Tag Archives: Ohio

Woman who used charter school money for Mercedes-Benz sentenced to prison

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, November 28, 2016

A Columbus woman who used money from a startup charter school in Powell to buy a $40,000 Mercedes-Benz among other things will serve three years in prison for her crime. Wendy Marshall, 39, was sentenced today by Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Everett H. Krueger. Marshall pleaded guilty to taking $88,750 earmarked to open Directions Academy, a new charter school on Powell Rd. Marshall siphoned off the money for personal use. … The crime was uncovered by Auditor Dave Yost office following an investigation earlier this year triggered by a financial audit. The audit showed Ohio Department of Education funds were not used to open the charter school as intended, instead being spent by Marshall for a Mercedes-Benz, airline tickets, sports equipment and other items. …

Feds eye Ohio prison for housing Haitian illegal immigrants

Source: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, November 4, 2016

Haitians crossing illegally into the U.S. via the Mexican border could wind up in an Ohio prison under a federal plan to accommodate them pending immigration hearings.   The Department of Homeland Security is negotiating with the operators of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center to lease space to house an anticipated influx of Haitian illegal immigrants, according to the Wall Street Journal. Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of DHS, expect thousands from the impoverished island nation to cross across the U.S.’s southwestern border from Mexico. The proposed use of the prison, which is operated by private company CoreCivic, has met opposition in the Buckeye State. … The ALCU calls negotiations between DHS and CoreCivic — which was known until recently as Corrections Corporation of America — troubling, considering it was just two months ago that the Department of Justice announced that they would end their use of private prisons after evidence of widespread abuse was found. …

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Youngstown Mayor supports housing refugees in Youngstown prison
Source: Stan Boney, WKBN, October 31, 2016

Youngstown Mayor John McNally did not hesitate on Monday when asked for his opinion about Haitian refugees being housed at Youngstown’s private prison. “I’m very much in favor of having the opportunity to fill that facility up — not only with detainees — but also with employees,” he said. … McNally says there are 550 inmates housed at the prison and there’s room for 1,500 more, which would also necessitate another 200 employees. … Republican Don Manning is running against incumbent Democrat John Boccieri in the race for 59th District State Representative.  Manning has made refugees — Haitian or otherwise — a campaign issue, saying he’s “absolutely opposed” to housing them in Youngstown. …

Homeland Security seeks space at private Youngstown prison to hold undocumented immigrants
Source: Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 28, 2016

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to buy space at a private prison in Youngstown to address an anticipated influx of undocumented immigrants, according to an article from The Wall Street Journal. The Northeast Ohio Correctional Center currently houses people in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. The private prison is owned by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. The Federal Bureau of Prisons ended its contract with the company in 2014 to house convicts there, transferring about 1,400 inmates to prisons in other states. … Part of the surge is due to thousands of Haitians who left their country after a devastating earthquake in 2010. Many fled to South America and have taken several years to arrive at the U.S. border, the article says. ICE is now holding more than 40,000 people, more than it ever has before, and more than 5,000 Haitians have reached the Mexican border to try to cross at U.S. ports of entry, the article says. When Haitian immigrants present themselves at ports of entry seeking asylum, they are typically turned over to ICE and are held pending deportation, according to The Wall Street Journal. Homeland Security is also looking to buy space at similar facilities in Cibola County, New Mexico; Aurora, Colorado; and Robstown, Texas, The Wall Street Journal article says. …

Ohio won’t follow federal lead in ending private prison contracts
Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, August 18, 2016

Ohio officials do not intend to follow the lead of the federal government in abandoning private prison operations. The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it will phase out using private prisons for federal inmates, citing findings that 14 privately operated facilities around the country had more safety and contraband issues than government-run operations. … JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in a statement that despite the federal findings, the state prison agency is satisfied with the two privately operated facilities in the state and has no plan to end the contracts. … The North Central Correctional Complex in Marion is operated by Management & Training Corporation of Centerville, Utah. The Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut in Ashtabula County is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. By law, both prisons must save the state at least five percent annually compared to the cost of public operation of the facilities. …

Federal prison in Youngstown might not feel effects of private-prison phase-out
Source: Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, August 18, 2016

… Also driving the decision, said Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, is a decline in the inmate population. After a spike that ended in 2013, the department’s Bureau of Prisons doesn’t need as many prison cells, she said in a memo. This might not affect the only privately run, federally used prison in Ohio, however. The Bureau of Prisons in late 2014 ended its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America for housing federal convicts at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, transferring inmates from the Youngstown prison to facilities in other states in 2015. The private, Tennessee-based firm still contracts to use the facility for prisoners of the U.S. Marshals Service, however. And the Marshals Service use should not be affected by the latest Justice Department decision, said the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, whose district includes Youngstown. Ryan’s office told this to cleveland.com after talking with the Marshals Service, and other sources said this was consistent with their understanding: The decision will cover the Bureau of Prisons but not the Marshals Service. …

State rates its own oversight of charter schools “ineffective”: How did that happen?

Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 18, 2016

Ohio’s new charter school oversight ratings raised a few eyebrows last week, including over the state rating itself as “ineffective.” The state rated last week the work of all 65 organizations that help start and monitor charter schools as part of an effort to make Ohio’s $1 billion charter school industry better and stop the national ridicule of it. The state issued ratings of “poor” to 21 overseers, known as “sponsors” or “authorizers,” which blocks them from doing any more work with charters if they cannot win an appeal. The Ohio Department of Education also rated 39 of the organizations as “ineffective,” which gives them two more years to improve their work or they will also be shut down. Among them: the department’s own Office of School Sponsorship. … The main reason for the low rating, she said, was the equivalent of an F grade for the academic performance of all 18 charters overseen by the state. Though academics make up one third of a sponor’s rating and the state scored very well on the other two portions, Halpin noted that state law caps the rating of any sponsor at “ineffective” if its fails any of the three portions. Because of that cap, poor grades at the 18 schools made a better rating impossible. …

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State Auditor Criticizes Ohio Education Department for Charter School Oversight
Source: Karen Kasler, WKSU, June 22, 2016

The state auditor is standing by his concerns about the oversight of charter schools by the Ohio Department of Education, an agency he said two weeks ago is among the worst in state government. Auditor Dave Yost has been a critic of charter school attendance and transparency. … But Yost isn’t pushing legislation to shift some of the duties of the Department of Education to other agencies. Lawmakers aren’t likely to come back to the Statehouse till after the November election, and will have at least two bills on charter schools waiting for them.

Record Number of Charter Schools Could Close in Ohio
Source: Catherine Candisky, Governing, June 20, 2016

Ohio could see a record number of charter schools close this year. In the wake of a new state law designed to shut down failing schools, several charter-school sponsors are severing ties with schools they agreed to oversee. Charter schools — privately run with public dollars — can’t operate without a sponsor. … Ohio Department of Education officials say they know of 19 schools that are closing this year: Eleven were dropped by their sponsors for poor performance; the eight others closed voluntarily. Last year, 14 charter schools shut their doors. Three closed because of failing grades and six for financial reasons, according to state records. The reasons for the five other closings were unclear. Supporters of a charter-school reform bill passed last year, House Bill 2, and of new evaluations for school sponsors say they aim to bring more accountability and transparency to a charter system that spends about $1 billion annually to educate more than 120,000 Ohio students attending 374 charter schools. For example, the new law bans conflict-of-interest business relations and requires charter operators to provide more details about how they spend taxpayers’ dollars. …

Ohio governor signs bill overhauling state’s charter schools
Source: Associated Press, November 1, 2015

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed into law a bill that overhauls the state’s embattled charter-school system with new performance, accountability and reporting requirements. … State lawmakers have been under increasing pressure to take action as reports of attendance irregularities, fiscal mismanagement and staff improprieties at some charter schools have piled up in recent years. The schools are intended as an alternative to traditional public schools, particularly those in academic distress.

Ohio passes major charter school reform bill; pension controversy to have more study
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 7, 2015

The major charter school reform bill that the state legislature debated all year easily won final approval this afternoon, sending a package of changes to financial, academic performance and governance rules to Gov. John Kasich. A late controversy over a ban on some charter school employees being able to participate in state pension plans did not derail the bill, after legislative leaders promised to review that portion to make sure it had no “unintended consequences.” There have been conflicting reports today about how many charter school employees — teachers and other staff — could be blocked from joining the pension plans. State senators said on the floor that it would only apply to a small number of schools, with House Democrats saying it would include all new charter school employees. … Jim Lynch, a spokesman for Kasich, said the governor will sign the bill, which includes some changes he proposed. State Auditor Dave Yost, who pressed for rules requiring charter school operators to share more financial information with the public, also cheered the bill, as did the Ohio Department of Education.

