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Ohio first to target K-3 in voucher program

Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

            Charlotte Lovelace picks up her kids, Carrie, 10, and Molly, 8, at Middletown Christian School, Friday, March 8, 2013. Ohio governor John Kasich has proposed an expansion of Ohio's EdChoice school voucher program. The Lovelace's use publicly funded vouchers to send their girls to Middletown Christian School, which is a private school. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
            Greg Lynch
Charlotte Lovelace picks up her kids, Carrie, 10, and Molly, 8, at Middletown Christian School, Friday, March 8, 2013. Ohio governor John Kasich has proposed an expansion of Ohio's EdChoice school voucher program. The Lovelace's use publicly funded vouchers to send their girls to Middletown Christian School, which is a private school. GREG LYNCH / STAFF(Greg Lynch)

Join us at noon Thursday for a live chat about school vouchers with Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Dayton, and Mario Basora, superintendent of Yellow Springs Exempted Village Schools. Click here to submit your questions for them in advance.

Ohio may become the first state in the nation to offer publicly funded vouchers to K-3 students whose schools fail to hit the bar in reading.

“That literacy emphasis to spark eligibility is definitely a first,” said Jeff Reed, communications director for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in Indianapolis.

Gov. John Kasich’s controversial proposed expansion of the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship program has drawn criticism from some and praise from others.

Proponents believe the EdChoice vouchers, as they are commonly known, offer more school choice, but opponents are against using public dollars to help fund private education.

Since 2006, the program has allowed students in chronically low-performing public schools to move to private or parochial schools using the vouchers. The numbers have grown from about 3,000 the first year to more than 16,000 today. The state pays about $66 million annually on EdChoice.

Lawmakers would have to approve the proposals, which include expanding the program to include low-income kindergartners and low-income first-graders.

In 2015-16, under the governor’s proposal, voucher eligibility also would extend to all students in grades K-3 in a school building that gets low marks in the early literacy measure on the new report cards. This would be tied to the new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.

“If a school consistently fails to provide their students with the basic reading skills they need to succeed in school, we want to make sure that parents have alternatives,” said Barbara Mattei-Smith, Kasich’s assistant policy director for education.

Yellow Springs Exempted Village Schools Superintendent Mario Basora opposes the expansion and will testify before a House education funding subcommittee Tuesday.

“I think it ultimately has the effect of undermining a good quality public education,” Basora said. “In an era when we keep being told the funds are low and we continually have to make cuts, I’m concerned we are taking public funds and spreading them around to private schools in this way.”

Kasich’s education reforms include $8.5 million in fiscal year 2014 and $17 million in FY15 for vouchers to students in households below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

State officials said the voucher expansion would be paid for from a separate fund and not deducted from school districts. The expansion tied to K-3 literacy would continue to financially impact those districts that lose voucher-users. The vouchers would be $4,250 for K-8 and $5,000 for 9-12.

In Springfield, 191 of the 530 students at Emmanuel Christian Academy are there on vouchers.

Dan Bragg, superintendent and high school principal, said many of those students never would have had these opportunities without vouchers.

“I think having private schools in the mix so that people can make choices — the whole free enterprise kind of mentality — is good for education,” Bragg said. “It says you need to do what you do and you need to do it well and if you don’t do it well, people are going to march to some other place.”

Most vouchers in area go to students in six districts

Nearly 3,000 students were awarded EdChoice scholarships in the Dayton area this school year, with two-thirds of them coming from Montgomery County. Another 635 were awarded in Clark County, 142 in Warren and at least 85 in Butler County.

>>Click here to download a PDF of attendance numbers at local EdChoice schools.<<

In the Miami Valley, the existing voucher program impacts six districts with low-performing schools — Dayton Public, Trotwood-Madison, Preble Shawnee, Springfield, Middletown and Jefferson Twp.

Dayton Public Superintendent Lori Ward is concerned expansion could lead to more students leaving the district and their funding following them out the door.

The district lost $7.3 million this school year alone due to vouchers, she said. Ward said she cannot find an “educational reason” behind extending it to low-income students and tying it to early literacy doesn’t acknowledge the challenges at play beyond the schools’ efforts, such as family life.

“That implies the school district has complete ownership of that early literacy,” she said.

Third graders at Park Layne Elementary in Bethel Twp., including Joseph Blackburn, center, practice reading from a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. during class Tuesday. Staff photo by Bill Lackey

30 percent of students at Middletown private school use vouchers

At Middletown Christian School, 142 of the 495 students in grades K-12 are there on EdChoice scholarships. Most of those students are coming from Middletown but they do get a couple from Dayton, Superintendent Mark Spradling said.

