• Mahoning Valley

    Valley Public School Enrollment Figures Declining Faster than Ohio Rate

    As a graduate of Ursuline High School, I often hear calls from those in the community about the need to combine Ursuline with Youngstown’s other Catholic high school, Cardinal Mooney. There is no question the Catholic schools in town have been hurt with declining enrollment over the years, much in part due to rising tuition, leading to the closure of a number of the parish grade schools. Such closures have hit the grade schools that my wife (St. Luke in Boardman) and I (St. Joseph in Austintown) attended from K-8. It is unfortunate to see such great schools close down, but those closures are inevitable with fewer students in the desks each year. The issue of fewer students isn’t just a Catholic school issue anymore, it is quickly becoming a public school issue as well.

    Everyone in town is aware the population of the Mahoning Valley has been declining for four decades due to the decline of the steel industry and an overall economy that seems to consistently lag state and national levels. That population drop can only mean one thing… fewer kids. With fewer children comes a diminishing enrollment base in this community. This led me to asking the question, how big of a drop in enrollment have the public schools experienced in recent years?

    I visited the Ohio Department of Education Enrollment Data website and was able to access the October public school headcount figures for fiscal years ending 2010 through 2018. I captured this district-wide (K-12) enrollment data for all 14 of the public school districts in Mahoning County, as well as the 20 public school districts in Trumbull County.

    For reference sake, over this period of time the state of Ohio has experienced a decline in the number of students attending public schools as well. According to the Ohio Department of Education, the state has seen a 5.02% reduction in students in the public school system from FYE 2010 through 2018. In addition, on the chart below, the % Change (2010 to 2018) column is color coded with the red shaded cells designating districts that had worse % declines in comparison to the state, with the few in yellow representing districts that have seen declines at a rate less than that of the state. 

    District Enrollment in Mahoning and Trumbull (FYE 2010 – 2018)

    As you can see above, all of the public school districts in Mahoning and Trumbull County have seen district-wide enrollment declines from 2010 through 2018. The district that saw the smallest % decline was Girard (-0.36%), with the district seeing the greatest % decline being the tiny Bloomfield-Mespo (-32.18%) school district. Overall, 31 of the 34 districts saw declines at rates outpacing than the state decline.

    The numbers I found most alarming were in the combined county data. In FYE 2010, there were 65,042 students enrolled in the public school districts in Mahoning and Trumbull County. In 2018, that figure was 54,336. That is a decline of 10,706 students, or 16.46%, in under a decade. Another interesting statistic was the large 23% decline in enrollment in one of the more affluent communities in Mahoning County, Poland. 

    Thanks to open enrollment, the decreases for some school districts were not as substantial. In Mahoning County, three districts that have open enrollment, Austintown, South Range, and Western Reserve were able to keep their declines in check by attracting out-of-district students into their districts. 

    What is Next?

    With the recent news of General Motors idling the Lordstown assembly plant in March 2019, there certainly does not seem to be any major positive economic changes in the immediate future that would help slow down the enrollment declines being experienced in the Mahoning Valley. We can very well see school districts be forced to cut their number of staff, reduce their number of school buildings, and go back to the taxpayers with additional tax levies to be able to make their financial ends meet.

    Seeing the list above of 34 (!) public school districts in Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, 14 of which were under 1,000 students in their entire district in the FYE 2018, could the topic of consolidation of school district come into play? Will this be something the state could push down on local school districts under a certain number of students? Geographically speaking, there are certainly some school districts on this list neighboring other school districts that could possibly work on the surface, such as Lowellville with Poland, Sebring with West Branch, and Weathersfield with McDonald just to name a few. A good discussion on this very topic is being debated on the popular Ohio HS sports forum Yappi. The thought of consolidation would likely be met with great resistance, but perhaps some good ideas could come out of such discussions, even if the number of districts would remain unchanged.

    I hope you found this piece interesting, especially the telling data shown in the chart above. Unless things change drastically on an economic and jobs front, I think the issue of the declining public school enrollment will come to the forefront and be on the minds of the taxpayers in the next five years.

    What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, I promise that the next article will in fact be on the GOP and their control in Ohio.

  • Data,  Mahoning Valley

    Is the Mahoning Valley Moving to the Middle?

    Is the once dark blue Mahoning Valley moving towards the middle politically? That is the question being asked after the Mahoning Valley, for the second straight major election, failed to deliver the wide margins needed for the Democrats to be successful at the statewide level. This piece will analyze the election results in the valley from the 2016 Presidential election and the 2018 Midterm election.

    Historical Election Background

    Before I jump into the 2016 and 2018 elections, I thought it would be important to provide some context for this article by using some historical data. I went back to the 1960 Presidential election and the 1990 Gubernatorial election, the oldest years countywide election results were readily available on the web, and compared the margins at the state level to the margins at the county level for Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana County. The y-axis of the charts below shows the Republican margins exceeding the Democrat margins as positive percentages, while the Democratic margins exceeding the Republican margins as negative percentages. These charts are fully interactive as you can hover over the stars for each election year to see the margin of victory for the GOP (+ %) or Dems (- %).

    As is evidenced by the Presidential chart above, since 1960, Mahoning and Trumbull County have always been more Democratic at the county level when compared to the state level. For the most part, the same was true of Columbiana County until the 2004 Presidential election, when the county was slightly more Republican (4.7% GOP margin) than the state, which saw a 2.1% GOP margin. Since 2004, Columbiana County has gone from what Dave Skolnick of the Youngstown Vindicator described as a 50/50 GOP/DEM county, to one that is now deep red. The county had a remarkable 41.7% margin for Donald Trump in 2016, while Ohio went by 8.13% for Trump. It appears that Columbiana County will remain dark red for years to come.

