This may sound strange after a whirlwind 48 hours that started on Thursday when Ohio Superintendent Stan Heffner was rocked by ethics charges from Ohio’s Inspector General and ended with Heffner’s resignation earlier today, but we tried to intervene and prevent it from occurring in the first place. And Stan Heffner could have done so successfully but for one single sentence that he spoke to the Senate Finance Committee.
Last May, while Ohio was preoccupied with Senate Bill 5/Issue 2, the Governor was busy pushing through his first budget, HB153. The budget bill also had numerous undesirable education reforms, but one in particular captured our attention — teacher retesting. We wrote numerous posts on the awful provision as early as April 2011, but the provision continued to remain in the bill with minor changes. As the month of May drew to a close, we obtained copies of the testimony of top officials, including then-Interim Superintendent Stan Heffner’s from May 11.
Heffner’s departure to ETS was no secret as it was often explained as the reason he was not in the running to become the permanent superintendent for Ohio, but the testimony he provided to Senate Finance piqued our curiosity. Or at least, one sentence did:
New programs in HB 153 are geared toward attracting, rewarding and promoting good teaching, including the Teacher Incentive Payment Program, performance-based compensation requirements, revisions to the process for alternative licensure, and retesting teachers working in the schools at the bottom 10% of performance index scores.
That sentence provides the backdrop for the initial finding of unethical conduct by the Inspector General. In a nutshell, the tests he promotes were singularly given by ETS, the company Heffner was under contract to go to work for.
When we discovered this conflict and assembled the pieces, we put out our first post on the topic — May 29, 2011. In that post we laid out the entire story that eventually became the first ethics complaint. But that complaint wasn’t filed for a full six weeks — all of June and half of July — plenty of time for Heffner to correct his misstep. In fact, in that May 29 post and in numerous emails to the Board of Education and State Senators (HB153 was in the Senate at the time), we called for the interim superintendent to both recant his testimony and resign as his position.
To reiterate, we sent emails containing the specific question of the ethical nature of Heffner’s testimony to every single state senator and every single member of the State Board of Education.
In an attempt to publicize the story to an even wider audience, we also sent the specific allegations to reporters from The Columbus Dispatch (8 different individuals), the Cleveland Plain Dealer (4), and the Toledo Blade (1). Not a single one picked up this story.
Back to the story…
At that time Heffner was still headed out the door to ETS, leaving behind the teacher retesting law for Ohio’s educators to deal with. Our full intent was to get that law removed, but no one took any action to do so.
Therefore, we prepared our official allegation form for the Ohio Ethics Commission in the hopes that by discrediting the testimony we could somehow convince the legislature to repeal the law.
We submitted the complaint form on July 11.
The very next day in an amazing twist of fate, State Board President Debe Terhar, despite being informed multiple times of these ethics allegations, pulled a stunning switcheroo and hired Heffner permanently. (Board vote was officially 15-0 with 4 members abstaining.)
So instead of being in Texas with ETS, it turns out that Heffner would be here in Ohio to face the very real consequences of his actions, which now include not only potential criminal charges, but a resignation that embarrasses himself, the State Board of Education, and Governor Kasich.
Truthfully, the events of the last three days have been unimaginable and Stan Heffner is paying a steep price.
And today we are left to wonder — was the teacher retesting law worth it, Stan?