Democrats Hope For Investigation of Department of Education

Ohio Board of Education. Michael Collins in foreground. (urycki)
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An advisory panel submitted its recommendations on evaluating charter schools to the state board of education this week. The panel was formed after Department of Education official David Hansen admitted to dropping the worst grades for some online charters to make their performance appear better.  

He resigned but that may not be the end of the investigation.  Ideastream’s Mark Urycki reports.

 

For a while it seemed as though no one would investigate who was involved in the data scrubbing scandal that the State School board called a violation of the law.  And it may go no further.  The scandal has the potential to embarrass Governor Kasich, who is running for president.  His campaign manager is David Hansen’s wife.

With the retirement of state school superintendent Richard Ross, the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, Peggy Lehner, says it’s time to move on.

“Dr. Ross isn’t going to be here anymore.  David Hansen hasn’t been here for months.   It just sort of seems like that’s a waste of time when we have so much serious education policy work to do. “  

The chairman of the House Education Committee, Republican Andrew Brenner, also says that’s not needed.

“The explanations that I’ve heard in looking into it myself, I don’t think an independent is necessary.  I think this was limited to one gentleman and I think that issue has been resolved. “

The president of the school board Tom Gunlock, appointed by Governor Kasich, agrees.

“I don’t think it’s necessary.  We’ve turned over all the documents and no one has been able to find anything that would lead one to believe that it wasn’t done by more than one person and that person paid an ultimate price. So I think we could say it’s over with.”

Although department emails were given to news organizations, the Plain Dealer reports it’s still being denied Ross’s emails. 

Democrats on the school board, including Michael Collins, have called for an independent investigation.

“My biggest concern is we need a clean slate and we need to be trusted and we need to be believable…I’m very serious about this and I don’t say it with grand suspicion. I say it with an absolute need to cleanse the slate one way or the other.  And I think what will happen is it gets swept under the rug without full verification that there really was nothing.  And I’m just concerned about it festering long after I’ve gone.” 

Although State Auditor David Yost is not launching a special investigation, his spokesperson Brit Halpin says the office will undertake a routine audit of the Department of Education and she says “we will go where the facts lead us.”

 

Mark.Urycki@ideastream.org

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