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.

  • danngoingdown

    so the classified union bureaucrats that have been at ode since the celeste administration are going to get in trouble? about time

  • Red

    Thank Goodness Mr. Yost! Someone is paying attention! If you look at ODE with clarity you are going to find some very wasteful and destructive behaviors as well as unethical practices. Start with their lack of oversight as a whole and you are going to uncover a lot of ethical turmoil by certain employees and management. The media already has the information but hopefully the system will rise to the occasion and expose this place for what it is thanks to your willingness to rise above politics!

  • Lisa

    Oh and ask about ODE employees attendance and how that is monitored! Especially management and technical people. We found evidence supporting employees suckering taxpayers for 100’s of thousands of dollars.

  • Candi

    Amen! Dysfunctional and useless come to mind with that place! My husband said that one person at ODE just runs around gossiping with an device in her hands all day and has no clue why she is there. She’s paid six figures. I am a teacher and I work hard heart and soul and make one third of that. I want answers to this place!

  • Ivan

    Indeed…indeed if Yost and company dig deep they are going to find serious problems in this agency. Not just the attendance issues but the myriad of other inequalities, lack of ethics, and overall lack of oversight and shady practices. I cannot wait to see this party! They will cover up as much as possible so put the waders on!

  • midview132

    I just love uneducated parrots such as yourself. It is easier to just keep squawking about what you are told to squawk about then to actually think for yourself. I know you are a conservative troll looking to do nothing but cause problems by your dumb ass quotes and your keywords so allow me to inform your damn near illiterate self as to the world you live in. We, in the educated world, actually use punctuation and capitalization. I dont know, maybe it is because our ancestors stopped dragging their knuckles well before yours, but then again you would have to believe in some science and since your puppet master, who obviously have their hand up your rear end so they can make your lips move and make sound come will tell you that evolution is one of those made up things to destroy the invisible almighty that you are just supposed to believe in simply because they tell you it is there, you wont understand that line. Most people who make the decisions at the ODE are appointed and are not in a union, but you heard education and you thought you had something and after wetting yourself because you thought you finally had an epiphany, you drooled on your computer and your comment is what came out. Plunderbund is a Democratic blog, do you think they would put something on here that would be what you were looking for? Do you think Fox News is fair and balanced and would give any credit to President Obama? Now little troll, go back under the bridge you crawled out of and let the rest of the people who have evolved have a conversation.

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  • xx

    So when are they going to investigate the governor’s office?

  • Chris

    This is long overdue for Ohio taxpayers. The auditor of state should prepare to dig deep. Remember that the people who hide things can control what they want you to know!

  • Greg R. Lawson

    I am confused by some of the comments here. It appears not only is there veritable glee that ODE is being investigated, but there is an assumption this is going to be a massive scandal for the Kasich Administration. Certainly, it will be embarrassing and problematic, but the issues being investigated go back a lot further than this Administration and likely go back through Strickland to Taft. So if, and it is still an if rather than a definitive is, there is a systemic problem, it is not going to be isolated to one particular Administration. This implies a problem within the bureaucracy that transcends the transient nature of individual management regimes.

    By all means let’s get to the bottom of this, but all should realize the outcome is unlikely to serve any particular partisan agenda.

  • gregmild

    I agree and also believe that this particular investigation should remain about as non-partisan as we can expect in Ohio.

    Comments over the past few months have alluded to much unrest at ODE on many fronts. I believe the existence of a single investigation into ODE’s operations is offering those individuals hope that more wrong-doing will be uncovered during this process. I don’t have that same expectation unless others involved speak up to the Auditor’s office with specific allegations.

    This investigation is occurring on all fronts because individual citizens spoke up about actions they believed to be improper. If others are aware of such actions then they should also clearly articulate those concerns to the proper investigative agency. That is part of the checks and balances system we have as a part of OUR government, citizens and officials alike.

    If I’m not mistaken, I believe that would be one of the roles that the Buckeye Institute seeks to fulfill in our system, though I don’t always agree with your recommended solutions (I probably didn’t need to state that….).

  • Edubrat

    Because of this investigation, we should not be attempting to pin the issues on anyone other than those directly responsible. Kasich, Strickland, Taft didnt hire the people who are the problem. The problems arose from many years of people working together resulting in collusion and somewhat of a junior high mentality. On top of that you have unqualified people using this agency as their playground, but are classified so feel that they are untouchable. It does not matter if the State uncovers a little or a lot, as long as they uncover something. As for reporting specific events to responsible agencies, these things have been reported. But no action. If the state does not find these issues, the fed will. This is not a political issue but a right and wrong issue and I think we are all tired of being taken to the cleaners. So yes I for one am elated that this agency is being held responsible. I have seen enough. If the auditor is worth his salary he will uncover and fix the issues being talked about. Their is a systemic problem within this agency on many fronts and no one until now wanted to rectify those issues. I would strongly recommend looking at not only garbage data but I would start asking why there is a mass exodus at ODE with employees? Ask the people why they no longer want to be there. Ask the people what they know and why they are walking away from the place. You would be surprised at what they can share with you.

  • Sani

    As a former contractor with this agency, I know that there are some very tyrannical people who have no business being in leadership. They have no interest in doing the right things.

