Last summer, Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost launched a statewide investigation into alleged questionable attendance practices by schools and districts across Ohio. Auditor Yost confidently announced that the investigation would be completed rapidly, initially believing his full report would be ready in early Autumn so as to not disrupt the 2012-2013 school year unnecessarily. Yost’s hubris about his knowledge of the situation and his personal ability to understand such a complex system ultimately left him grasping at straws and struggling to bring any structure to the investigation, leaving any conclusive findings blowing in the wind for months.
Today, Yost’s office boldly proclaimed that the final state report will now be issued on Monday, February 11.
Here at Plunderbund, we’re anxiously awaiting this report that is padded with interpretations of guidelines in a manner that never existed prior to Yost’s investigation, neither by the state legislature nor by the Ohio Department of Education who writes the manuals on attendance reporting. Basically, Yost’s preliminary releases display his arrogance in seeking to rewrite the history of attendance reporting by Ohio’s schools, leaving every school or district in the state guilty of violating these newly-interpreted rules as the State Auditor personally sees fit.
Yost could have saved us all months of consternation, finger-pointing, false accusations, and the disruptive beginning to a new school year by listening to those, like us, who recognized early on that the standards guiding attendance reporting in Ohio have been weak at best, and completely missing in many cases. This void in state direction left schools wide latitude in interpreting the manner in which to report absences and withdrawals, a process that the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio General Assembly intentionally left vague because of the major conflicts in interpreting the true role of schools in reporting student attendance and involvement.
Last July 12, we published an article that detailed a conversation we had with State Representative Andy Brenner (R) in which we explicitly detailed the foundational problem with the manuals schools have been given in the past in a thin effort to guide attendance reporting. Brenner frequently engaged me in conversation about this investigation, often seeking to gain clarity about whether schools actually violated any rules or laws or directives. To his credit, and despite not seeing eye to eye on many educational topics, Brenner continued to listen and even became the sole state representative to contact Auditor Yost about this investigation, resulting in his name being included on Yost’s first major press release on July 26.
On that same date, I sent a FB message to Brenner congratulating him on contacting Yost and getting recognized. As our agreement on this topic began to align, I was hopeful that Brenner might be able to influence his fellow Delaware County Republican, swaying him to understand the gaps in the rules. Brenner gave me more hope in his replies that confirmed our interpretation of the lax standards schools were dealing with. Our conversation went as follows:
Note Brenner’s definitive answer to my initial congratulations:
“I’m looking into legislation on it in general. You are correct, there aren’t any standards.“
Brenner followed up by confirming that this wasn’t simply his personal opinion:
“Our own staff agreed.“
Now, as 2013 opens and a new General Assembly convenes in advance of Yost’s “final” report of sorts, the suddenly silent Brenner now finds himself sitting as the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee, perfectly poised to stand up and defend the work of Ohio’s schools in the absence of clear standards on attendance reporting.
Will Andy Brenner put partisan politics aside and refute the study by his compatriot, Auditor Yost? Or will he toe the party line on education and allow Ohio’s school districts to be thrown under the bus in spite of his own staff’s acknowledgement that the state guidelines were non-existent and in need of major revisions to be even remotely effective?
Will Representive Brenner display the integrity that should be evident in an educational leader or will he continue to sit on the truths that he discovered last summer and allow schools to unjustly take the fall due to an over-eager political mover in Republican Auditor of State Dave Yost?
Step up, Representative Brenner. Your seven months of silence on this topic must end now lest schools are unfairly punished as a result of your inaction.
If you haven’t read our initial detailed report on the flaws in reporting guidelines you can access it by clicking here.