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School Board Worried About Bogus Data On Charter Grant Application

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The Ohio Department of Education has said that it called the U.S. Department of Education to let them know about the data scrubbing problem after turning in the application. A few months later federal education officials granted the state $71 million.

The federal government is giving Ohio $71 million to boost its charter schools. But state school board members fear Ohio got that money using bogus information on its application.

David Hansen, the state’s former director of school choice, was in his office putting the finishing touches on a grant application when he was called down to answer a slew of questions from the state board of education.

Through those questions, Hansen revealed that he erased the failing grades of online schools from charter school sponsor evaluations.

That was on July 14. Two days later the state submitted that grant application Hansen had been working on, with the scrubbed charter school sponsor evaluations left in.

And then Hansen resigned, saying the decision to leave out the failing grades was his alone.

This is a timeline that bothers several members of the state board of education, including Stephanie Dodd, who aired out her concerns during their most recent meeting.

“So we knew that there was data that was incorrect before we even submitted this, yet we went ahead and submitted this, signed our names to it and said that the information that we presented was correct and accurate even though we knew that it was not.”

Board Member Ann Jacobs jumped in on the discussion, noting that she too was concerned with the way things were handled leading up to submitting the application. She asked State Schools Superintendent Richard Ross several times to confirm whether or not the state made the decision to knowingly send in a false application.

Ross: “After that board meeting we ended up looking at what we had and making a decision in conjunction with the former director and he resigned two days after the grant was submitted.”

Jacobs: “But the Department of Education had the information prior to the submission of the application?”

Ross: “We certainly were working on getting the information as we were going to have prior to his resignation.”

The Ohio Department of Education has said that it called the U.S. Department of Education to let them know about the data scrubbing problem after turning in the application. A few months later federal education officials granted the state $71 million.

But Dodd said, based on an email she obtained, that the information provided by the state was not sufficient.

“It was stated that shortly following the submission of our application—a hold was placed on the authorizer evaluation to allow for a review of the methodology,” Dodd said. “That is completely shying away from the reality of what is happening here.”

Another board member, Todd Jones, was with the U.S. Department of Education for three years looking over hundreds of similar grant applications.

“I have seen the process up close and intimately,” said Jones.

Jones said the feds are used to making decisions on grants despite controversies that he believed to be much more significant than what’s happening in Ohio.

“People do things, things happen and then in context, are they serious things or not. The perceptions of this kind of activity of what’s happened here of everything you can read in the newspapers is that this is not significant.”

Superintendent Ross said his office plans to talk to the U.S. Department of Education this week regarding how the grant money will be awarded and what changes might need to be made.

Several board members have called for a third-party, independent investigation into Hansen’s data scrubbing. The department has said it handed documents over to the inspector general and auditor and does not plan on seeking another outlet for investigation.