The Toledo Blade just published a letter from Auditor of State Dave Yost addressed to State Board of Education President Debe Terhar notifying her of his intent to include the Ohio Department of Education in their investigation of improper attendance reporting by school districts around the state.  As part of this letter, Yost also explains that the joint investigation with ODE will be dropped so as to conduct an independent investigation into ODE’s practices.

Yesterday, State Superintendent Stan Heffner had strong words for the school districts at the center of these allegations, suggesting the possibility of criminal prosecution:

“I will be asking our office of professional conduct to launch investigations along with the attorney general’s office if I find there is evidence of fraud so we have civil and criminal investigations at the same time.”

Auditor Yost may have turned the tables on Heffner with today’s announcement (click here for the full letter):

“In short, it appears that attendance report rigging is not a localized problem … but that it may be more systemic -and that raises the question of what role ODE played during the time that false reports were made by multiple schools.

Criminal charges may or may not result from any referral that might occur as a result of our audit. Accordingly, staff should be advised that tampering with evidence or witnesses may constitute a criminal act under the relevant provisions of the Ohio Revised Code.”

And Yost’s final statement confirms that his office is taking this expanding investigation against ODE seriously:

“There is no evidence at this time that anyone at ODE is involved in the attendance report rigging, but the apparently widespread nature of the practice begs the question of at least a lack of oversight.

We’ve received many comments questioning the integrity of the Ohio Department of Education over the last couple of months, and perhaps now the Auditor of State’s office will be able to expose Stan Heffner’s failed attempt to lay blame on the school districts for their own absence of rules surrounding the reporting of attendance.

This is going to be big, folks.  Real big.