Ohio House OKs new performance, oversight and reporting requirements for charter schools
Source: Julie Carr Smith, The Republic, October 7, 2015

Sweeping new performance, accountability and transparency requirements for Ohio’s embattled charter-school system have cleared the Ohio House. The chamber’s 91-6 vote Wednesday comes as Ohio prepares for the first installment in a $71 million federal grant to expand charter opportunities that can provide an alternative to traditional public schools. A Senate vote was also expected. … It also improves public access to charters’ information and clarifies that schools’ equipment belongs to the schools, not their operators.

Overhaul to charter-school laws faces final votes Wednesday
Source: Jim Siegel, The Columbus Dispatch, October 6, 2015

A widespread overhaul to Ohio’s much-criticized charter school laws was altered and passed unanimously by a joint committee today, setting up expected final votes in the House and Senate on Wednesday. Among the final changes to the bill is a clarification that furniture and equipment purchased by an operator with state funds is property of the school, not the operator, if the school closes. This is in response to a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision, where White Hat Management was permitted to keep the property. … House Bill 2, which has been debated for months, would give the state Department of Education more-effective authority to oversee charter-school sponsors, and it would provide more transparency of operator spending. It seeks to eliminate conflicts of interest, requires independent school treasurers and requires clearer contracts between school boards and operators. It also would limit sponsor hopping — when a poor-performing school quickly seeks to reopen under a new sponsor to avoid being closed.
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What’s the future of Ohio Lottery? Maybe ‘quasi-public’ and online gambling

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, September 26, 2016

Changes could be coming for the Ohio Lottery, including adding electronic table poker, online gaming, and a greater variety of instant tickets. Those are among the recommendations from Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey research and professional services firm, hired by the Kasich administration to produce a business assessment of the Ohio Lottery, now 42 years old. The study cost $601,600, according to documents from the Department of Administrative Services. The lottery should become a “quasi-public” corporation, operating more efficiently and avoiding unnecessary government regulation, according to a copy of the study obtained by The Dispatch. Spectrum does not recommend turning the lottery private, but concludes that the current structure, which operates out of the governor’s office, is inefficient, slow to react to market conditions and subject to too much “control and oversight” by several state agencies and state lawmakers. It would be organized much like JobsOhio, Kasich’s privatized economic development agency, with a board appointed by the governor. … The idea in the Spectrum report is not new. Semi-privatization was recommended by then-state Auditor Mary Taylor in 2010 and Gov. John Kasich suggested privatizing the agency in his first budget in 2011, but the General Assembly did not go along with the proposal. Among other recommendations are allowing video poker and electronic table games at seven racinos at horse race tracks, possible expansion into online gaming, expanding instant games, and beefing up the assistance program for problem gambling. …

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Ohio Lottery to undergo independent efficiency assessment
Source: Associated Press, September 26, 2015

Ohio Lottery officials say they’re planning to hire a consultant to study how the agency can operate more efficiently but insist there aren’t any plans for privatization. Northeast Ohio Media Group reports the study will include an examination of privatized lottery operations. A lottery spokeswoman says state law doesn’t allow for privatization of the agency. … Officials say the assessment will focus on ways to make the lottery more efficient and to identify ways to generate more funds for education.

Could the Ohio Lottery become privatized? A consultant will look at all options
Source: Karen Farkas, cleveland.com, September 22, 2015

The Ohio Lottery will undergo an independent assessment to determine how it can operate more efficiently and maximize revenues. Officials said that does not mean the lottery will become privatized, although all models – including privatized lottery operations – will be studied. … Among the consultant’s duties will be to “analyze the state lottery industry in other relevant or similar jurisdictions including the organizational, operations and management structures and effectiveness,” the proposal states. “Models of interest are current arrangements that include, but are not limited to, California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey,” Those state lotteries are privatized – and the path has not always been smooth. In August, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn fired Northstar Lottery Group, the private company that runs the Illinois Lottery, after it fell nearly a half billion dollars short of revenues it promised to raise for the state during the first three years of a 10-year contract, the Chicago Tribune reported. Northstar New Jersey, which operates the New Jersey Lottery, is under fire for not meeting income targets, USA Today reported.

