continue to reduce the amount of money collected via that means.
Nationally, Census data shows an increase from 40.2 million people over 65 in 2010 to a projected 71.4 million by 2030.
So how are we going to handle more students and less people helping to pay for their education? We really need to learn to do K-12 education "better, faster and cheaper," Ladner said.
It won't be easy but Arizona has found a creative way that other states should pay attention to and consider. And it will change the way we think about school choice forever if they do.
Educational Empowerment Scholarships Accounts
In 2011, Arizona passed a law creating Educational Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). The state deposits educational funds directly into an account controlled by the parent. The parents can choose how to spend the funds using a type of debit card that is coded to allow its usage only for pre-approved expenses.
Parents can use it for tuition at any school, to pay for college or university courses while their child is still in high school, for online education, certified tutors, testing preparation like for SATs, or even a la carte public school courses (foreign languages, for example). They also have the choice to not spend it and put it toward a future college education. Anything not used in a year is allowed to accumulate.
Think about how food stamp EBT cards work and you'll have a good understanding about how the Arizona system works, except it's education items that are being purchased rather than food.
There are numerous stories about waste, fraud and abuse in the food stamp EBT card program, but the lessons states have learned about that management should help them devise a "robust system of state oversight," Ladner said, including account monitoring and auditing.
The future of choice will be more than just government-funded coupons that allow parents to choose between public and private schools.
"All possible methods of education delivery will compete with each other," Ladner said.
The best thing is that Arizona has already learned some lessons and made some modifications, so states like Ohio who choose to consider a similar process will have an example to follow and won't have to re-learn any of those lessons.
With the changing demographics, the ever-increasing costs and the way technology has us expecting a customized experience, it's time we realized that it's no longer just about choosing a school. It's about how we choose an education - and the options should be endless.
Other coverageThere were a number of us at the conference and I want you to see what others have done on the subject.
While all the links below are excellent articles, this one is my favorite so far because it tells a winning story for conservatives - and I agree with it completely!
A Slam-Dunk Win for the GOP - No, Its Not Immigration Reform
Here is a round-up of the posts from other citizen journalists:
Educational Choice: The Ponderings of My Latest Interest
SCHOOL CHOICE CONFERENCE IN WISCONSIN SHOWS MOVEMENT OFFERS ARRAY OF OPTIONS
Friedman Foundation Study Focuses on How Parents Choose the Right Schools for their Children
Former Anti-Voucher Advocate Now Advocates For Vouchers and School Choice
School Choice is a Winning Issue
School Choice Changes Lives, One Scholarship At A Time
The Common Core Steamroller
Citizen journalists learn about school choice
GOAL Scholarship Parents Appear to be Active Consumers of Private Schools
The Best Public Schools Embrace School Choice
HOPE AND CHANGE IN MILWAUKEE’S SCHOOLS – AND OBAMA HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT
Court awards "win" to disqualified school board candidate, SOS Appeals
Education Reform as a Disruptive Technology
4000+ Lawrence School Children Are Being Left Behind, But There is Hope on the Horizon
Reforming government schools
Schools of Choice: A Human Right to Quality Education for EACH Child
Charter School Only California School as Finalist in National “Race to the Top”
What is School Choice