Campaign Finance Spending

Pro levy sponsors Reimagine Columbus Education reported spending $2,266,005.86 for the period ending October 16th. That’s a lot of money – 5 times more than in the previous school levy campaign – to not yet have convinced a majority of voters that the bad ideas in Issues 50 and 51 are good ideas. The citizen opposition group has spent less than $1,820.00.

How Low Can They Go

People with “Just Say No” to Issues 50 & 51 Yard Signs report they are being stolen from their yards. Are the Pro-Tax Hike forces really that desperate?

Lower Still

People report that Linden McKinley STEM students are going door-to-door asking people to vote for the levy. Linden-McKinley was renovated and currently has an F rating. It was also a school where data scrubbing occurred. We wonder if the students know the full story.

Legal Fees

Columbus City Schools continue to rack up legal bills. A December 6, 2012 bill from Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP was for August and September 2012, in the amount of $91,105.31; another on December 7, 2012 was for the month of October 2012 was $92,693.51, November through May 2013 was $91,201.18 and another June 27, 2013 bill was for a whopping $340,502.94. All these legal bills were listed for “Governance and Compliance Issues.” Porter Wright has not submitted invoices for the period from June through October (probably waiting until after the election) … taxpayers can expect it to be a doozy. In addition, Porter Wright racked up legal bills for litigation by CCS parents Marvin Perkins and Jonathan Beard related to data scrubbing ($19,400.54 and $37,267.55 respectively). Porter Wright wasn’t the only law firm profiting from data scrubbing, Organ Stock received $146,694.67 from January 2012 through September 2013, for its work defending the school board against the Columbus Dispatch open meetings violations lawsuit. And Crabbe Brown & James LLP and Means Birchimer Burkholder & Baker LPA also piled on fees for their work defending former Superintendent Gene Harris, Andrew Ginther, Steve Tankovich and other administrators implicated in the data scrubbing scandal ($15,013.65 and 9,340.50 respectively).

Oops, My Bad

At the League of Women Voters forum on October 16th, CEA (Teacher’s Union) President Rhonda Johnson said that if the levy doesn’t pass, they would immediately “start dismantling Columbus City Schools.” Such doom and gloom. The next day, Columbus City Schools announced a $51.7M budget surplus, and a five year projection that showed the District had enough cash on hand and revenue expected to last through June 2016. Ms. Johnson couldn’t have been more wrong.

Race-Baiting for A New Day

Pro Levy advertisements on Columbus’s urban contemporary (read “predominantly Black audiences”) format radio stations stress the importance of the levy to “our children” and “our neighborhoods” in barely veiled race-based appeals to Black voters. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty stresses the “our” in our children six times in 30 seconds in her advertisement. Polling has confirmed that if the levy passes, it will be passed by Black voters. Did you hear pro levy advertisements by Robert (“Bo”) Chilton and Stephanie Hightower playing on urban contemporary format radio stations? Chilton lives in Gahanna and would not be subject to the 24 percent tax increase, and Hightower was CCS Board Chair who fired Internal Auditor Tina Abdella who was set to investigate data scrubbing in 2005. Hightower now serves as Executive Director of the Columbus Urban League, an agency that just lost a $7.1M contract to provide Head Start daycare. The Urban League was thrown into competition for those funds due to past misappropriations of federal funding for the Head Start program. After the Urban Meyer doesn’t live in Columbus flap, you would think the pro-levy forces would do some screening.

A New Day, or Same Sh!t Different Day

The Columbus Free Press reports on the 7-12 weeks taken by Columbus City Schools to respond to a public records request. CCS Attorney Loren Braverman explains the delay by indicating there are a lot of data requests that take time. When the issue is the public’s right to know and a levy is pending, The Free Press suggests that CCS learn what the rest of the world knows: if you have a short-term crunch you reassign workers or hire a temp. As part of its request, the Free Press has requested that CCS address the discrepancy in its words and acts. CCS respond to the discrepancy between the schools saying that 8 of 14 people identified as part of the data scrubbing scandal have resigned, which would seem to imply they did something wrong. However, CCS has also insisted that data scrubbing was allowable under Ohio Department of Education rules, and The Free Press note CCS’s actions in litigation, where lawyers representing both the Superintendent and the Board of Education and lawyers representing Gene Harris and Andrew Ginther indicate they plan to call representatives of Toledo and Cleveland schools – two other data scrubbers – as witnesses in a data scrubbing trial, saying they plan to call “… a corporate representative of the Cleveland City School District [and Toledo Public School District], who has knowledge of the interpretation of the educational information management system and its implementation and use with respect to data collected by the district and its management policies and practices with respect to this data. The witness may also have knowledge of ODE interpretation of EMIS guidelines and practices of school districts with respect to accounting for student attendance.” The Free Press has asked CCS to confirm whether it believes data scrubbing was in fact lawful as it has indicated in past statements and current litigation, or if CCS believes it was the rogue act of a small group of people. Right now, CCS is saying and acting in public that it was the rogue act, but CCS is litigating as if it was allowable. It appears CCS is either lying to the public, or about to perjure itself to the court. As of press time, CCS spokesman Jeff Warner has not responded to an email and voice mail asking those questions on behalf of the people.