Welcome to Kasichistan, where even members of the General Assembly can’t get information about the budget they’re being asked to vote on from the government.

Frustrated by the inability or unwillingness by the Kasich Administration’s hearing witnesses to provide basic answers regarding the Administration’s school funding formula and education budget, two Democratic members of the General Assembly tried another route: ask for the information by making a public records request.  Traditionally, when a Member of the General Assembly makes such a request, even if the information sought was not within the strict confines of public records, the information would be provided in order to foster good Executive-Legislative functions and, well, the legislative branch is entitled to know.

So it’s not be unusual to see requests from elected legislators get more substantive responses than your John Q. Public.  Kasich has “leveled” the playing field by, apparently, decided that NOBODY is entitled to receive documents unless they can figure out secret formulation of the request to get the documents you seek.

Now many of the documents they seek aren’t state secrets. There’s no “privilege” that the Administration is asserting.  Instead, they’re engaged in some rather questionable lawyering to suggest that the request is “too broad” and thus, alleviating them of any responsibility to produce any documents at all

You might recall that Seth Morgan sued  the Strickland Administration when they didn’t immediately turn over a request that essentially asked for every scratch of paper that Strickland accumulated regarding the formation of his evidence-based school funding model.  Morgan sued in the Ohio Supreme Court which heard the case exactly two years ago today.  Morgan “won” in that the Court granted him the writ he wanted, but the Court basically found that the Administration was in the process of producing the documents already, and just ordered them to continue to produce them as they were.

Left with little alternative, it looks like the House Democrats are being forced to consider suing the Administration in order to get the information:

Debbie Phillips“After delaying the release of budget language for several weeks, the Administration continues to withhold essential information from the public,” said [Assistant Minority Whip] Debbie Phillips.  “We are requesting this information on behalf of our school districts because they have a right to know how this temporary school funding formula was created and what the bottom-line reductions will be as a result of the Governor’s budget proposal.”

As members of the Finance Primary and Secondary Education subcommittee, Phillips and Lundy requested a variety of data, including one complete spreadsheet showing how various policy changes and funding reductions will impact each school district.  Additional information on the variables included in the newly created “bridge formula” were also requested. These items and the numerous other requests for information were deferred or denied by the Kasich Administration (Kasich Letter, 4/18/11).

Matt Lundy“Superintendents, teachers, students and parents have a right to know exactly how much their school district will be cut under Gov. Kasich’s proposed budget,” said Rep. Lundy. “Instead of being honest with school districts, this administration has decided to misdirect and mislead schools about the total impacts of the proposed cuts.”

In addition to concerns over lack of transparency, Reps. Lundy and Phillips also questioned how the administration can make such sweeping policy changes without necessary metrics. No records were provided, for example, that show cost savings as a result of potential changes to teacher salaries or provisions ending the “last in, first out” policy.

“Gov. Kasich’s education experts claimed in committee testimony that there could be big savings by ending the ‘first in, last out’ policy and effectively terminating older teachers,” said Rep. Phillips.  “Our request simply asked for the Administration to show us the data to support that claim and we were denied.”

The Governor’s office did indicate that they might have records responsive to one of the 17 items.  The Representatives asked for emails between The Fordham Foundation and Robert Sommers, Director of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education, or others on the Governor’s staff and the attorney responded that it is the Representatives duty to craft their request more narrowly. Rep. Phillips noted, however, that such requests are not unusual and the denial of this request is at best disingenuous and potentially in violation of the law.

“Gov. Kasich has shown an extraordinary lack of respect for transparency and the denial of request for information is just another example of this,” said Lundy.  “I hope we can work to get the data and information that schools and superintendents need without pursing a legal remedy, but we will if we have to.”

John Kasich really has a problem with his whole transparency thing.  Can you now imagine trying to get reliable information from JobsOhio?

[UPDATE:]  Wow.  Check out the Governor’s response as reported in the Dispatch right now:

Kasich, during a bill signing this morning, said he was unaware of the Democrats’ records request but said he would "love to show them the numbers."

"Well I think they just need to kind of walk across the street and ask (Budget Director) Tim Keen to see the numbers," Kasich said. "He’ll show them to them. We released it online. I mean, do they know computers? Do they have computers? Maybe they don’t. I don’t know."

Following the bill signing, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the governor was referring to documents the administration released regarding school savings through Senate Bill 5 and pension reform.