    Now to the two larger counties in the valley, Mahoning and Trumbull, which in 2016 again trailed the margins at the state level. Nonetheless, the margins were much closer than in most recent elections. Trumbull County, for the first time since 1972 when it delivered for Richard Nixon, went Republican by 6.27%. However, Mahoning County was victorious for Hillary Clinton, but by just 2.99%. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton failed to get to 50% of the total vote in Mahoning County. The failure of Mahoning and Trumbull to deliver the typical 59-62% Democrat total share of the vote, compounded by the rural GOP surge across the rust belt, led to Trump greatly outperforming the Buckeye State polls in 2016 on his way to victory.

    At the Gubernatorial level, the results have followed a similar trend as the Presidential level. Columbiana has become much more Republican than the state over the past two elections, while Mahoning and Trumbull continue to lean more Democratic. It is worth noting that the two latter counties have backed Republicans for the governorship during this span of time by supporting George Voinovich in 1994 and John Kasich in 2014.

    In the two charts above, it is noticeable that the red and yellow lines representing Mahoning and Trumbull have narrowed much closer to the statewide figures in blue in 2016 and 2018, signalling a more competitive political environment in the valley. The question remains, will that trend continue into 2020? If it does continue, the Democrats fortunes of winning this state may become more challenging as they will have to make up for these votes elsewhere.

    Success in Local Races

    I would be remiss not to mention the newfound success of the Mahoning County Republican Party, which is becoming a player in area politics. I have to give credit where it is due, Chairman Mark Munroe has recruited some stronger candidates to make that happen. In 2014, Republican Ralph Meacham, CPA edged Democrat Michael Sciortino, who was under indictment at the time, for Mahoning County Auditor. This was a major victory for the Mahoning County GOP who had failed for 30 years to deliver a victory in a partisan race at the county level. This year, the Democrats failed to even run a candidate against Meacham. As quoted in an August 17, 2018 piece by Dave Skolnick in the Youngstown Vindicator, Dave Betras said “I tried to recruit a number of people, and no one wanted to run… They said, ‘I can’t beat him. He’s done a good job.’”

    In the Ohio 33rd State Senate seat currently held by term-limited Democrat Senate minority leader Joe Schiavoni, valley businessman Michael Rulli (R) knocked off veteran politician and current OH 59th State Representative John Boccieri (D) 52.51% to 47.49%, or 6,269 votes. The district is comprised of all of Mahoning County and Columbiana County. It is true that Boccieri won the Mahoning County portion of the district 54% to 46%, but Rulli ran it up in deep red Columbiana County, where he makes his home, by a 69% to 31% margin. Although this district has had different geographic make-ups since 1950, it has always encompassed Youngstown and has never been won by a Republican during that time. Based on Rulli’s name recognition and anecdotal evidence of his yard signs all across the suburban portions of Mahoning County, I felt Rulli had a chance to win if he could run it up in Columbiana County and keep it somewhat close in Mahoning County, and he did just that.

    In my eyes, the upset of the night was Don Manning (R) defeating Eric Ungaro (D) for the OH 59th State House seat currently held by John Boccieri. Ungaro, son of former Youngstown Mayor Pat Ungaro, seemed to be a victim of the geographic footprint of the district. The 59th encompasses all of Mahoning County, with the exception of the City of Youngstown and most of Austintown Township. Without those two communities, the district is a bit more favorable for the Republicans as it contains all of the rural portions of the county, as well as Canfield and Poland where Republicans can be quite competitive. The following map from the Mahoning County Elections website provides a visual depiction of the results. The blue areas went to Manning, while the green areas went to Ungaro. In the end, Manning defeated Ungaro by a razor thin 50.39% to 49.61% margin, or 409 votes. 

    The wins by Meacham, Rulli, and Manning, coupled with Bill Johnson’s victory in the 6th congressional district, mean four Republicans are now representing all or part of Mahoning County at the county, state, and federal level in races that were all partisan on the ballot.

    2018 Gubernatorial Results by Municipality (Mahoning County)

    The following table is based on an export of the 2018 election results courtesy the Mahoning County Elections website. By providing this data in a stacked bar format, you can see the stark contrast between the more urban parts of the county that are more Democratic and that have more votes vs. the rural portions which tend to lean more Republican and have fewer votes.

    Final Thoughts

    It is far too soon to determine whether Mahoning and Trumbull County will continue the trend of the past two major elections (2016 and 2018) in which each county has moved from being dark blue to a lighter shade of blue or purple in competitive local, state, and federal races. In each county, Democrats were still successful in winning by larger margins (Mahoning D+21%, Trumbull D+16%) for Senator Sherrod Brown (D) in a race that ended up much closer than the polls had indicated. Also, outside of the seats mentioned above, Democrats hold most other state and county seats in each county and have party registration advantages as well.

    With the cities of Youngstown and Warren being the largest population centers in Mahoning and Trumbull and also being the most Democratic areas of each county, the suburban/rural areas will need to move further right in the years ahead to enable the GOP to have further success in the valley. In my opinion, that will be the most interesting dynamic to watch as we move forward to the 2020 Presidential election.

    In my next posting, I plan to take a dive into the Republican Party’s success in winning most of the state office contests dating back to 1990.

  • Mahoning Valley

    MVRed is Back

    I am happy to report the return of MVRed.com. Although this website has been down for going on 8 years, my love of politics has never diminished. So much has happened politically over the past few years in the Mahoning Valley, Ohio, and at the Federal level that I was eager to bring the blog back. I look forward to adding my thoughts on political news and campaigns in the months ahead, as well as analyzing election data to identify potential geographic trends in voter tendencies. I hope you enjoy the new site and that you spread the word to others. Thanks!