California schools race sets record for most expensive
By SOPHIA BOLLAG and SALLY HO
Wednesday, October 24
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is again recording the most expensive state superintendent election in history, with a cast of billionaires who are outspending the teachers unions in support of a former charter schools executive.
The California State Superintendent of Public Instruction is a nonpartisan office that is featuring two Democrats vying for the job. It has no legislative authority but would be an important symbolic victory for the charter school movement. The role has long been eyed as a school choice prize for education policy watchers who see its potential to influence state education policy nationally.
California is one of just 13 states with an elected state superintendent. South Carolina this year not only has a superintendent race but also a ballot question asking voters for a Constitutional amendment to make it an appointed position.
Half of the top 10 most expensive state superintendent election races in the country have been in California, according to an AP analysis of data compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics. Those top-dollar elections have all occurred since 2002, a period that has since marked a trailblazing era for publicly-funded, privately-run schools in the largest state in the country, which also has the most charter schools and the most robust charter laws in the country.
This election cycle has already netted $8 million in direct campaign contributions between the two candidates.
Marshall Tuck, who previously led the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and the charter network Green Dot Public Schools, has raised $5 million in direct campaign contributions, while the union-backed state Assemblyman Tony Thurmond has netted $3.1 million.
But the real money in this race flows through outside committees to the tune of $44 million and counting. By way of comparison just over $1 million has been spent in independent expenditures in the California U.S. Senate race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
Tuck has benefited from more than $32 million in outside spending. The largest individual donor backing him is Bill Bloomfield, who has spent nearly $6 million to support Tuck. Bloomfield, a frequent political donor from Southern California, said that he’s known Tuck for years for his work with low-income children.
“I’m confident that he can’t and won’t be bought and sold by any special interest,” Bloomfield said in an email.
Other leading donors include Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, philanthropist Eli Broad, Gap retail founder Doris Fisher and Walmart company heirs including Carrie Walton Penner, Jim C. Walton and Alice Walton. They’ve piled money into Tuck-supporting groups, including EdVoice for the Kids PAC, which has spent nearly all its money this cycle supporting Tuck.
Tuck said he wants to give more districts waivers from the provisions of the California education code. He says money is essential to reach voters in the nation’s most populous state.
“I think it’s the most important issue that the state is not doing a good job on,” Tuck said of public education.
Groups backing Thurmond have spent more than $12 million in independent expenditures, with more than $8 million of that coming from the California Teachers Association. The rest has largely come from the California Democratic Party and other unions, including the California Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union.
California Teachers Association president Eric Heins said the union wants to see Thurmond in office because he’ll continue to implement the education reforms already in place.
“It makes a difference when teachers are in the room and the union is in the room at every level of education,” Heins said.
Thurmond and Tuck both say securing more money for public schools is a top priority and oppose for-profit charter schools.
The winner gets a job with influence but not much direct power over education policy, which is largely set by the governor, Legislature and Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco’s former mayor, is widely expected to be elected governor next month.
Newsom has called for more accountability and a moratorium on charter school expansions, a stark departure from the past decade of charter-friendly policies in the state. He’s garnered teacher union support while also mobilizing deep-pocketed charter school supporters.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst and University of Southern California professor, said the state superintendent race has become “a grudge match” and “raw political warfare.” Tuck winning the seat would offer a perception of power and influence for the charter school movement, and the billionaires’ money is a show of force to prove that they may be down, but not out of the political conversation in the years to come.
“It prevents them from being totally steamrolled by the teachers union. The message is ‘You need to listen to us too,” Bebitch Jeffe said.
Ho reported from Seattle. AP writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed.
PUCO awards 16 hazardous materials training grants
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Oct. 24, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today approved sixteen hazardous materials training grants totaling $231,029.19.
The PUCO plays an important role in ensuring that motor carriers are safely transporting hazardous materials throughout Ohio. Through the PUCO’s hazardous materials training grant program, public safety and emergency services personnel across Ohio are awarded grants for training to best respond to incidents related to hazardous materials.
The PUCO awarded the following grants:
- Chagrin/Southeast Council of Governments– $3,973.41 to conduct the 2018 Ohio Hazmat Teams Conference.
- Chemical Emergency Preparedness Advisory Council – $2,119.21 to conduct a hazardous materials training exercise for Franklin County.
- Cincinnati State Technical and Community College – $104,974.95 to conduct two hazardous materials training courses.
- City of Mason Fire Department & Northeast Fire Collaborative – $8,927.17 to fund a hazardous materials training course.
- City of Toledo, Division of Environmental Services– $17,088.78 to fund four hazardous materials training courses.
- Darke County Local Emergency Planning Committee– $1,742.42 to fund a hazardous materials training course.
- Dayton Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team– $6,780.94 to fund a hazardous materials training course.
- Delaware County Emergency Management Agency– $2,860.93 to fund a hazardous materials training course.
- Fairfield County Emergency Management Agency– $5,475.55 to conduct a hazardous materials training course.
