Week in Review - 01/12/2018

Week in Review - 01/12/2018

FY18-19 BUDGET

Tax revenues lagged slightly in December but are still a hair above expectations for the year so far, the Office of Budget and Management reported in its preliminary release of monthly budget numbers Friday. Non-auto sales taxes were the biggest driver of December's underperformance, coming in 1 percent or about $8 million below estimates, yielding $809.7 million versus an expected $817.8 million. Auto sales taxes trailed by a lesser amount, generating a quarter million dollars less than expected, a 0.2 percent drop from projections.


EDUCATION

Electronic Classroom of Ohio (ECOT) warned repeatedly for months that the state's move to reclaim past funding and garnish ongoing payments could force it to close this year. But the end might instead be imposed by its sponsor, which wrote a letter Wednesday telling ECOT officials it wants to shutter the school next week. In an official notice of its intent to suspend school operations, the Educational Service Center (ESC) of Lake Erie West cites fiscal management problems, inability to follow the law and concerns about the disruptions that would result if ECOT has to shut down this spring in the middle of a semester. The sponsor gave ECOT until next Wednesday, Jan. 17, to submit a proposal to remedy the problems it raised.


Later this month or early in the next, Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) hopes to introduce legislation to overhaul state report cards for local school districts, which he said suffer from arbitrary measures, questionable methodology and a lack of buy-in from local communities, among other problems. The bill would end the assignment of A-F letter grades.


Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Ohio Department of Education accountability chief Chris Woolard gave State Board of Education members a broad overview Monday of the components of Ohio's A-F report card for local school districts, priming the pump for future discussions on how the accountability system can change in response to various public pressures and criticisms.


School districts could see improvements on their state report card grades under a change approved by a State Board of Education committee Monday that will modify how high school test re-takes affect local ratings. The Accountability and Continuous Improvement Committee voted to approve creation of a new end of course improvement indicator as part of the report card's Achievement component.


Meanwhile Tuesday, the board started discussions on but then tabled a proposal from member Lisa Woods to form two special workgroups to review and recommend changes to the state report card. Board members debated at length whether the solution should come through workgroups, the existing committee structure, ongoing strategic planning discussions, or other means. Board President Tess Elshoff eventually tabled the matter for a month, saying she would huddle with Superintendent Paolo DeMaria to come up with some options for tackling the report card debate.


Students in the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020 could get the same flexibility on graduation requirements as those in the class of 2018 after a vote Tuesday by the State Board of Education. But the move ultimately requires action by the General Assembly, and one key legislator said Tuesday the House is already working on its own plan. Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), chairman of the House Education Committee, showed up near the end of Tuesday's debate in the board's Achievement and Graduation Requirements Committee and quickly dumped cold water on a proposal to extend the 2018 options for two more years.


The State Board of Education stretched its monthly meeting into an unusual third day Wednesday to check in on strategic planning discussions being facilitated by the Ohio Department of Education. Several board members are participating in development of the plan. The board spent the bulk of its time debating the state-level vision and overarching goal identified in strategic planning discussions. The board also reviewed draft lists of strategies identified by the early learning and literacy workgroup and the student supports, school climate and culture workgroup. Both lists are subject to further changes.


ELECTIONS

Secretary of State Jon Husted was on hand in Washington, D.C. Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, in which the state is defending its practice of removing voters from the rolls if they do not vote for two federal cycles in a row. Justices are considering the case after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found parts of Ohio's voter roll maintenance process violates the National Voter Registration Act. Husted and the state argue Ohio's practices are needed to maintain the integrity of the voter rolls and the elections process.


GAMING/GAMBLING

Ohioans spent more on gaming at Ohio's four casinos in 2017 than they did the year before, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. According to the commission, Ohio's four casinos earned nearly $819 million in 2017, up from $798 million in 2016. Hollywood Casino Columbus was the top earner with nearly $221 million, followed by JACK Cleveland Casino at $201 million, Hollywood Casino Toledo with nearly $199 million, and JACK Cincinnati Casino, at nearly $198 million.