Why Worry About Kids? 

Especially when there's free golf to mooch.

With so many discount Florida vacations and free rounds of golf to sponge, state leaders can't be expected to concern themselves with kids. That's why the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled the state's school-funding system unconstitutional on four separate occasions.

Yet the legislature has continued to blow it off. Either that, or the court's ruling contained too many big words, and Republicans couldn't find anyone to read it for them.

So it's easy to understand why, after a year of crusading for an investigation of Ohio's charter schools, state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) has exactly squat to show for it.

Ohio has spent more than $1 billion on charters since 1998. Yet the majority of those schools received rubber-stamp authorization, and many have never even checked to see whether they meet minimal academic standards. That may be why three-quarters of them bombed on state proficiency tests last year.

One that opened without oversight is the International Preparatory School, a Cleveland charter that's achieved a clean-sweep of failure in every academic category.

After reading Scene's article on the school ["Dream Killer," July 27], Fedor fired off a letter to state education chief Susan Zellman and Attorney General Jim Petro. "Where is the oversight and accountability and what will be done to either improve or close this school?" Fedor wrote.

But she doesn't expect to hear back. Despite alarming failure rates, neither official seems remotely interested in investigating charters. There is golf to play, after all.

"It's extremely frustrating," says Fedor, a former public-school teacher. "It's obvious from your article that these kids want to learn. And nobody is helping them. Nobody is looking out for them."

Coats taketh away
Cleveland Councilman Roosevelt Coats, who represents parts of Collinwood and Glenville, has shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for "neighborhood equity" projects. The money, from council members' individual slush funds, usually goes to street improvements, community and senior centers, and other noble causes, buying members great flier material come election time.

But one donation to a local church caught the eye of Freddie Moore, a sheriff's deputy battling for Coats' council seat this fall. In a neighborhood with many poor, struggling churches, Moore can't figure out why his councilman kicked $25,000 to Lee Memorial AME, which isn't even in the ward.

You, wise reader, already know the score; Coats just happens to be a member of Lee Memorial.

Punch tried to explain to Moore that experienced politicians prefer to help their friends instead of their constituents. But Moore, a political novice, didn't seem to get it.

"We need those dollars," he says. "I'm baffled. Take care of home first."

Strange science
In July, two Democratic senators struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They would allow the confirmation hearing of Acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford to go forward -- if the FDA would finally make a decision by September 1 on whether emergency contraception could be sold over the counter ["Bitter Pill," July 13].

Though its own experts have ruled the contraception safe, the Bush administration continues to stall. It just wants women to shut up, have babies, and make us a damn pot pie. Is that too much to ask?

But as the deadline neared, Crawford reneged on his word and postponed his ruling, explaining that the agency couldn't figure out how to stop drug stores from selling the pills to minors. He had apparently never been to America, a country that's already figured out how to do this with liquor and cigs.

"We were outraged," says Mary O'Shea of Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland. "We were prepared for them to decide they were not going to do it. That wouldn't have been as big a surprise as them reneging on their promise and not making a decision at all."

Baghdad calling
Thanks to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, calling Baghdad is now as cheap as dialing Grandma in Arizona.

MCI manages a cell-phone network throughout Iraq that uses the 914 area code of New York's Westchester County. Most U.S. officials and select Iraqis are on the network, since most of the country's local lines are inoperable. Which means the latest war info is just a phone call away.

· Want a daily tally of American deaths? Call the Coalition Press Information Center at 914-360-5071.

· Prefer up-to-the-minute numbers on Iraqi civilian casualties? Call International Occupation Watch Center at 914-360-9080.

· Interested in trying Iraqi police when the Cleveland cops don't show? Reach 'em at 914-360-3922.

· Tired of reading Soldier of Fortune, and you want to talk artillery with guys who don't still live with their ma? Call NATO Headquarters at 914-822-0318.

Just remember to be courteous: Baghdad is eight hours ahead of Cleveland, and these guys have to work in the morning.

Turncoats unite
Ohio Secretary of State Uncle Tom Blackwell has locked up the traitor vote. Last week, former U.S. Senator and Georgia Governor Zell Miller endorsed Blackwell in a speech to church leaders in Columbus.

He said Blackwell "knows what is right, wants to accomplish great things for Ohio, and has the courage to stick to his principles." Apparently, Blackwell and Miller share a lot of the same principles, such as devotion to opportunism.

Blackwell used to be a champion of black issues, until he saw that Republicans had an opening for Token Negro. By last year, he had gone full circle, doing his best to suppress the black vote in the presidential election.

Likewise, Miller used to be a populist Democrat -- until he discovered such people were no longer popular in Georgia. So he delivered the keynote speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Now he is supporting Ohio's most right-wing candidate for governor. "Ken is my kind of Republican," Miller said. Sure he is, Zell.

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