Common Core supporter Gov. John Kasich said during the GOP debate Thursday he’s a believer in local education, school choice, vouchers, and charter schools.
Asked by moderator Megyn Kelly if the federal government should bail out the failed Detroit schools as it did the auto industry, Kasich replied:
This is not much different than what happened in Cleveland, Ohio, where the African-American Democrat mayor, the union, and business leaders came to see me and said, “Would you help us to pass legislation to really create a CEO environment so that we can take control of the schools?”
We even invested in a buyout plan, where we bought out the teachers who had been there a long time, because there were so many young teachers who had been laid off who were so enthusiastic to get back in the schools. It worked beautifully. Cleveland’s coming back. The Cleveland schools are coming back because of a major overhaul.
Kasich said the same solution should be used for all urban schools.
“And, frankly, look, if I were president, I’d take 104 federal programs, bundle them into four buckets, and send it to the states, because fixing schools rests at the state and the local level, and particularly at the school board level,” he said.
Just last year, however, when grassroots groups of parents were fighting the federally funded Common Core standards in Ohio, demanding that education be returned to the state and local levels, Kasich responded that their calls amounted to nothing more than “hysteria,” and that their organized efforts to defeat Common Core in Ohio were merely “a runaway internet campaign.”
Kasich denied federal involvement in the education reform that was funded in part through President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill. When asked about Common Core in February of last year, Kasich responded, “That is not something that Barack Obama is putting together…it’s local school boards developing local curriculum to meet higher standards. I cannot figure out what’s wrong with that.”
But Kasich is also a strong advocate of charter schools and school vouchers – the least conservative means of bringing about school choice. Vouchers allow taxpayer dollars to follow the child to the private or charter school of his choice, and while that sounds “conservative,” the reality is that it is not only the money that follows along with the child, but also increased government regulation. For some years now, conservative and libertarian education policy experts have warned against voucher systems in favor, instead, of tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts, which are less likely to drag the regulations and mandates of government schools into the private arena.
When it comes to charter schools, some are effective in achieving student success, but others have been examples of cronyism and corruption as a result of arrangements between politicians and private businesses. And Kasich’s campaign has had experience with that already.
As Breitbart News reported in September, the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager was discovered to have participated with other Ohio Department of Education staff in a coordinated effort to falsely inflate the evaluations of some charter school sponsors.
In July of last year, former Ohio Department of Education Director of School Choice David Hansen – husband of Beth Hansen, Kasich’s former chief of staff in the governor’s office and his presidential campaign manager – resigned after admitting he manipulated evaluations of some charter sponsors, reported the Columbus Dispatch. The data rigging allowed the sponsors of poor-performing online schools to appear to be engaged in adequate supervision of those schools.
State Superintendent of Schools Richard Ross said the records show that neither he nor Kasich had any involvement in the data manipulation. The Dispatch, however, reports “emails show that some outside the department were asking for explanations.”
“We had a breakdown in our system which undermined the progress we were making in holding charter schools accountable,” Ross said. “Excluding e-schools didn’t cross my mind. It’s not what I believe; not what I’m about.”
Hansen, whose position was created in 2013 by Kasich to oversee the expansion of charter schools in the state, told the Associated Press that the state law pertaining to the evaluation of Ohio’s charter schools was “not a model of clarity.”
The controversy came at a time when Ohio’s charter schools were under significant scrutiny, with problems of attendance and accountability surrounding the schools that were billed as an alternative to public schools.
And Hansen himself was not new to data rigging.
As Ohio Political blog Plunderbund reported, in 2009 – while Hansen was president of the Buckeye Institute – he was also caught manipulating data regarding Ohio’s charter schools, yet was still chosen to be school choice director in 2013. Many of the schools involved were owned and operated by for-profit company White Hat Management, which itself is owned by David Brennan, a big donor – through his family’s foundation – to the Buckeye Institute, to the Republican Party, and to Kasich’s campaign in Ohio.