State seeks review of Ohio Lottery, but won’t pursue privatization
Source: Jay Miller, Crain’s Cleveland Business, September 3, 2015

It appears that the Kasich administration is at least looking to revamp, but not privatize, the Ohio Lottery. The Ohio Department of Administrative Services on Aug. 24 posted a request for a consultant to independently assess the operations, management and government structure of the $3.3 billion Ohio Lottery. The goal, according to the formal request for proposal, is for a report that analyzes how best “to achieve the highest financial return to the state from lottery gaming offerings and to obtain efficiencies in operations and management of the Ohio Lottery Commission.” Early in his administration, Gov. John Kasich had considered privatizing lottery operations. … The state contract should be awarded in the fall with a report on lottery operations due back to the lottery commission in late spring or early fall, Frizzi-Babb said.

Wording aside, state has no intent to privatize lottery
Source: Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch, September 2, 2015

While a document labels privatized lotteries in other states as “models of interest,” state officials said today that there are no plans to privatize the Ohio Lottery Commission. A state request for proposals on Aug. 24 seeks a consultant to conduct a far-reaching review of the lottery and recommend ways to contain costs and maximize profits, which largely are routed to public schools. One section of the document states that “models of interest” to be studied include the lottery systems in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts and New Jersey – all of which have privatized lotteries. … The goal of hiring the consultant is to undertake a business study of the lottery’s operations and make improvements to generate more money for schools, she said. … Theis said the privatization of lotteries in others states, including those in which Ohio is expressing interest, have been problematic, largely failing to meet promised sales and revenue figures.

Ohio Senate budget bill includes lobbyist legislation on privatizing Ohio Lottery
Source: Mark Naymik, The Plain Dealer, June 02, 2011

The company winning the contract to manage the Ohio Lottery would receive a 10-year deal and a yearly management fee of up to 5 percent of the lottery’s total revenue. The Ohio Senate’s latest version of the state budget bill includes language to privatize the Ohio Lottery that is nearly identical to legislation drafted by a gaming company hoping to manage the $2.5 billion agency’s day-to-day operations.

State Democrat, pair of Ohio Lottery officials bemoan plan to privatize the agency
Source: Reginald Fields, The Plain Dealer, June 16, 2011
Privatization of lottery rejected in state budget bill / It’s one of many changes adopted for $56B budget
Source: Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dozens show up for public forum on privatization of Hocking Valley Industries

Source: Beth Lanning, Logan Daily News, September 23, 2016

Concerns were voiced during a forum Wednesday concerning the privatization of Hocking Valley Industries (HVI). Hocking County Board of Developmental Disabilities (HCBDD) and HVI are now considered one entity but they’re transitioning into two separate entities because of federal mandates. The transition is scheduled to take place July 1, 2017. … The meeting provided very little comfort for those who have their jobs on the line including support professionals and drivers. Sean Dahl, Field Representative for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) State Office, as well as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was in attendance to support the workers. “They are not guaranteeing our jobs. We’re still working on it but they are not guaranteed those positions,” said Dahl. “Right now we have 18 people and 16 people are being laid off as of July 2017. … Couch said 46 percent of the DD Board’s operating expenses supports HVI. He went on to say it is considered the DD Board’s share of match for people using Medicaid waivers to fund their day services. The levies will continue. … The U.S. Department of Justice has been looking at ADA issues in other states, and according to Couch, the restrictions that Ohio is putting on people with disabilities could be considered civil rights issues. The US Department of Justice looks at sheltered workshops such as HVI as an institutional type setting. They want to see people with developmental disabilities more integrated into their communities. HVI was preparing for the change well before the transition date. …

Judge dismisses union lawsuit seeking to halt prison farm sale

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, September 14, 2016

A Franklin County judge dismissed a state employee union’s lawsuit challenging the closing of state prison farming operations today. Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbook decided that the lawsuit by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association is a duplication of an Unfair Labor Practice complaint pending with the State Employee Relations Board. As a result, Holbrook ruled he does not have jurisdiction and dismissed the lawsuit. The state employees union, which represents 8,600 prison workers among its 30,000 members, went to court in May hoping to block the closing of 10 state prison farms. The union sought a restraining order to halt the sale of livestock, equipment and land used for prison farms for more than 100 years. …

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MANCI auction set for cattle, farm equipment
Source: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, July 26, 2016

