Newspapers Across the State Have Endorsed Call for Independent Investigation Into Charter School Data Scrubbing
COLUMBUS — Over the past month and amid stonewalling of public records requests, every major newspaper in Ohio has published editorials calling for an independent investigation into whether a top Kasich official broke state law and who else in the administration was involved with scrubbing charter school evaluations.
The Akron Beacon Journal (twice!), Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Youngstown Vindicator, Canton Repository and Toledo Blade have all editorialized on the burgeoning charter school scandal engulfing the Kasich administration.
“When will the public see its records?” Akron Beacon Journal, Aug. 25, 2015
John Kasich subscribes to the theory of a rogue offender in the Ohio Department of Education. The governor deems “political” the calls to look deeper into David Hansen doctoring the grades of charter schools so they would remain in position to add students and thus collect additional state money.
“I mean, the guy’s gone. He’s gone,” the governor declared, as if Hansen admitting his deed and resigning as the head of the school choice and accountability office ends the matter. Legitimate questions remain. They start with whether other officials, in particular, Richard Ross, the state school superintendent, had anything to do with altering the grading system.
Perhaps Hansen acted alone. Yet the way this governor and fellow Republicans in charge at the Statehouse have coddled many in the charter school industry, there is much room for skepticism about the claim. More, some state school board members see possible violations of the law, which requires the full inclusion of grades in evaluations.
The job of investigating is ripe for the state inspector general.
“Time for a fresh look | Charter-school evaluation panel can be beneficial, should avoid politics,” Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 24, 2015
Appointing an independent panel to evaluate Ohio charter-school sponsors is a needed step, in the wake of the discovery that a recent evaluation was rigged.
The State Board of Education should see that the panel moves expeditiously and doesn’t become bogged down in politics or side issues that distract it from the main goal: accurately evaluating the academic performance of specific charters.
Seven board members, six Democrats and one Republican, have called for additional scrutiny of David Hansen’s report and whether he acted alone. State Auditor Dave Yost declined to have his office do an audit, as he said the issue was disclosed and corrected quickly, resulting in no financial harm to the state.
However, those seven on the state board are correct: Until the issue is thoroughly vetted in a transparent manner, a cloud will remain over the process.
“Charting a course toward reform,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 23, 2105
In Ohio, where charter schools take in about $1 billion of taxpayer money, some of them have instead taken advantage of the state’s lax accountability rules to prioritize profits over student performance.
That’s unacceptable, and a disservice to taxpayers, parents and students.
What’s more, it’s galling to see state lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich drag their feet on holding charter schools accountable. A trio of scathing reports released in December showed Ohio’s lax charter school law allowed some private operators to produce poor results, and there have been several state and federal investigations into cozy ties among schools, vendors and nonprofit umbrella organizations. Ohio’s charter school law gives state officials few tools to police charter schools. The job is made even harder when charter schools’ evaluations are whitewashed. On July 18, David Hansen, the schools choice director for the Ohio Department of Education, resigned after he admitted to excluding some charter schools’ failing grades that would’ve tugged down their evaluation scores.
The next steps should be obvious: An outside investigation should determine the extent of Hansen’s harmful action and whether others within ODE had knowledge of it, and state law must be reformed to ensure Ohio isn’t home to charter school companies that prioritize profit over student performance.
“State Board of Education should keep pressing for answers on state’s attempted online-school favors,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Aug. 16, 2015
Coincidence One: Online charter schools (“e-schools”) are particularly well-connected politically with Kasich’s administration. Top officials of the for-profit charter schools to which many of the online schools are affiliated — such as Akron-based White Hat Management’s David Brennan — are also generous with campaign donations, particularly to the GOP.
Coincidence Two: Hansen’s wife, Beth Hansen, was Kasich’s chief of staff. She now manages Kasich’s presidential campaign.
David Hansen’s resignation spurred seven of the board’s eight elected members to demand an independent investigation of his actions. Ross, in response, said he’d call in outside educators to make sure charter school evaluations are accurate.
But those concerned board members want an independent probe because they say Ross, as Hansen’s boss, shared responsibility for Hansen’s work.
They also want to determine if Ross played any role when, in June, General Assembly Republicans, acting at warp speed, and without prior notice, rushed Amended Substitute House Bill 70 to Kasich’s desk, giving the state complete control of Youngstown’s schools — and, potentially, of other public school districts in Ohio that persistently fail.
Now comes Coincidence Three: Kasich told The Columbus Dispatch he thinks the board, as now picked and structured, gives “some people … a useful way to run through political agendas” – as if Kasich has never had any himself.
“Kasich should appoint special panel to study state board of education,” Youngstown Vindicator, Aug. 16, 2015
We have called for an independent investigation into Hansen’s actions with the following question forming the basis of the probe: Was he acting alone, or was he following orders from higher ups?
To us, the question is even more pertinent because Hansen, who resigned as the School Choice director for the Ohio Department of Education, is married to Beth Hansen, chief of staff to the governor.
Beth Hansen has taken a leave of absence from her job in the governor’s office to work for Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Investigate Ohio Department of Education,” Canton Repository, Aug. 9, 2015
What Ross, Gunlock and Kasich, who appointed both of them, cannot do is treat this situation with indifference. Kasich this week referred to the demand for an investigation as “political.” But what’s more political: Scrubbing the grades of failing charter schools so sponsors look better or demanding the transparency and accountability that’s necessary so these schools can successfully educate the thousands of students they serve?
“Ohio’s charter chaos,” Toledo Blade, Aug. 9, 2015
As the start of the school year approaches, who is cleaning up Ohio’s wretched charter school system?
Not the Republican-controlled Ohio House. Its members fled the Statehouse for summer vacation without enacting a bill approved by the GOP-majority Senate that would have strengthened the state’s notoriously lax regulation of charter schools.
Not Gov. John Kasich, despite his warning in his State of the State message last February that he would work to prohibit charter operators “from sponsoring new schools if they’re not doing their job.” Mr. Kasich is spending more time these days pursuing the Republican presidential nomination than charter school reform. Last week, he dismissed the charter controversy as “just a political thing.”
“‘Prime suspect’ at the state Department of Education,” Akron Beacon Journal, Aug. 6, 2015
John Kasich broke from his presidential campaign this week to dismiss the concerns of seven members of the state school board. “It’s just a political thing,” the governor told the Columbus Dispatch. “You just shake your head that people aren’t grown up enough to know that education’s not about adults, it’s about children.”
Yes, it is, and those children deserve a state Department of Education dedicated to a complete and honest evaluation of school performance. Perhaps the distracted governor doesn’t realize that an official in his administration, at the education department, violated the law. Those school board members want to know more about how that official came to fudge the grades of charter school sponsors so they would look better and, more, would not jeopardize their capacity to add students and thus collect more public dollars.