- Greater Cincinnati Hazmat Unit & Evandale Fire Department – $5,372.46 to conduct a hazardous materials training course.
- Hamilton County Local Emergency Planning Committee – $12,377.26 to fund a hazardous materials training course.
- Payne Fire Department – $3,484.84 to conduct a hazardous materials training course.
- Stark County Local Emergency Planning Committee – $3,250.87 to fund a transportation commodity flow study.
- Summit County Emergency Management Agency (Special Ops Response Team, HazMat Branch) – $4,768.22 to conduct three hazardous materials training courses.
- The University of Findlay – $45,871.90 to fund three hazardous materials training courses.
- Warren County Local Emergency Planning Committee – $1,960.27 to fund a hazardous materials training exercise.
The PUCO awards hazardous materials planning and training grants to local government subdivisions, educational institutions and state agencies in Ohio. Money for these grants comes from fines paid by hazardous material carriers and shippers. Individual grants are based upon applications to the PUCO and are awarded on a reimbursement basis.
The PUCO has regulatory authority to conduct audits, inspections and safety reviews to evaluate the safety records, policies and procedures of motor carriers, including hazardous materials carriers. The PUCO hazardous materials transportation program has been recognized by Battelle Memorial Institute as one of the best and most comprehensive of such programs in the nation.
For more information about the PUCO’s hazardous materials planning and training grants program, please visit the motor carrier section of www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
PUCO establishes PowerForward Collaborative
PowerForward Collaborative will meet Dec. 6
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Oct. 24, 2018) – Today the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) issued an order to establish the PowerForward Collaborative, and its subgroups, the Distribution System Planning Working Group (PWG) and the Data and Modern Grid Workgroup (DWG).
“Today’s PowerForward Commission action is the next step in building our state’s electricity future,” said PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “The PowerForward Collaborative is an opportunity for stakeholders to be directly involved in helping create Ohio’s grid modernization policies for the future.”
The PowerForward Collaborative is an overarching workgroup of utility stakeholders, and will be led by the PUCO staff. The Collaborative is tasked with observing marketplace development to ensure PowerForward’s principles and objectives are being fulfilled.
Specifically, the PowerForward Roadmap contemplates that the PowerForward Collaborative will discuss issues associated with electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as a process for the deployment of non-wires alternatives.
The PWG and DWG will include discussions surrounding the integration of distributed resources and non-wires alternatives into the system, data access and data privacy.
The Commission ordered that the first meeting of the PowerForward Collaborative will be Dec. 6, 2018, at the PUCO offices in Columbus. Interested persons are encouraged to enroll in PowerForward email update lists to receive future correspondences regarding the PowerForward Collaborative.
On Aug. 29, 2018, the PUCO issued PowerForward: A Roadmap to Ohio’s Electricity Future. The PowerForward Roadmap envisions the future electric distribution grid as a secure, open-access platform that will give customers more control over how they consume electricity, and allow customers to adopt innovative applications of their choosing as they are introduced on the market.
A copy of today’s entry is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov in cases 18-1595-EL-GRD, 18-1596-EL-GRD, 18-1597-EL-GRD.
PUCO orders Ohio utilities to file applications to reduce rates due to tax cuts
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Oct. 24, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) ordered Ohio’s regulated public utilities to file applications to reduce their rates due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).
“The PUCO remains adamant that every dime utilities collect due to the reduction in corporate taxes be returned to ratepayers,” state PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “Today we direct our utilities to file an application to reduce rates in order to pass along to customers the tax savings resulting from the TCJA.”
The Commission ordered electric, natural gas, water and wastewater utilities whose rates are regulated by the PUCO and serve more than 10,000 customers to file an application by Jan. 1, 2019 to reduce rates. Specifically, utility applications should address how to reduce base distribution rates, rider rates and accumulated deferred income taxes.
In its order, the Commission noted a few utilities have already reduced certain riders, or adjusted base distribution rates through recently approved rate cases.
The Commission also stressed that utilities that fail to file an application to reduce rates in compliance with today’s Commissioner order may be subject to monetary fines.
The TCJA was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, which among other things, reduced the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
On Jan. 10, 2018, the Commission ordered an investigation to study the impacts of the TCJA on PUCO-regulated utilities and how best to pass on the benefits to customers, and directed utilities to set aside money in excess of the reduced tax rate to later be returned to customers.
On April 25, 2018, the Commission denied legal arguments jointly filed by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities challenging the PUCO’s January order directing utilities to set aside money in excess of the reduced corporate tax rate during the pendency of the Commission’s investigation.
A copy of today’s decision is available on the PUCO website www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System and search for case number 18-47-AU-COI.
PUCO accepts results of FirstEnergy auction
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Oct. 24, 2018) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today accepted the results of FirstEnergy’s wholesale auction that will ultimately determine its default retail generation rates through May 2020.
The auction, held on Oct. 22, 2018, secured a one-year product to supply electricity to FirstEnergy’s Ohio utility customers.
