And that should be very disturbing to all of Ohio’s citizens regardless of your personal opinion on the school attendance investigation. At this point, the schools and the Ohio Department of Education have not been found in violation of a single law, guideline, directive, etc. In fact, the investigation was initiated because of “irregularities” in attendance figures and a single district requested assistance in helping to identify what policies and practices might need to be revamped.
No laws broken, no crimes committed, simply a request for assistance from the agency in the state that would aid in conducted an impartial investigation. Because that’s what the Auditor’s office does, it’s who they are – fair, impartial, objective, professional.
The Mission Statement of the Ohio Auditor of State makes it clear:
And State Auditor Dave Yost started off by saying the right things on June 30, “Taxpayers deserve an independent review to ensure they are receiving accurate, reliable information about their schools.” Excellent. Professional, objective, driven by numbers and facts without regard to politics.
And June 30 is also when any pretense of objectivity surrounding this investigation ended. Since that initial statement, every time Yost speaks he demonstrates his lack of curiosity about attendance-reporting processes and his proclivity as an experienced prosecuting attorney to assume guilt, seeking out only that evidence that will help him prove his case.
rig [rig] verb, rigged, rig·ging, noun
- to manipulate fraudulently.
- to arrange or tamper with the results of something.
Mr. Yost’s most obvious bias was explicitly revealed only a few weeks after his investigation began when he began using overtly negative language to describe the attendance probe in a letter to the State Board of Education:
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.
There is no evidence at this time that anyone at ODE is involved in the attendance report rigging…
Yost’s language clearly makes presumptive statements that any accusations of irregularities in the data can only mean that the attendance figures have been manipulated with fraudulent intent. And in the first sentence above, he directly ties that claim of tampering to “false reports” that may have been made by multiple schools. Instead of maintaining the Auditor office’s standard of objectivity, Yost has already jumped the gun and presumed that any false report must inherently be the result of intentional tampering with the intent to commit fraud.
And to be clear, Yost did not misspeak. He subsequently reiterated his assumption of guilty behavior in a video he published in which he sought to reinforce his notion that fraudulent behavior had occurred and is seeking witnesses to prove his case.
I’m sure that most of you were just as unhappy about the reports of attendance-rigging as I was. And I’m betting that an awful lot of folks know something about what was going on but you haven’t known what to do; who to call; how to make it right.
Call our truth line.
- Attendance-rigging. [Implies fraudulent behavior]
- Make it right. [Implies all past actions were wrong]
- Call our truth line. [Implies prior actions have been lies]
Again, Yost makes the clear assumption that any irregularities in reporting were the result of intentional, hidden, and inappropriate behavior instead of asking any questions about state laws or guidelines that articulate the policies and practices that districts follow regarding attendance reporting. Yost is not interested in the truth, he’s interested in finding someone to prosecute.
Yost then defended his matter-of-fact statements in the video:
“It’s really hard to see this fact pattern any other way. Now, there may have been folks that were acting under direction that thought that everything was in the rules but when you’re manipulating the reports and the numbers to reflect something that’s not reality that’s wrongdoing.”
Yost freely admits that he has a bias, he has an inability to consider any other point of view in this investigation, even when people are saying their actions were in the rules (published by ODE). Yost is unable to conceive that a state agency could have adopted rules or guidelines that might seemingly contradict his interpretation of reality.
And so the question of how an Ohio agency might put something into print that contradicts the reality brings us right back to the Ohio Auditor’s Mission Statement:
“We are professionals. We work under objective standards, driven by numbers and facts without regard to politics.”
Ohio will never know the truth.