June 2010 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Schools, Senate Setbacks, State Jobs

- June 15, 2010

Imagine… accountable schools – Imagine Schools, Inc. – the nation’s largest for-profit charter school management company, with 71 schools nationwide and 11 in Ohio – has a poor record of performance in Ohio and a business model that includes elaborate real-estate transactions, high management and operations fees, overlapping business relationships, low spending on classroom instruction and tight control of school finances and board relationships, according to our report. These problems have led to Academic Emergency ratings for five of the company’s six rated Ohio schools for the 2008-09 school year, with the sixth school earning an Academic Watch rating. Because of problems with Imagine and other for-profits like White Hat, this report recommends eliminating for-profit companies from managing publicly-funded schools in Ohio. On June 2, author Piet van Lier also testified on this issue to the Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Unemployment Outrage – The U.S. Senate still hasn’t approved an extension of jobless benefits, leaving 100,000 Ohioans with no job and no financial support in a miserable job market – and more losing benefits each week. This report, written after the U.S. House passed the extension in May, documents how many Ohioans have been helped by extended federal unemployment benefits.

Enforcing Labor Law –  A new statewide coalition to fight wage theft was launched in Columbus in May. Policy Matters, along with the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, helped start this coalition to improve enforcement of basic labor law. The coalition will fight for workers who have worked without being paid; been paid less than the minimum wage; been denied overtime; or been misclassified as independent contractors so their employers can avoid paying workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation and income taxes.

Tax Testimony – Wendy Patton’s testimony gave kudos to the Ohio Department of Development for proposing to boost wage standards for companies receiving the Job Creation and Job Retention Tax Credits. ODOD followed advice issued in a 2009 study of economic development incentives and strengthened standards: To qualify, firms will have to pay an average of 175 percent of the minimum wage instead of 150 percent. Problem is, ODOD also wrote in a giant loophole. The department has said it will take steps to partly close it, so stay tuned.

Statewide assistance – A refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit would help low-income working families all over Ohio to make ends meet. Check out these maps of Ohio’s House and Senate districts, showing how many families in your community could benefit. Click here to read why the Refund the Credit Coalition backs this proven poverty relief strategy, targeted toward working people with children.

Higher Education, Lower Compensation – Policy Matters reviewed recent comparisons of employee compensation in the public and private sectors, including “Out of Balance,” and “The Wage Penalty for State and Local Government Employees,” both of which found that public sector workers are more educated and more experienced than private sector workers, but earn less than similarly-educated private employees.

Movie Night (tonight!) – Tonight (Tuesday June 29), Policy Matters and partners will host a film screening of the PBS documentary “Beyond the Motor City,” followed by a discussion, at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus. Think cars should stay king? Want a bikeable city? Wish you could more easily catch a bus? Come to the film and defend your transportation preferences.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team

Thanks to intern Sarah DeCarlo for help crafting this e-news 

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