The beef cattle that graze outside the Mansfield Correctional Institution farm on Ohio 13 and related farm equipment will be sold at auction on Oct. 28 and 29. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is seeking bids to secure an auctioneer to sell farm equipment and about 415 beef cattle at its Ohio Penal Industries Farm Facility, 1150 N. Main St. According to the state documents, beef farming equipment will be sold at auction on Oct. 28 from the state prison. ODRC’s estimated aggregate value of the farm equipment designated is $550,000 to $750,000. … In April, ODRC announced the state prison farm operated at Mansfield Correctional Institution was among 10 agricultural operations Ohio is shutting down in a move to raise millions of dollars to fund new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates through land sales. Earlier, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said the move was announced “without much explanation, rationale or plan” in a conference call to the union. The Mansfield prison operated one of the state’s larger prison operations, with 1,485 acres of farmland, a beef herd of 350 cows and a beef finishing operation of 500 head, it was reported in April. Other affected prisons include Marion (995 acres), Pickaway (1,200 acres), Chillicothe (1,809 acres) and the Southeastern Correctional Complex (578 acres). The acreage figures include both state-owned land and land used through partnerships. …

Ohio seeks bids to sell prison farm beef cattle, farm equipment
Source: Chris Kick, Farm and Dairy, July 25, 2016

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is seeking bids for an auctioneer to sell 415 head of beef cattle and farming equipment, from the Mansfield prison farm. Known as the Mansfield Correctional Institution, it is one of about 10 locations the state announced it will close in an April 12 decision, that calls for the closure and sale of Ohio’s prison farms. Bids to sell the cattle and farm equipment will be opened July 29, according to documents provided by the Ohio Office of Procurement Services. The auction would take place Oct. 28-29, at the Mansfield prison farm. The herd consists of registered Angus cattle, including breeding stock, some which were shown at the Ohio Beef Expo in Columbus. … The corrections department, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are also the center of a Franklin County lawsuit by the state’s labor union, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which alleges that state employees were not afforded their bargaining rights, and that selling the livestock will disrupt their jobs. The decision to sell the farms came at a time when the state was in the finishing stages of a $9 million renovation at two of the farms, which included new dairy and beef facilities, and a new dairy milking parlor. …

Ohio prison system buying milk after selling cows
Source: Chris Kick, Farm & Dairy, June 22, 2016

With its dairy cows now sold, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is buying about $2.6 million in milk to supply its prisons. An existing contract between the state and several Ohio dairy suppliers was expanded in late May to supply about 1.3 million gallons of milk to prison facilities. … The move from milking to buying comes after an April 12 decision by the corrections department to get out of the farming business, and sell most of the prison farm assets, including land and cattle. Selling the land will require legislative approval and is still pending. The department said it could better use the money within prison walls, to provide more meaningful rehabilitation for inmates seeking jobs after being released. The department also cited concerns that the farms were being used by inmates to bring contraband into the prisons.

Ohio prisons need $2.6 million in milk money after selling dairy cows
Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, June 15, 2016

After selling off its dairy herd, Ohio prisons will pay $2.6 million a year to buy milk for 50,000 inmates. An existing state contract with four Ohio dairies was expanded on May 31 to include milk for state prisons, according to records from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the business arm of state government. The state needs about 1.3 million gallons of milk annually for inmates. … In the meantime, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has sold about 1,000 dairy cows. Another approximately 2,000 beef cattle are scheduled to be sold this fall. The milk money is needed because of the April 12 decision by the prisons agency to get out of the farm business. The announcement came as a surprise, especially as the department was in the final stages of completing nearly $9 million in improvements to the prison farms. … Some have suggested other possible reasons for the quick turnaround, including potential buyers eager to snap up 7,000 or more acres of farmland at 10 sites across the state. …

Tentative interest in prison farm land surfaces
Source: Chris Balusik, Chillicothe Gazette, May 8, 2016

About 220 inmates work on the farms at the height of the farming season, and Mohr believes the millions of dollars that could be raised through the land sales could end up helping thousands more inmates through job training programs, rehabilitation efforts, transitional housing and rehabilitation services. The sales, expected to result in the end of prison farms by 2017, may face a stumbling block. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a union with 56 members who work at the farms as farm coordinators and dairy operators, filed a temporary restraining order Thursday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to stop the closure of the 10 prison farms. … Union president Christopher Mabe also doesn’t understand why a prison farm operation that was looking at expansion of facilities in London and Marion to boost meat and dairy production for the prison system is now looking to shut down. …

