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State lawmakers generally agreed that too many Ohio school children are struggling to read during a debate in June on legislation to advance Gov. John Kasich’s education agenda.
But many Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against the Republican governor’s education policies, which included a third-grade reading guarantee, when they were up for a vote on June 13.
Their reasons for opposition varied.
Some thought the changes amounted to an unfunded mandate on schools whose state funding already had been cut through Kasich’s budget.
Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat from Lorain, said the bill was incomplete because it lacked early education programs such as all-day kindergarten to prepare young students, particularly children in poverty.
During a floor speech June 13, Ramos made clear his district’s educational needs:
"I represent, amongst others, the city of Lorain, which is the poorest urban school district in the state of Ohio."
Ramos was one of several lawmakers to speak that day about the bill, Senate Bill 316, also known as the "education MBR" because it was the education component of Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review. The bill passed the House that day by a vote of 56-35, with most Democrats voting "no."
Although Ramos’ claim is not about specific provisions in the bill, it caught our attention. Does Lorain really hold the unwanted title of the state’s poorest urban school district.
So we called Ramos for an explanation.
Ramos said he did not have any statistics or information that showed Lorain is the state’s single poorest district. He provided data from the Ohio Department of Education that shows the city is among districts with the highest percentage of poor students.
"I should have said, ‘one of the’" poorest urban school districts, Ramos said.
The city had the state’s sixth-highest percentage, 84.5 percent, of students in poverty in the fiscal year ending in July 2011. Students were considered to be living in poverty if they received free or reduced-priced lunches or if their guardians receive public assistance.
Cleveland was first, with 100 percent of students in poverty; Dayton was second with 92.5 percent; Youngstown was third with 91.9 percent; East Cleveland was fourth with 88.5 percent and Akron was fifth with 84.7 percent.
Lorain ranked fourth the previous year behind Cleveland, Dayton and Youngstown.
Ramos said the fact Lorain is among the state’s poorest districts – rather than the single poorest – does not negate the overarching point of his floor speech: School children in Lorain are on hard times and need the state’s help to get a better education, however, the policies in SB 316 do not fully address those needs.
Ramos may have a point. And he is correct to say students in Lorain are needy. But his explanation does not make his claim on the House floor accurate. The poorest urban school district in Ohio, in the eyes of the Ohio Department of Education, is Cleveland.
On the Truth-O-Meter, his claim rates False.
The Ohio Channel, House floor debate on Senate Bill 316, June 13, 2012
Phone interview with State Rep. Dan Ramos, June 19, 2012
E-mail correspondence with State Rep. Dan Ramos, June 19-21, 2012
Phone interview and e-mail correspondence with Patrick Gallaway of the Ohio Department of Education, June 19-21, 2012
Ohio Department of Education, FY2011 District Profile Report (also known as the Cupp Report)
Ohio Department of Education, FY2010 District Profile Report (also known as the Cupp Report)
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