“It has opened up an opportunity for a number of families that couldn’t afford Christian, private education. In that way, it has been a great blessing,” he said.

Spradling said because nearly 30 percent of its student body are voucher-users, that has led to a positive impact financially – more than $500,000 annually in tuition subsidies.

Charlotte Lovelace, filled out her EdChoice scholarship renewal forms on Thursday for her two daughters, Carrie, 10, a fourth grader, and Molly, 8, a second grader.

They have been attending Middletown Christian School for two years on vouchers after Carrie finished first-grade at Highview Elementary in Middletown, one of the low-rated schools.

“I wanted them to have the Christ background and to learn about God each and every day. Those things were crucially important to me,” she said.

Lovelace is not concerned about taxpayer money being used to send her kids to a private school but she knows others might be upset about that.

“I understand a lot of the concern is where the money ends up going, but the truth of the matter is the only person hurting would be the child,” she said. “If they can get a good education from a school that is not failing and the government might be able to place them there in order to achieve that, who cares who gets the money?”

One person who feels strongly about that is Joe Lacey, president of the Dayton Public school board. He opposes those public funds being used in that way.

“The main concept behind choice is competition,” he said, “but we’re not on the same playing field if not all the competitors have the same accountability.”

Springboro school levy group late in registering with election board

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 7:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

            Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF
            Lawrence Budd
Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF(Lawrence Budd)

The Springboro schools’ substitute levy campaign established a committee with the local elections board on Tuesday, about two months after supporters began work to promote passage of a continuing substitute 7.4-mill levy.

The levy, Issue 18 on the Nov. 7 ballot, is expected to raise more than $7.9 million for Springboro school district expenses, if approved.

RELATED: Springboro schools to seek substitute levy

Before accepting or spending money promoting an issue or candidate, a campaign committee needs to be set up and a treasurer designated with the county election board, according to Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections.

District Treasurer Terrah Floyd said other steps had been taken by campaign committee volunteers to establish the committee before it was formed late Tuesday at the local election office.

Sleeth said Wednesday the group filed paperwork with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

“They went to the wrong office and did the wrong form,” Sleeth said. “They set themselves up as a business.”

The committee has made no expenditures, but has had some donations, Sleeth said.

The committee is in compliance now because they filed the proper forms with the county office Tuesday, Sleeth said.

A group can establish a campaign committee through the Secretary of State’s office on state issues, but must set up the committee with the county election board on local issues, according to Sleeth.

The committee’s records will be reviewed after filing campaign finance reports following the election, a legal requirement for campaign committees. If there appears to be any violations, the case will be turned over to the Ohio Elections Commission, Sleeth said.

“We’ve never had this happen before,” Sleeth said.

Floyd and Superintendent Dan Schroer formed the committee in August with more than 40 people from the community.

“They had to start over from scratch,” Floyd said of supporters, noting she and Schroer were limited in their levy involvement during work hours. “Nobody else knew to tell them what to do.”

MORE: Springboro to seek new money after five consecutive defeats

A website has been set up,, social media and other duties distributed. Schroer is expected to speak to groups throughout the district in support of the levy.

The committee took the place of Neighbors for Springboro Schools, the committee through which recent levy campaigns have accepted contributions and spent money promoting issues.

Neighbors for Springboro Schools initially committed $1,600 to the substitute levy campaign.

“There needs be something substantial for them to start with,” board member Lisa Babb said during a Sept. 28 school board meeting.

Babb was responding to questions about the status of the campaign and why Neighbors for Springboro Schools (NFSS) had held onto more than $7,000.

Babb and resident Tiffany Carlisle then indicated NFSS decided to hold onto some of the money still in its treasury from past campaigns for future levies seeking new operating money for the district.

Voters here have rejected five consecutive levies for new money, but approved a renewal with a reduced levy in 2013.

MORE: Schools raise more money from new development with substitute levy

Substitute levies are still relatively uncommon.

School officials in districts like Springboro and Beavercreek trying to find a way to keep up with growing student populations and the costs of providing a public education are turning more to this option, added in Ohio in 2008.

People already paying property taxes on emergency levies like the one that would be replaced by the substitute levy shouldn’t see their bills go up after passage of the substitute measure.

Unlike other levies, substitutes enable districts to collect full taxes on residential and commercial properties improved after passage, unless they are exempted through tax abatements or other incentives.

Districts can actually reduce the millage levied, once the continuing substitute levy has been approved and money from new development can be counted.

Last week, Carlisle said NFSS “stands ready to assist the new campaign with any funding they request, whether it be for signs, mailings, or other campaign materials for community events.”

