If state Superintendent of Education Richard Ross is not covering up something embarrassing or illegal at the Ohio Department of Education, his recent actions aren’t helping his credibility.
Ross, who formerly worked for Gov. John Kasich as head of the Office of 21st Century Education, has been dragging his feet for a month in honoring a request from several Ohio newspapers for documents that might shed light on why someone at the education department decided to omit the poor performance of online and dropout-recovery charter schools from the department’s evaluation of charter-school sponsors. The omission artificially inflated the rankings of at least one sponsor. Several charter-school sponsors have made large donations to Republican officeholders. These donations are routinely cited as a major reason why Ohio’s lawmakers have failed to reform Ohio’s abysmal charter-school system.
David Hansen, former head of the education department’s office of school choice, was blamed for the data omission and resigned. Declaring that Hansen — who happens to be the husband of the woman who heads Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign — acted alone, Ross hoped the matter was closed and everyone would move on. But seven members of the State Board of Education instead called for an investigation of the matter.
That call has gone unanswered. Even State Auditor Dave Yost, who was zealous in the investigation of performance-enhancing data-rigging at Columbus City Schools, is surprisingly incurious about the attempted data-rigging at the education department. He declared himself satisfied that the attempt was disclosed and corrected and that no financial harm had come to the state.
Nothing to see here, move along, move along.
Absent any official interest in investigating the matter, Ohio’s newspapers, including The Dispatch, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the Akron Beacon Journal, The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Dayton Daily News all filed formal requests for records that might show whether Hansen truly acted alone.
The papers have been waiting for weeks for the education department to comply with state open-records law. The education department says the process is taking so long because the emails are being vetted to ensure that no mistakes are made.
But state school board member Stephanie Dodd told the Beacon Journal that a review of the emails already was completed — six weeks ago. Her source for this information? Ross, who said that review was the basis for his declaration that Hansen acted alone in omitting charter-school data.
So why take so long complying with open-records law and releasing the emails?
It also is surprising that the governor has not taken more interest in ending this email standoff, given his close ties to Ross and Hansen. If Kasich is successful in becoming the GOP nominee for president, his Democratic opponent very well might be Hillary Clinton. A major campaign issue facing Clinton is her reckless disregard for government security by conducting official business as U.S. secretary of state via email using her own private server, and her subsequent efforts to hide those emails from scrutiny.
It will be difficult for Kasich to use this issue against Clinton if he, too, has an email problem. And right now, he does.