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Morning news headlines for December 21, 2012
Unemployment continues to fall; Cleveland schools plan enhanced security; New details in Columbus attendance-rigging probe

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
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  • Unemployment rate falls again
  • Local housing numbers up
  • Cleveland schools reveal safety enhancements
  • Investigation reveals Columbus students in school were shown as withdrawn
  • Former Education Department employee charged with tampering with GED records
  • House Ethics Committee clears Ryan of wrongdoing in public intoxication charge
  • State Rep. Luckie trial set for January
  • Exotic animal law upheld; animal owners plan appeal
  • Judith French appointed to Supreme Court
  • Laid off RG Steel workers to receive federal aid
  • Unemployment rate falls again
    Ohio’s unemployment rate fell yet again in November. The latest monthly jobs data released this morning shows a 6.8 percent unemployment rate. The last time it was that low was August 2008. Ohio's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September.

    Local housing numbers up
    Northeast Ohio house sales continue to climb. The latest figures from the Northern Ohio Regional Multiple Listing Service shows sales were 15 percent higher in November than a year before. Condominium sales, a sliver of the market, jumped 43 percent. Northeast Ohio's average house price was nearly 130-thosuand dollars, up 12 percent from November 2011, according to data for 15 counties.

    Cleveland schools reveal safety enhancements
    An effort to enhance safety at schools is expanding in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Metropolitan school district announced Thursday it’s joining a program that gives police digital blueprints of all its 100 public schools, allowing them to respond to an emergency by locating specific doors and parts of buildings. The computerized plans were developed by Macedonia-based Foremost Safety Solutions and were piloted in the Nordonia School District about ten years ago. Cleveland school officials say the blueprints can be accessed through police laptops in very short order.

    Investigation reveals Columbus students in school were shown as withdrawn
    An investigation by Columbus school officials says district officials changed records to make it appear students who were actually in school had withdrawn. The audit by Columbus City Schools also says officials improperly changed grades and attendance records that were years old and temporarily demoted students to lower grades.  The Columbus Dispatch says the audit found district officials operated under their own interpretation of rules and their efforts hurt the accuracy of state report cards. Superintendent Gene Smith in her response to the audit acknowledged systemic deficiencies and record-keeping problems but added without explanation that she disagreed with the report's findings. Federal authorities are now involved in a probe into whether attendance and enrollment data of poor-performing students was manipulated to boost district performance rankings.

    Former Education Department employee charged with tampering with GED records
    A former Ohio Education Department employee has been charged with tampering with records and forgery involving GED certifications in Ohio. The Ohio inspector general's office says Kathleen Garner of Columbus resigned from the education department in August. The inspector general began the investigation in April after Garner issued the diplomas without necessary backup documentation. Authorities say she allegedly issued questionable GEDs to her husband and other people including family members and friends.

    House Ethics Committee clears Ryan of wrongdoing in public intoxication charge
    The U.S. House Committee on Ethics says it’s closing its probe into a dismissed public intoxication charge against Northeast Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. The move comes after a judge in Lexington, Va., tossed out the misdemeanor case earlier this month. Ryan's office says he had been charged with public intoxication in August while attending a staff member's wedding.  A spokesman for the Youngstown-area Democrat has said Ryan denied all along that he had been intoxicated.  Ryan easily won a sixth term a month ago. He's often mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for Ohio governor in 2014.

    State Rep. Luckie trial set for January
    An Ohio state lawmaker indicted on 49 charges of theft, corruption and money laundering goes on trial in January.  Authorities say state Rep. Clayton Luckie, a four-term Dayton Democrat, skimmed nearly $130,000 in campaign funds for personal use and failed to list campaign expenditures for six years. Luckie, who has pleaded not guilty, announced he wouldn't seek re-election amid the investigation but declined to resign and remains in office until Dec. 31. House Democratic leaders stripped Luckie of his committee assignments after he was indicted and he didn't return to the Statehouse for any votes. Ohio's Republican chairman says Luckie's staying did a disservice to his district.

    Exotic animal law upheld; animal owners plan appeal
    Seven people who sued Ohio over its new law cracking down on exotic animals say they're disappointed a federal judge has upheld it. Their attorney says they plan to appeal. The people who sued say the new law forces them to join private associations with which they disagree and possibly give up their animals without compensation. They challenged a requirement animals be implanted with microchips for identification in case they get lost or escape. The Columbus judge ruled Thursday the animal owners failed to prove their constitutional rights were violated. 

    Judith French appointed to Supreme Court
    Gov. John Kasich has named an appeals court judge with ties to the Mahoning Valley to the Ohio Supreme Court.  Judge Judith French, a Sebring native currently seated on the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus and former chief legal counsel to former Gov. Bob Taft, will take over for retiring Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. Justice French was one of more than a dozen people considered for the post and one of three finalists.

    Laid off RG Steel workers to receive federal aid
    Meanwhile, thousands of laid off steelworkers in the Mahoning Valley are getting federal aid.  The US Labor Department has approved a $1.2 million grant that will help RG Steel employees purchase health insurance while they wait to get enrolled in a health coverage tax credit program. The company laid off more than 4-thosuand workers this past May, including 11-hundred at its Warren facility.



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