On Tuesday, Carlisle said, “We are currently working on finding out how to legally transfer PAC funds and plan to transfer all NFSS funds to the new campaign as soon as we can.”

Lebanon school board: No disciplinary action against superintendent

Published: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 11:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 8:53 PM

            The Lebanon Warriors junior high football team practiced Wednesday as the school board met about the superintendent keeping players off the field last Friday night during the playing of the national anthem.Staff photo by Michael Burianek
The Lebanon Warriors junior high football team practiced Wednesday as the school board met about the superintendent keeping players off the field last Friday night during the playing of the national anthem.Staff photo by Michael Burianek

The Lebanon Board of Education took no disciplinary action Wednesday related to the superintendent’s decision to keep the players off the field before the varsity football game last Friday night.

The board emerged from an hour-long executive session to apologize to anyone upset by the decision and to express confidence in Todd Yohey.

“We have full confidence in Mr. Yohey as our superintendent moving forward,” Board President Chip Bonny said in a statement.

On Sept. 30, Yohey posted an apology on the district’s Facebook page for keeping players in the locker room Friday night during the national anthem. The decision prompted responses on the social network.

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by that decision. We ask for your forgiveness,” Yohey concluded in Saturday’s statement.

RELATED: High school teams weren’t responding to protests during Star Spangled Banner

The issue stems from reactions around the world and at NFL games this year since Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, took a knee in in protest of what he called police brutality involving black men and women killed by police.

Kaepernick is not playing this year, prompting other players to kneel in support.

MORE: Fans react to report that Bengals players want Kaepernick

At Wednesday’s meeting in Lebanon, residents expressed a range of views about keeping the players off the filed during the playing of the anthem.

Rochelle Collins expressed support for Yohey’s decision, noting the importance of keeping students safe.

“We’ve never been through a time like this before,” she said.

MORE: Local players join anthem protest

Randy Lang said the players should have been given the opportunity to decide whether to take a knee during the national anthem.

“As Americans, we have a right to make that decision,” he said.

Rene Forrester said it was unlikely a riot or any violence would have resulted and emphasized the importance of free speech.

“That’s bigger than the flag, bigger than the national anthem,” Forrester said.

Follow Larry Budd on Twitter

Teacher Jenni Brunka expressed concern that Yohey’s job was at issue.

“What I’ve seen so far has been amazing,” Brunka said.”He has made so much progress in a short time.”

Higher Education Today: WSU engineering students analyze Mars mission

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 5:44 PM

            Students in an introductory materials science and engineering class at Wright State University analyzed what it would take for humans to safely travel to Mars, live on the red planet and return to Earth. (Wright State University photo)
Students in an introductory materials science and engineering class at Wright State University analyzed what it would take for humans to safely travel to Mars, live on the red planet and return to Earth. (Wright State University photo)

Meteor strikes, temperature extremes, ultraviolet radiation and cramped living quarters – a group of Wright State University engineering students used their collective brainpower to overcome these challenges thrown up by a manned mission to Mars.

“Let’s Go to Mars!” was the final project in the spring semester introductory materials science and engineering class for sophomores taught by Raghavan Srinivasan, professor and director of the materials science and engineering program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“There is a lot of interest in Mars – movies, books and TV specials by National Geographic and the Discovery channels,” said Srinivasan. “It is seen as the first extraterrestrial planet humans will be able to colonize.”

The students were assigned to conduct an engineering analysis of materials that could be needed to go to Mars, live there and return. The 30 students worked in teams on different aspects of the trip, including the spacecraft’s fuel delivery system, exterior shell, windows and heat shield, as well as a Mars ground vehicle and housing on the red planet. They made their presentations in April.

The presentations were well-researched, based on engineering principles and sprinkled with humor. There was a video of a rocket being launched, film clips from the movies “Gravity” and “The Martian” and a homemade video titled “Cooking With Sulfur” to demonstrate how to make Martian concrete for housing.

The fuel delivery system involved an analysis of fuel and oxidizer choices, storage tanks and delivery tubes. Stainless-steel Grade 304N was chosen as the material for the fuel storage tank because it is easily welded, relatively inexpensive to produce and resistant to corrosion. Ultra-high molecular-weight-polyethylene was selected as an outer shielding for the fuel tanks because it is less vulnerable to cracking and resistant to micro-meteor strikes.

Cramped quarters for the six-to-nine-months-long trip to Mars was also a challenge. The students recommended the spacecraft’s frame have a cylindrical shape with a large rotating ring that can provide a gravitational feel for the astronauts. The spacecraft would be assembled in space with Inconel for the high stress areas, and steel and aluminum for lower stress large structural parts. Students also suggested an outer layer of Kevlar to absorb micro-meteor impacts.

