Covering Up Chartergate

"Chartergate" - that's the name being given to the fallout from data being omitted from politically connected online charter schools, skewing sponsor ratings to be more positive. These actions were perpetrated by ODE's school choice director, David Hansen. Hansen was quickly forced to resign. ODE and the Governor were hoping that would end the controversy, but yesterdays letter by 7 school board members (the majority of elected members) has reignited the discussion about opening up an independent investigation. The President of the Board, a Kasich appointee is looking to avoid such an investigation, with incomprehensible reasoning.

State board of education president Tom Gunlock said in an interview that he agrees the law was violated and the situation needs addressed. But he said the letter from his colleagues goes a step beyond what he thinks is necessary.

"It's appropriate to make sure we abide by the law," Mr. Gunlock said of Mr. Ross's plan. "I'm happy where we are today. Am I happy it occurred in the first place? Absolutely not. But I'm willing to understand that nobody's perfect in this world and things happen and what you do afterward is very important."

Mr. Gunlock said that unless contrary evidence surfaces, he's inclined to believe Mr. Hansen acted alone and that Superintendent Ross played no role in the situation. The superintendent has told board members that a review of Mr. Hansen's emails showed he acted alone.

"What happened was wrong, it was a mistake," Mr. Gunlock said. "It was by one person overstepping their authority. To date, nobody's found anything that would lead one to believe something criminal was going on."

He added, "There's nothing you can do when people do stuff when they're not supposed to. Things can happen in any organization where people go outside the chain of command and do stuff."

This response is embarrassing. "Things happen" is not an appropriate response to a scandal affecting a billion dollar business.

How are we to know that Mr. Hansen acted alone without a serious independent investigation? Because we have the word of a man who was either complicit in the scandal or incompetent not to review the sponsor ratings and their design before making them public? Either way we need to do more than a quick search of some emails.

Questions that need immediate answers, under oath include:

  • Did Mr. Hansen have any conversations with Mr Ross or members of the administration about the design of the sponsor ratings?
  • Did Mr. Hansen, or anyone else from ODE meet with anyone from the Charter school industry to discuss creating sponsor ratings? If so, who, and what was the nature of those conversations?
  • Did Mr. Ross review the sponsor ratings system before they were made public? If not, why not? If so, how did this illegal rating system move forward?
  • Did Mr. Hansen develop and publish these ratings on his own, or were other staff members involved? What was their direction, and from whom?

The list of open questions requiring answer is long. Every one knows this wasn't some innocent mistake. Charter school lobbyists have been crawling all over ODE and the statehouse since the first mention of reform was uttered. Mr. Hansen is the husband of Gov. Kaisch's chief of staff and now Presidential campaign manager. You don't sacrifice someone as politically connected as that unless there is far more to be revealed. Yet this is the Governor's response to this growing scandal

Gov. John Kasich sees no need for a special investigation of how data from bad charter schools were scrubbed by the husband of his campaign manager.

“I mean, the guy is gone. He’s gone,” Kasich said about David Hansen, who resigned as the state education department’s school-choice director last month, shortly after it was revealed that he had arbitrarily removed poorly performing charter schools from state evaluations. Hansen is the husband of the governor’s former chief of staff, Beth Hansen, who is the manager of Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We don’t tolerate any sort of not open and direct communication about charter schools, and everybody gets it. So that’s kind of the end of it,” Kasich said on Tuesday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
“It’s just a political thing,” Kasich said. “You just shake your head that people aren’t grown up enough to know that education’s not about adults, it’s about children. And that sideshows have no place in all this.”

The failure and fraud allowed to persist in the Ohio charter school sector is exactly about adults enriching themselves at the expense of over 100,000 students. That is exactly why an independent examination of ODE and its leadership is so crucial.