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Ohio official who manipulated charter-school data helped win federal grant to take over public schools

Kudos to the Beacon Journal for providing online links to:

  • Supporters of the application for school take-over money

  • Ohio Department of Education Technical review

  • Names of the organizations and public officials who supported Ohio's application for the federal grant

  • And Kudos to Doug Livingston, who digs deeper than 99% of ed reporters. As he said in an interview, "I spend some time aimlessly wandering through reams of data." He said if you get stuck with a data set it helps to rearrange the information to look at the same numbers in different ways.

  • Resignation of Ohio school superintendent Richard Ross sought by state lawmaker

  • Ohio charter-school data manipulated with ODE staff involvement

  • State's top school choice official resigns after illegal e-school omission

  • All this corruption and Arne's office hands out money to the crooks.

    And Livingston adds one more link to the ill repute of "recovery" districts.

    By Doug Livingston
    Beacon Journal education writer

    A top Ohio Department of Education official who resigned in July after manipulating data to boost charter schools also participated in a successful effort to obtain $71 million in federal money that could allow the wholesale takeover of urban school districts.

    The U.S. Department of Education this week announced that it is providing $249 million to six states and the District of Columbia over the next five years for the expansion of charter schools.

    The single-largest grant of $71 million goes to Ohio, which ranks near the bottom nationally for charter-school academic performance and has a history of financial failures.

    Records show that David Hansen, a longtime advocate for charter schools hired by State Supt. Richard Ross to run his school-choice office, was involved in the grant application that will facilitate the takeover of Youngstown city schools and other targeted urban districts.

    The takeover of so-called "recovery school districts" such as Youngstown was secretly negotiated by Ross, Kasich's then chief of staff Beth Hansen and Youngstown business officials and approved by the legislature in June in a stunning last-minute maneuver.

    David and Beth Hansen are husband and wife, and she left Kasich's staff in July to run his presidential campaign.

    Records released by the Ohio Department of Education Sept. 3 in response to newspaper investigations of Hansen's role in the data manipulation also show that he assembled the supporting documents for the federal grant.

    In those supporting documents, charter schools, charter-school advocates and members of the U.S. Congress painted a positive picture of Ohio.

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in announcing the $71 million this week, cited a Stanford University report suggesting that charter schools nationwide are showing improvement.

    He didn't mention another Stanford report that says Ohio charter schools are among the lowest-performing in the country.

    Instead, the federal officials gave the state a perfect score for "High-Quality Authorizing and Monitoring Processes"--or policing of charter schools -- although it is the manipulation of that system that resulted in Hansen's forced resignation.

    He resigned two days after the filing deadline for the grant application. Duncan's office reviewed the application and provided feedback on Sept. 4, months after the Ohio Department of Education rescinded the manipulated evaluations.

    Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for ODE, said federal officials were notified of the flawed accountability formula. "They approved the grant with that knowledge," she said.

    The state application also lacked academic data to show whether Ohio's charter schools, which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion annually, turn tax dollars into student success.

    "The applicant does not provide overall academic performance data, specific results in reading or mathematics, nor graduation rates. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the extent to which the performance of charter school students equals or exceeds the attainment of similar students in other public schools," stated a review of the grant proposal.

    When asked about Ohio charter schools' lackluster academic performance, disproportionate amount of fraud and high failure rate, Duncan's press secretary said "peer reviewers," not the federal government, were in charge of approving the more than $300 million awarded Monday.

    Elaine Quesinberry, the press secretary, would not elaborate Tuesday on who the peer reviewers were. She did confirm that the Ohio education officials filled out the grant application with the intent to direct money to charter school startups in academic distressed areas. Only two, Youngstown and Lorain, currently fit that description.

    In speaking with the Washington Post, Nadya Dabby, an assistant deputy secretary at U.S. Department of Education, said Ohio has room to improve. But like the application review, there was no hint of alarm concerning recent events or reports coming out of Ohio.

    "Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality and oversight," Dabby told the paper.

    The federal review of Ohio's application recognized:

    ΓΆ€ΒΆ The eight largest urban school districts are performing better than charter schools that conceivably could take them over.

    ΓΆ€ΒΆ Charter schools are funded equitably in comparison with traditional districts.

    ΓΆ€ΒΆ The state has created a process by which Youngstown city schools can be taken from local voters and turned over to charter schools and private management.

    ΓΆ€ΒΆ The number of poor-performing charter schools has not decreased in the past five years.

    State adds $25 million

    The additional federal dollars come as the Ohio Department of Education decides how to distribute $25 million set aside by state lawmakers to help charter schools pay rent, purchase property or renovate buildings.

    The money is yet one more assist to charter-school proponents in need of a building. Rent and building acquisition are two of the biggest deterrents to start-ups.

    In his 2015 budget proposal, Kasich had proposed additional facility funding, plus a plan to share local school property tax revenues with charter schools.

    Previously, state aid for facilities had been available only for traditional public school districts, but only if voters agreed to raise taxes to match state dollars.

    Under the new law, charter schools are not required to raise local funding.

    Both Kasich proposals, approved by the Republican-dominated legislature, were applauded in the review of the grant application.

    Lawmakers scrapped Kasich's long list of reforms to address poor academic performance and lax oversight. That bill has stalled, and House and Senate leadership are expected to meet privately to discuss the next step.

    Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @DougLivingstonABJ.

    — Doug Livingston
    Beacon Journal





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