For the windows, students suggested a three-panel design with an inert gas between the panes to minimize the chances of the windows rupturing. To overcome atmospheric temperatures, changes in pressure and ultraviolet radiation, the students recommended that the outer pane be fused silica and the inner pane be made of aluminosilicate glass. They also warned that since glasses and ceramics are brittle, precise engineering is essential.

The students suggested that the spacecraft have a blunt-bodied shape to reduce the heat created when plummeting through the Martian atmosphere and a ceramic heat shield because the material has a high melting point and is unlikely to deform. Reinforced carbon-carbon and carbon-ceramic composites are ideal heat-shield materials for re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the students said. But at $2,600 for a four-by-four-inch sheet one-quarter-inch thick, “You’re not going to find it at Walmart,” one student said. “It’s not going to be a cheap project.”

Housing on Mars must provide sufficient oxygen, the ability to grow food and protection from ultraviolet radiation and temperature extremes. The students suggested using Martian concrete, comprised of 50 percent sulfur and 50 percent Martian soil.

They recommended distributing “organic bombs” around the planet to populate it with oxygen-creating plants. For the short-term, mega greenhouses could be built to grow food using human waste as fertilizer, they said.

Materials for a Mars ground vehicle must be lightweight, stable, vibration-dampening and be made of materials that could withstand extremely cold temperatures without becoming brittle. After comparing alloys of aluminum, iron and titanium, the students suggested a titanium alloy.

“I think they did quite well,” Srinivasan said of his students following their presentations. “A lot of this is beyond material that we cover in class, so they had to do research to figure out exactly what to do. The sulfur concrete – I hadn’t heard of that before.”

The project counted as 20 percent of the students’ grades. Srinivasan will teach the course again this fall semester, but the theme of the final project is yet to be determined. Last fall, the final project topic was fictional vehicles.

Wright State University became an independent institution in 1967 and spent the next 50 years growing into an innovative leader in undergraduate research. In 2017, it celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent public university, culminating with a special homecoming celebration Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

Higher Education Today: Cedarville engineering teams earn best honors

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 5:33 PM

            A display by Cedarville University students at the Ohio State Fair won an award in August for best technology exhibit. (Cedarville University photo)
A display by Cedarville University students at the Ohio State Fair won an award in August for best technology exhibit. (Cedarville University photo)

Cedarville University’s supermileage cars and robotics team have made an impression at national competitions. But now they’re impressing at the grandstand.

The Ohio State Fair wrapped up Aug. 6, but not before Cedarville University’s student-engineers scored “Best Technology Exhibit” for both the supermileage car and robotics displays. The Ohio Technology and Engineering Educators Association awarded the trophies to both teams.

This was the second honor for the supermileage team, which also earned a People’s Choice Award for Technology Education on July 28.

“We wanted to showcase Cedarville University’s engineering program and the success we have had with our competitions in a new venue – the Ohio State Fair,” said Dr. Larry Zavodney, senior professor of mechanical engineering and the supermileage team adviser.

“Dick Dieffenderfer, director of the Technology and Engineering Showcase in the Lausche Youth Building, told our students he would like to see them come back next year,” Zavodney added. “The display got a lot of positive attraction and response. We talked to probably 70-plus families on Aug. 5.”

The Cedarville University American Society for Engineering Education robotics team showed its competition robot from this year’s ASEE national contest held in Columbus this June.

“Four of our team members were able to share their experiences and demonstrate the functioning robot to young and old fair-goers,” noted Clint Kohl, professor of computer engineering and team adviser. “Many were excited and impressed with how capable and sophisticated the Cedarville robot was. It was also a great opportunity to make Cedarville University more recognized.”

Cedarville University student-engineers designed and built Urbie, Gold Lightening II and Sting, cars not known for speed but ultra-high energy efficiency. The supermileage cars are designed for traveling hundreds, or even more than a thousand miles, per gallon.

The Cedarville University robot is designed to complete a unique task while navigating a maze-like track as quickly as possible, without human assistance via remote control.

This year, the university earned fourth place in the urban concept combustion engine division and 13th place in the prototype internal combustion engine division at the Shell Eco-marathon in Detroit. The fourth-place win garnered a $1,000 prize. This year, the Cedarville robotics team earned a first-place finish in the ASEE national contest.

Zavodney and Chad Jackson, Cedarville University’s director of creative services, designed the display, which features 42 STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors and special programs at the university. These account for half of all majors and programs at Cedarville University.

For more information about the university, visit