Quolke's Corner 10/11/12

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 “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story…. Part 2”, The David Yost Saga

     Listening to David Yost’s rant against mostly urban school districts I can’t help but wonder if he is completely ignoring the reality of what occurred in the Ohio General Assembly this past spring and summer or if his colleagues in the Ohio House, Senate and Governor’s office are encouraging his attacks.  I know that the results of our conversations and negotiations that built the Cleveland Plan were those done together with Republicans and Democrats of the Ohio General Assembly.  The Cleveland Plan started out very confrontational, but we kept politics and battles of the past on the sidelines because our goal was to build solutions for children within our public education system. Yet we are now faced with someone who is in statewide office who is not only operating counter to the bi-partisan, solution focused approach of the Cleveland plan, and he is using his position to attack public education and urban school districts—with no mention of working together to build solutions for children of Ohio.

     Last week, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost jumped into the realm of political grandstanding when he released the first phase of a statewide investigation regarding attendance reporting practices.  In his release, he flagged Cleveland’s attendance practice and admonished multiple school districts, including Cleveland, at his press conference.  I’m sorry – he did not admonish the district – he accused the district of “intentionally falsifying data”.  I thought the Auditor’s job was to take the facts of the report and make recommendations.  This Auditor did not report his findings – he criticized the district and attached motives to their procedures and went on in subsequent public settings to pontificate about state and federal education policy.  This is not unbiased nor is his self appointed authority on state and federal policy, his role as Auditor.  This is political grandstanding.  This is David Yost’s version of “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

     I had to read the article in the Plain Dealer more than one time to make sure that I understood.  It appears that the final report will come out in January and that another preliminary report (or two) will come out in October.  So why is this preliminary report preliminary?  Is the timing of this release (the week that early vote opened) and the next one (2 weeks before Election Day) a coincidence?  Two incomplete audits released by a Republican state office holder in the month of October in a presidential election.  Two incomplete audits released in four heavy democratic counties.  Why?  Politically motivated?  Political grandstanding?  I suppose I could guess why, but I would be guessing Dave Yost’s motives – and that would not be within my scope.

     What is truly amazing is that if Yost is so interested in the truth, he should focus on the agency that houses the system…the Ohio Department of Education—and needed changes to that system and support for the administrators who run it.  Yes, the same Ohio Department of Education that has heard complaints about their EMIS system for years and has been insufficiently staffed to be responsive to over 600 schools districts statewide.  Yes, the same Ohio Department of Education that had Superintendent Hefner resign over an ethics violation.  No, David Yost (for some reason) doesn’t want to put the State agency under a microscope.  No, David Yost doesn’t want to tell the public that the ODE tried to implement a new IT system in every school district and didn’t support any of those districts with IT assistance.  No, David Yost doesn’t want to tell you that ODE instituted this new system and offered 1,000 page manual and the ever helpful Ohio Revised Code as their official “guidance”.  Nor does David Yost want to scrutinize Charter Schools in his audit.  He knows how hard they lobbied against greater accountability for Cleveland charter schools during the Cleveland Plan and he doesn’t want to open that can of worms again.  David Yost doesn’t want the public to know the whole story—just the one that will help his political career, regardless of collateral damage. Like I said, never let the truth get in the way of a good story (or building the story for your next campaign).

      What is really unfortunate is that David Yost is not talking about solutions.  It is clear in my mind that Yost is more concerned about his next political office than working to fix the problems.  Every district I have read about has admitted there are problems and they need to fix them together with ODE.  My experience having worked with leadership in the House, Senate and the Governor’s office, is that Republicans and Democrats realize Eric Gordon and I are willing to work to find solutions and bring those solutions forward to the General Assembly.  And I can say the same about my colleagues in the Ohio 8, the Coalition of Superintendents and Union Presidents from our 8 urban districts.  David Yost should follow the lead of some of his Republican colleagues and work to find solutions, not undermine public education. If he spent as much time looking at capacity issues at ODE as he has turning over tables and spending tax dollars investigating hundreds of schools around the state, we would begin the process of moving forward toward a solution. It might not get you media coverage you want for your next campaign, but it will earn you the respect of the citizens you serve - including the teachers, administrators, and students that continue to be attacked and distracted by his over the top antics.

     The fact is you don't need to have final findings from the Auditor to talk about suggested solutions, nor do you need final findings to address infrastructure capacity at ODE---and the Auditor knows this.  The Auditors actions contradict the collaboration and bipartisan efforts put forth this year with his fellow Republicans....proof that the Auditor doesn't care about students but more about his political career.  “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”



In Union