  • danngoingdown

    get a life, it’s the internet not a term paper. we’re not in your classroom

  • Dmoore

    The ODE has long been confused about it’s role. Is it a service agency or a regulatory agengy? I don’t think they know. At one point Suzy Zelman delcared that all ODE employees would be held responsible for the state graduation rate. What? Graduation rates are the responsiblity of the local school boards NOT the ODE. How would you enforce this? With over 600 school districts you’d need an organization the size of the US military working overtime. The same with attendance. The ODE just doesn’t have that kind of regulatory capacity. So guess what happens in a case like this involving attendance? At the very least ommission, at the very worst collusion. It’s probably somewhere in between.
    Now why this issue might have legs is how Stan the Man got the state superintendancy in the first place. The poor guy was probably just trying to get to his car to leave for the day when one of the Kasich wonder boys told him he is the new State Superintendent of Instruction. If you remember, he never even applied. That’s very much in keeping with the sloppy amatuerism of this administration (a la Stan Jackson baord appointment). Combine that with Stan’s recommendation to the State Board to use the very testing company he hired on with when he planned to leave the ODE. Things like this add up and eventually get attention. There are a lot of disenchanted people at the ODE and the chriping will start now if it hasn’t already. Look for Stan to make an early exit and hope no Kasich people are in the parking lot.

  • amyvav

    There is happiness among teachers that ODE is being scrutinized I am sure. For years, we have had to deal with impossible tasks, unclear directives, confusing guidelines, and general frustration at the hands of the organization that is supposed to be guiding and assisting us. I speak only for myself, but my “glee” comes from the very idea that you put forth. The problems have festered for many administrations. The fact that Kasich in his arrogance and short-sightedness has caused it to be such a newsworthy and potentially scandalous situation will hopefully alert more people to his true nature. It’s not that he’s a Republican. It’s just that he’s… well, himself.

  • Jim Flogelheim

    Crazy. It looks like this investigation that you support had the ball started by the series of stories in the Columbus Dispatch of which you were so critical. Hmmm…

  • Naneebooboo

    This is good to see. Finally some serious action to address some serious issues. ODE obviously cannot oversee any program or activity. This one they arent going to be able to shove under the rug. When you have students information in your system that is so shambled and inaccurate, how could you possibly oversee any school district data. ODE has epically failed at some major programs only to be able to cover it up. That day is over. Too many mistakes, cover ups and inadequacies always catch up with empty minds.

  • Retrofuturistic

    The ODE is full of Kasich collaborators. How can you trust the Kasich administration to investigate the ODE or public schools, when the Kasich/ Koch/ ALEC agenda is to support for-profit charters and taxpayer-supported religious schools?

  • John

    I think all you folks who expect anything worthwhile to come from an “investigation” by a hack like Yost are deluding yourselves.

  • Debtlite

    We will see but if he really is about the right thing he will make sure some changes happen! I am giving him a chance.

  • gregmild

    A fair point to question. My strong criticism of the investigation’s beginnings centered around the notion that the laws and ODE guidelines around this issue are essentially non-existent (extremely vague at best). My “support” for this particular shift of focus has more to do with the shift away from local school districts and towards and investigation that has a greater chance of exposing our point to be true, exonerating the local districts. I don’t expect the Auditor to actually uncover wrongdoing by ODE in this particular instance either, but I have been very disappointed in the manner in which Stan Heffner has been so quick to accuse these districts of engaging in fraudulent activity when he could have so easily stepped up and explained the how the regulations clearly specify how districts are permitted to withdraw students after extended absences.

  • DublinIrishBob

    Perhaps Yost can investigate the attendance of Josh Mandel?

  • Skippity

    If Yost and company do not expose the ODE for what it is and not just the attendance and data scam, but the additional scams and cover ups the USDOE will! I have seen the documents photos and recordings.

  • gregmild

    I’ll clarify that you use the term “post” to mean “comments” on this blog, and not the originating article. As the PB blogger who wrote this post I can certify that I have never worked at the Ohio Department of Education in any capacity. And I will also assert, and those that know me can confirm, I’m not one to take unconfirmed comments and use them as facts.

  • fairnessandjustice

    Greg – You are correct, sometimes when I try and present a clear point in one area I miss small details like post vs comment. My point is that a single individual has been posting comments under serveral names and it has been heard enough that it seems to be taken as reality or fact. I am interpreting that from your statement about recent comments questioning the integrity of the Department of Education in this story.

    I am convinced that the comments by edubrat, lisa, sian, sani, and posibbly ivan are either directly created by the same person or someone is directing the comments made by small group of people that are intimidated or are fooled into helping. There are other simular comments on other Education related stories on the Plunderbund site and it is not fair to the hardworking management and staff at this agency to be subjected this single persons tactics.

  • Edubrat

    Fairnessandjustice sounds like part of the problem? Highly likely. I also can assert that I never worked at ODE nor did I accept any information at face value. But there is legitimacy to a few of the statements in this blog. Furthermore the information I received is from multiple sources so deflect as much as you wish but we are pretty certain who you are and even you may need to answer some questions. We are not certain who your alluding to in particular but sounds to me as you have the agenda. Sounds to us like whoever your calling a “bully” was doing his job. Not covering up.

  • Edubrat

    I do not disagree that there are hard working people at the ODE. I don’t believe anyone disputes that information. What we are questioning is the lack of oversight provided by the same certain individuals and in some cases calls into question certain people’s values. Pay attention Fairness because we shouldn’t have to explain this to you again. Now enough with addressing your nonsense. Let’s just wait and see what is uncovered by Mr. Yost. Enough said!

  • fairnessandjustice

    That is rather interesting. You say that you never worked at ODE but in your comments on the article posted here you specifically state that you currently work at ODE. So… which lie is it? It looks like the moderators are even on to you based on the their reply to the comment from EdFed (which is the same person as Edubrat). Also, your statement about the bully, sounds like a bullies’ response to me.

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