State to shutter 10 prison farms, sell off land
Source: James Ewinger, The Plain Dealer, April 12, 2016

The state is shutting down its century-old prison-farm system to save money and focus on new rehabilitation programs, according to the Associated Press. Christopher Mabe, president of the 30,000-member Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, said in a telephone interview Tuesday the move was political but said it was evident from conversations with state officials that they don’t quite know what they are going to do. The union represents 8,000 employees in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, including more than 50 who work at the 10 prison farms, one of which is at Grafton in Lorain County. … The Columbus Dispatch reported that ODRC plans on eliminating all 10 farms covering 12,500 acres, with 2,300 beef cattle and 1,000 dairy cattle, by the end of the year. The state will continue farming this year but prepare to auction off livestock and stop farming by 2017, prisons director Gary Mohr told The Associated Press. … Prison officials said the state will keep open a 21,000-square-foot meat-processing plant at the Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient, Ohio. The state may partner with a private company to get more business for the plant, according to the Dispatch. However, a milk-processing plant is expected to close.

State to close all 10 prison farms, sell land
Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, April 12, 2016

Mohr said the closings will affect about 70 staff members and 220 inmates during the peak season. They will be moved to different jobs inside the prisons, but no layoffs are planned. State prisons have been in the farming business a very long time, dating back to 1868 when the first farming operation was proposed for the old Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. Prison officials said the reason for shutting down the century-old farm operations is not financial, although the state expects to harvest some revenue by selling 7,000 or more acres of farm land. … The Ohio Civil Services Employees Association, the union representing 30,000 state workers including prison employees, criticized the announcement as being done “without much explanation, rationale or plan.” The union said the closings will affect 56 union members who are farm coordinators.

Ohio shutting down prison farms, selling land
Source: Linda Martz, WKYC, April 12, 2016

State prison management told union officials that most farm production would be phased out by the end of 2016, including raising cattle and crops, as well as beverage and milk processing. The OCSEA said the farms have been in existence for over a hundred years “and have been, for the most part, self-sustaining.” In a press release, the union said the farm programs have also been centerpieces for inmate programming and skill-building, with inmates being taught how to operate heavy machinery, weld, drive large vehicles, repair equipment and use a variety of farm tools. … For years, powerful private food lobbyists, like the meat industry, have been lobbying the Ohio Statehouse in an effort to shut down the prison farms and take over the business, union officials said. … Aramark, Ohio’s private prison food vendor, which has been cited for food spoilage, has said it wants to ditch real milk for powdered milk that won’t spoil, the OCSEA said. Aramark has complained of a contract provision that requires it to purchase milk and beef from Ohio Prison Industries, union officials said.

Feds increase oversight, restrictions for Ohio’s $71 million charter school grant

Source: Doug Livingston and Katie Byard, Akron Beacon Journal, September 14, 2016

Ohio must hire an independent monitor to oversee how it spends $71 million in federal money to create more charter schools. The appointment of a monitor and other conditions the state must meet before it can receive the full $71 million were outlined in a letter dated Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Education to the Ohio Department of Education. … Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, concerned about the Ohio Department of Education’s oversight of charter schools and the schools’ persistently low academic performance, have pressed federal education officials to scrutinize how state officials spend the grant money. … The federal government last year established an initial series of restrictions concerning the grant money and froze spending of the initial $33 million allocation in federal funds. The earlier restrictions were put in place after media reports uncovered the state’s alleged rigging of Ohio’s new charter school accountability system. School Choice Director David Hansen, who authored the grant application, acknowledged omitting failing grades of certain online and dropout recovery schools from evaluations that were part of the new system. … The monitor may be paid out of the grant funds, the federal department said, and the salary must not exceed $250,000 per year. Additionally, the letter says the state must submit semiannual reports to the federal education department detailing how the grant money is spent. The state, working with the federal department, also must update annually a public database providing financial and school performance information …

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Ohio Delegation Crafting Charter Reform At Federal Level
Source: Ariel Van Cleave, WYSO, October 23, 2015

Ohio lawmakers at the federal level are working on their own charter school reform proposal. The state passed a measure earlier this month meant to crack down on bad charters. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown says this renewed push for reform comes after the U.S. Department of Education gave Ohio $71 million for its charter school system. He says the Charter School Accountability Act would ensure that money would go to schools with a proven track record of success. “In the last 15 years, state auditors have uncovered some $27 million in improperly spent funds in charter schools in our state alone,” Brown said. “Ohio charter schools misspend public money at almost four-times the rate of other types of public sector agencies.

