State Board of Education Members Stephanie Dodd and A.J. Wagner announced today that they intend to make a procedural attempt at the next meeting of the State School Board to bring back a tabled motion calling for an outside, independent investigation in the data rigging scandal known as “Chartergate.”
The scandal involves David Hansen, Kasich’s former head of the Office of Quality School Choice, and husband of Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign manager and former chief of staff, Beth Hansen.
David Hansen resigned when school board members discovered he had illegally altered data on a state charter school report . Hansen had already been caught altering data when he was hired by State Superintendent Richard Ross to work at Kasich’s education department.
Ohio’s charter school system is already the butt of jokes nationwide for its lax regulations on for-profit charter school sponsors and the quality of education they deliver to more than 160,000 children.
In an afternoon call to Ohio media, Dodd and Wagner spoke about what’s next in the scandal at the Ohio Department of Education to launch a serious look into the illegally altered charter school data affair. Gov. Kasich appoints 8 of the 19 state school boards members and has the responsibility of introducing and signing a state budget that funds the Ohio Department of Education. Kasich holds all the trump cards and he has no interest in investigating his own administration.
Dodd and Wagner said the motion was tabled incorrectly, based on Robert’s Rules Of Order, and that they’ll try to have a vote on taking the motion off the table. On the call, the two school board members said they don’t believe David Hansen is the “only culprit” even though ODE is arguing he acted alone.
“If they cheated on one thing, what else might they have cheated on,” Wagner asked. “If there’s nothing to see, alright, but they’re fighting so hard to keep it” from being looked at further.
Both argue their motion was put on the table to cut off debate, and that expecting either the state auditor, an elected Republican who’s in the governor’s corner for president, or the inspector general, who’s also appointed by Mr. Kasich and has established a track record of letting big matters silently drift away, like Coingate, would taint any investigation should it come to pass. Working for the governor, Inspector General Randy Myer and his agency will neither confirm nor deny that they are looking into the David Hansen affair. Even if they did take up the challenge, Dodd and Wagner say it could take as long as 17 months or more to learn anything. That time frame is even more reason, Dodd said, to support their resolution.
They both questioned the neutrality of either the auditor’s office or the inspector general and said their involvement would “taint the neutrality of the whole thing.”
If no state agency is qualified or capable of doing the job, Wagner suggested a law firm, a retired law professor or judge who’s no longer politically active, might fit the bill. Regardless, Wagner said, “Their reputation has to be beyond question.”
“The tabled motion must be taken off the table,” Wagner said, adding, “We’re not giving up on this.” But how to address their concerns going forward is a sticky wicket for them. Holding no trump cards of their own, their procedural strategy is to at least get a vote to un-table the motion. Wagner would call for a point of order if it’s tabled again, at which time they would pursue more formal actions.
Dodd and Wagner want more information, and hope to learn whether contracts were being followed. “We have a duty to investigate,” Wagner said. The duo were likewise concerned that people who knew what David Hansen was doing, as a release of public documents to Plunderbund and other media shows was the case, previously worked for the governor or the auditor, and that calls into question their partisanship. Dodd wants to know how “confidence can be restored” to the Ohio Department of Education since, she said, “We don’t know what happened.”
Dodd said it’s important to each out to their colleagues to get support “in making sure we can move forward to help” the education department. Meanwhile, two board seats are empty and two more votes are needed to untable their motion to investigate.
Plunderbund has made all of the released public records from the Ohio Department of Education available here.