Among the items Kasich’s lawyer said the administration didn’t have: research that shows Kasich’s new school-funding formula will improve student achievement; a copy of the formula itself; a list of charter schools in academic emergency or watch; and projections of cost-savings from eliminating the "last-in, first-out" rules for educators.

The Administration claims it cannot produce a copy of its school funding formula because it doesn’t have one, nor does it have any research that suggests its school funding formula will improve student achievement.

Wow.

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  • buckeyekelly

    I take back everything I ever said about Nichols – he’s not paid enough. He must being doing penance for something in a former life to have to attempt to explain this guy.

  • Anonymous

    Everything Kasich does is under the table. You can’t get any information about anything he does, or ever did. All I can find on the internet is that he went to OSU. By the way, how did he get into OSU anyway, much less graduate? What was his class ranking? What kind of grades did he get while there? So many questions and so few answers. This guy just seems to fly under the radar, or am I asleep in the tower?

  • Anonymous

    Ok, I answered my own question, vampires don’t show up on radar!

  • Anonymous

    Why would a kid from western PA go to Ohio State, anyway? Out-of-state tuition back in those days was exorbitantly high and I seriously doubt that Johnny K was smart enough to get a full academic ride. None of my high school classmates could afford the in-state tuition at Ohio State. We all went to UA, Kent, or out-of-state Catholic colleges on scholarships.

    Maybe there were too many Young Republicans at Penn State or Pitt and he thought he’d be a big fish in a big pond at OSU.

  • Anonymous

    You are probably right, but my guess is that he couldn’t find a dorm room door in PA that was big enough for his big mouth to fit through. Still, someone at OSU must have know the guy when he was there, as big as it is, you can’t be unknown for 4 years, even there.

  • Anonymous

    We award you +1 Internets. Congratulations.

  • We need to put this information in every newspaper in Ohio. To many people are ignorant of the fact that this Gov. really does not have the best interest of the school systems at heart . He is only doing what he pleases for who he wants to please or not with no research to back it up.

  • gmild

    “The rule in Ohio is that public records are the people’s records, and that the
    officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people;
    therefore anyone may inspect such records at any time, subject only to the
    limitation that such inspection does not endanger the safety of the record, or
    unreasonably interfere with the discharge of the duties of the officer having
    custody of the same. Patterson v. Ayers, 171 Ohio St. 369 (1960).”

    — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles Zimmerman

  • gmild

    A requester must identify the records he or she is seeking “with reasonable clarity.” The request must not be overly broad, and must describe what is being sought “specifically and particularly.” A public office will not be compelled to produce public records when the underlying request is ambiguous or overly broad. For example, a request for “any and all records containing any reference whatsoever” to a particular person is an inappropriate public records request because it fails to identify the particular records sought.

    A requester must also request a record that actually exists at the time of the request, not merely information the requester seeks to obtain. For example, if a person asks a public office for a list of cases pending against it, but the office does not keep such a list, the public office is under no duty to create a list to respond to the request. Additionally, there is no duty to provide records that were not in existence at the time of the request, but which later come into existence.

    — Ohio Sunshine Laws 2011, pp 8-9

  • Anon

    Kasuck = Bush 3.0

  • publichealthgirl

    From the except above, it seems like the request was pretty specific. It appeared that they requested 17 specific items. If the Kasich administration denied them because, as the post says, the request was too broad, that just seems like it was underhanded. How can requesting 17 specific items be too broad? On the other hand, if the request was denied because (as you are seeming to imply) the records don’t exist, then that is just as troubling to me. If the case is that the records do not exist, then we have based a 2 year state budget on something that has no records and no formula so therefore is essentially made up? Either way, Kasich is a liar. He’s either purposefully suppressing documents or he is basing the decision to cut school funding on whim, not data.

  • gmild

    I think you summed it up very well. Any way you look at the situation results in a negative outcome. I pasted the wording from the Ohio Sunshine Laws without commentary for that very reason — so readers can draw their own conclusions.

  • publichealthgirl

    Yes, it is a very unsettling situation. I honestly don’t know which would be worse. Thanks for posting the info!

  • Anonymous

    My thoughts, exactly. I believe that they pulled the fundung cuts to schools out of their proverbial arse. There seeme to be no rhyme or reason, except, perhaps voting data…

  • gmild

    I have to call bullshit on Kasich not having a funding formula. You don’t produce a spreadsheet like this without having a formula, even if it’s a bogus formula.
    http://ohio.gov/docs/FY12-13%20School%20District%20Funding%2003242011_Sorted%20by%20county.pdf

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