Community development to remain city-run department

Source: Linda Martz, Mansfield News Journal, September 14, 2016

Mansfield City Council took action Tuesday to end the standoff over Mayor Tim Theaker’s former plan to eliminate the city’s community development department and contract its work out to a Coshocton-based nonprofit group. Theaker announced Tuesday that he had negotiated with a qualified candidate to run the office in-house, for a “fair and equitable wage,” contingent on council approval to upgrade his job title from manager to director. … City council and union members expressed concern in mid-June after learning that the mayor was eyeing a city contract under which the Ohio Regional Development Corp. in Coshocton would begin overseeing use of federal block grants, under U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines. … Several council members had supported a proposal raised last week, designed to keep the department in-house by raising the salary limit for the person running the office, to attract candidates qualified to run the program. Council returned Tuesday evening for further discussions of that proposal in public affairs committee. Law Director John Spon said the city’s $1 million federal block grant allocation for the coming year includes $176,000 allowed to be spent toward administration of the federal programs — money that should cover hiring a director at a theoretical $65,000 salary plus benefits, with $40,000 left in the budget beyond that. …

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Bill to outsource community development on hold
Source: Zack Lemon, Mansfield News Journal, August 30, 2016

For months, the City of Mansfield’s Community Development office has hung in limbo, after a mid-June announcement that it would be eliminated and replaced by a private nonprofit corporation. While the city’s administration has the ability to hire and fire employees, its plan to contract those services out requires city council to approve the contract between the city and the Ohio Regional Development Corp., the Coshocton-based nonprofit agency selected to assume community development duties for the city. … Remy said he received the contract from the Ohio Regional Development Corp., suggested some changes, and forwarded the contract to Spon about 10 days ago. Portions of the contract indicated a particular hourly rate the corporation would bill to the city for its services, but representatives of the corporation told council it would not receive any more money than the portion of the federal grant earmarked for administrative costs. …

Convention Center picks new food vendor

Source: Rick Rouan, Columbus Dispatch, August 2, 2016

The Greater Columbus Convention Center has selected a new food vendor. The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority chose Chicago-based Levy Restaurants from among four companies that submitted proposals to replace Centerplate, which lost its contract amid a federal investigation. … Brown said Levy’s reputation for handling convention center business around country, including those in Atlanta, Boston and Pittsburgh, made it an attractive choice. Levy will take over for Centerplate by November, Brown said. The company will handle all food and drink service in the convention center except for the food court. That business totals about $10 million a year, which nets about $3 million a year after expenses to help fund the convention center, he said. The contract with Levy is for five years with three, three-year renewal options. The authority will pay the company $200,000 a year, and Levy can earn another $100,000 a year in incentives. The authority also is paying $5,000 a month to the Columbus Hospitality Management firm to make sure that the transition between Centerplate and Levy is smooth. …

Former City Hall lobbyist John Raphael reports to federal prison

Source: Lucas Sullivan, Columbus Dispatch, August 26, 2016

John Raphael, once the most powerful lobbyist at Columbus City Hall, is now inmate No. 73379-061. … Raphael, who once worked for many of the major contractors with the city, began serving a 15-month sentence. U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson sentenced Raphael to prison in June after the lobbyist pleaded guilty to one count of extorting campaign contributions for city officials from the red-light-camera vendor Redflex. Watson allowed Raphael to undergo hip surgery and recover before serving his prison sentence. Former Redflex executives who cooperated with the federal investigation said the payments to Raphael were bribes that were passed to elected officials to secure contracts with the city. … Raphael, who is from Clintonville, could return to federal court in Columbus before his sentence runs out. He is under a separate federal investigation for his role in landing a food-service contract for a former client, Centerplate, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Convention Center officials found that Raphael and his friend Rodney Myers colluded with Centerplate to help the company win the contract in 2014. … The federal investigation and the internal investigation by the Convention Center board were launched after The Dispatch reported that Raphael escorted then-Columbus City Council members Andrew J. Ginther, Shannon Hardin, Eileen Paley and Michelle Mills on a chartered junket to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis days after Centerplate was awarded the food-vendor contract in 2014. The group sat in Centerplate’s suite and watched Ohio State play in the Big Ten Championship football game. …