Kasich should appoint special panel to study state board of educationPublished: 8/16/15 @ 12:00
Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t the first governor to push for a restructuring of the Ohio Board of Education, and he won’t be the last. Indeed, the advocates for change have included such prominent governors as Democrat Frank J. Lausche and Republican James A. Rhodes.
The underlying argument against the current system has remained consistent over the years: With 11 of the 19 state board of education members elected from districts and eight appointed by the governor, there is no accountability to the state’s chief executive.
But more significantly, the board of education has the statutory authority to hire – and fire – the state superintendent of public instruction.
“I frankly think the whole thing should be changed,” Kasich, who is running for the Republican nomination for president, told the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t like the structure of it. I don’t like the infighting … A governor should be able to pick their own head of the Department of Education.”
It’s a sentiment voiced by his predecessors, including Republican George V. Voinovich, who persuaded the General Assembly to add eight seats to the state board of education, all to be occupied by appointees of the governor.
According to the Dispatch, the action created the hybrid panel that exists today.
“It gave governors greater influence over the selection of a superintendent, a post that now turns over when a new governor takes office,” the newspaper reported.
But Kasich contends that the board is extremely partisan, very polarized and divided, “and some people have seen that as a useful way to run through political agendas,” according to the Dispatch.
The governor’s comments came on the heels of a letter signed by seven members to the state superintendent of public instruction, Richard Ross, calling for an investigation into the activities of Department of Education officials. Two of the targets are Ross and former school-choice director David Hansen, who resigned after admitting that he had excluded F grades from evaluations of charter-school sponsors of online and dropout-recovery schools.
We have called for an independent investigation into Hansen’s actions with the following question forming the basis of the probe: Was he acting alone, or was he following orders from higher ups?
To us, the question is even more pertinent because Hansen, who resigned as the School Choice director for the Ohio Department of Education, is married to Beth Hansen, chief of staff to the governor.
Beth Hansen has taken a leave of absence from her job in the governor’s office to work for Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The seven members of the state board also raised concerns about Superintendent Ross’ role in developing the Youngstown Plan, which is designed to save the Youngstown City School District from total academic collapse.
We do not believe an investigation on this issue is warranted because without drastic action, the urban school district will continue to fail and will ultimately be dissolved by the state.
While it is true that the Youngstown Plan calls for a chief executive officer to take over the district, thereby stripping the school board of its decision-making powers, we consider the situation an exception to any public policy rule.
As we’ve noted on numerous occasions, the status quo is unsustainable in Youngstown, which is why we have no qualms about placing the school board in a supportive role.
By contrast, the state board of education’s responsibilities are big-picture oriented.
At first glance, the mix of elected and appointed members seems a reasonable compromise between a total political board and one that is devoid of politics.
Gov. Kasich’s contention that the current board is “extremely partisan,” polarized and divided needs to be studied objectively.
A panel made up of educators, officeholders and representatives of business, labor and community organizations would be ideally suited to delve into the composition and operation of the state board of education.