The one-year product auction resulted in three winning bidders and an average clearing price of $47.12 per megawatt hour (MWh) for the delivery period of June 2019 through May 2020.
The results will be blended with previous and future auctions to help determine the price-to-compare for FirstEnergy’s Ohio customers during the delivery period.
CRA International served as the independent auction manager, and Bates White Economic Consulting, a consultant retained by the PUCO, monitored the auction process. The names of the winning bidders will remain confidential for 21 days.
Customers continue to have the opportunity to consider competitive options to meet their electricity needs, including shopping for an alternate supplier or joining a local government aggregation group. More information about how to choose a supplier is available at www.energychoice.ohio.gov. The PUCO’s Apples to Apples comparison charts provide customers with a snapshot comparison of current electric supplier offers and contract terms. The charts are updated daily.
Additional information regarding the auction format is available at bidding manager’s website www.firstenergycpb.com.
A copy of today’s Commission finding and order and redacted version of the report issued by the auction manager are available at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter the case number 16-776-EL-UNC.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative. Utilities Commission of Ohio · 180 East Broad Street · Columbus, OH 43215 · 1-800-686-PUCO (7826) GovDelivery logo
Cluster of factors could help predict C. diff
Study finds evidence that could lead to prevention of life-threatening infections
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A cluster of factors may help predict which patients are likely to develop Clostridioides difficile, a potentially life-threatening disease commonly known as C. difficile or C. diff, a new study has found.
And that could help in efforts to prevent infection, according to the researchers.
Reduced immune function, recent antibiotic use, current or recent hospitalization and prior C. difficile infection predicted risk of subsequent infection, opening the door to potential preventive interventions.
“This could help health care providers red-flag those patients who are at high risk of C. diff, and may one day lead to therapeutic or dietary tactics to lower the chances of infection,” said the study’s co-lead author, Vanessa Hale of The Ohio State University.
The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The research included studies in both humans and mice, and involved the transplant of feces from human study participants to mice to assess differences in susceptibility to C. difficile infection and molecular-level explanations for that increased risk.
“Microbes in the gut play a critical role in defending against disease, and the really exciting part of this study is that it might help us better identify the risk factors that are linked to problems in the gut and susceptibility to these dangerous infections,” said Hale, an assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State. The study was conducted at the Mayo Clinic, where she previously worked.
The researchers started by looking at the gut microbes of a group of 115 people who had diarrhea but who did not have C. diff when they first sought medical care, some of whom went on to develop a C. diff infection. They also analyzed the gut microbes of 118 healthy volunteers for comparison.
“About half of the diarrhea patients had gut microbial communities that looked healthy, but the guts of the other half were really intriguing – they had different microbes and very different levels of metabolites. We called this half the ‘dysbiotic’ – or unhealthy – group,” Hale said.
“When we transplanted human stool from the dysbiotic group into mice, we discovered that these mice were more likely to become infected with C. diff than mice that received human stool from the healthy-looking group.”
The researchers then examined potential risk factors found on the medical charts of individuals with “dysbiotic” and healthy-looking gut microbial communities and found a cluster of five factors that were associated with unhealthy communities.
“We knew that dysbiotic microbial communities put mice at higher risk of C. diff infection, and we wanted to see if the five factors could be used to predict C. diff infections in humans,” Hale said.
To do this, the research team went back and looked at the medical charts of more than 17,000 previous patients who were free of C. diff when they initially sought care. In that larger group, there also was a clear connection between the risk factors and subsequent C. diff infection.
Furthermore, the researchers found higher levels of amino acids – particularly proline – in the guts of mice that received transplants from people whose gut microbiomes were unhealthy, or dysbiotic.
That was interesting, and potentially important, because C. diff needs amino acids like proline to proliferate and it cannot make proline on its own. That prompted the team to wonder if reducing dietary amino acids could protect against C. diff, Hale said.
Feeding the mice diets low in protein moderately lowered the growth of C. diff, providing further evidence that amino acids – including proline – play a role in risk of infection and leaving researchers curious about the potential for dietary interventions in at-risk humans, Hale said.
“It’s possible that a dietary strategy could reduce C. diff infection in those patients who are deemed to be susceptible based on the cluster of risk factors we identified,” she said, adding that more study is needed to understand that relationship.
The study also showed that prophylactic fecal transplantation from a healthy donor could protect against C. diff in mice that were initially prone to infection.
“The transplants were fully protective against C. diff infection in all of the animals we tested, which was pretty amazing,” Hale said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently allows fecal transplantation for treatment of recurrent C. diff in individuals who do not respond to conventional therapies – primarily antibiotics. However, it is unlikely that fecal transplantation would quickly be adopted as a prevention strategy in those deemed to be at elevated risk of infection, Hale said.
The National Institutes of Health and the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic supported the study. Eric Battaglioli of Georgetown College was the co-lead author. Purna Kashyap of Mayo Clinic is the senior author.