Top Ten Things We Now Know About The Kasich Administration’s Charter School Scandal

COLUMBUS – Less than a week since Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s Department of Education released nearly 100,000 pages of documents related to charter school czar David Hansen’s possibly illegal data scrubbing, Ohio voters know a few things — but there are still many questions unanswered.

“The revelations from this document dump have only raised more questions about Superintendent Richard Ross’s leadership — or rather, complete lack of leadership — at the Ohio Department of Education,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “We now know that David Hansen wasn’t acting alone; he worked with several department staffers on the data scrubbing. We know the staff prepared reports for Superintendent Ross that included the scrubbed scores. We know Hansen was communicating with the organizations he was supposed to oversee, and we know staff was taking steps to prevent the creation of public records and evade transparency. This is troubling stuff, and it warrants an independent investigation. The Kasich administration can’t be trusted to investigate their own.”

With apologies to David Letterman, here’s Our Top Ten Most Ridiculous Things From the ODE Document Dump:

10. Superintendent Ross apparently doesn’t read reports that are prepared for him.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Former school choice chief David Hansen had a report prepared last year that shows the academic performance of charter schools with online schools left out, specifically to share in a meeting with state Superintendent Richard Ross.”

9. And he doesn’t like to ask a lot of questions in meetings.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Geis and Joni Hoffman, the state’s charter school director, met with Ross early this year to discuss the ratings. The e-mails show that meeting was specifically about other portions of the ratings, other than the academic portion. But Geis and Hoffman had been actively involved in excluding e-schools, so they either told Ross about the illegal exclusion, withheld that information from him, or Ross never asked about the academic portion of the ratings…. Though the e-mails do not specify how much Hansen shared with Ross at that meeting, the exclusion of online schools from the analysis would have at least put Ross on notice that Hansen was looking at data that way. The analysis also gave Ross an early look at how Hansen would later calculate the academic portion of the ratings. Norris declined to directly answer how much of the analysis Hansen shared with Ross, or even to confirm that Hansen had presented it to him.”

8. But he certainly reads his press clippings.

From the Dayton Daily News: “‘We are taking a beating in the media, and we deserve it,’ began a letter sent last week to Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Richard Ross by seven Democratic members of the state’s 19-member school board.”

7. The next time you run a red light, try this one on the cop: There’s ambiguity in the statute.

From the Dayton Daily News: “‘The most practical design I could come up with consistent with my understanding of the goal of that statute phased in (online school) scores,’ Hansen wrote. ‘Suggestions that my design was somehow ‘illegal’ ignore the ambiguity in the statute.’”

6. Or try this one instead: This isn’t about the law. It’s about how I want it to work.

From the Akron Beacon Journal: “‘This isn’t about law going into effect … It is about how we want it to work,’ Hansen said in a 2014 communication.”

5.The David Hansen Show is SO MUCH FUNNIER with the laugh track on.

From the Associated Press: “Data Administration Manager Karlyn Geis described ‘a lot of confusion’ in an October 2014 email, and ‘looks of shock from others in the room’ when Hansen joked that due to fuzzy evaluation criteria all sponsors should get a 92 and be rated exemplary. ‘Can we assume you’re joking about putting them down as a 92?’ Geis replied. Hansen said it was a joke.”

4. The Ohio Department of Education encourages its employees to take exercise breaks — in order to avoid the creation of public records.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer: “Department employees spoke about avoiding the creation of new public records. ‘Someone needs to calculate the overall authorizer scores (for sponsors of charter schools) and walk them up to Melissa (Huffman, chief operating officer) today,’ Geis, the data manager, wrote in a text message to Hansen two days before he resigned. ‘They have to be walked up, not emailed, not printed. Just handwritten on paper. Thanks.’”

3. The number one rule of charter school oversight? Don’t talk about charter school oversight.

From the Columbus Dispatch: “And in December, he directed staff to not talk publicly about another study showing Ohio students fared much worse at charter schools. ‘No comment about it outside the department,’ Hansen wrote in an email to staff members days before the report was released.”

2. Don’t talk about charter school oversight — unless you’re talking with the people you’re supposed to be overseeing.

From Plunderbund: “In one set of text messages released by ODE,  Jennifer Robinson from the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation tells Hansen that ‘we need ODE to release our Exemplary rating.’ The message included a smiley face emoticon.”

1. Unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, Hansen didn’t act alone.

From the Akron Beacon Journal: “The welcome release of nearly 100,000 documents by the Ohio Department of Education last week confirms the need for an independent investigation of the doctoring of charter school evaluations. This newspaper and others have started to examine the email and text messages, plus calendar items. They show that David Hansen did not act alone. That is contrary to the insistence of Gov. John Kasich and Richard Ross, the state school superintendent.”