We believe there are two things a public entity should demonstrate before going to the ballot for a levy: trust and merit. The public entity should earn the trust of voters through complete transparency, and the public entity should present a ballot proposal that has obvious merit. With Issues 50 and 51, we have questions about both those prerequisites. It is beyond obvious that the Board of Education has taken a low profile during this levy campaign, and the public has not heard directly from the Board, but from a million dollar advertising campaign organized by the Mayor’s Office. However, it is the Board of Education that should be held responsible for previous transgressions, and for levy promises. There has been much solid reporting on the transgressions, but no media has been able to nail the Board of Education down to some obvious inconsistencies in its response. We ask that the Columbus news media pursue solid answers to these questions from the Board of Education prior to the levy, so that voters can have complete information prior to casting a vote. 1. Background: Columbus City Schools has been unclear on its beliefs about data scrubbing. On the one hand, CCS has said it is taking action and that 8 of the 14 persons responsible for the data scrubbing scandal have resigned. On the other hand, CCS has repeatedly said that data scrubbing was allowable under unclear Department of Education rules, and in a court filing (Case No. 13 CV 1323, supplemental disclosure of witnesses) of August 19th, CCS seems to imply data scrubbing is acceptable, citing Toledo and Cleveland (other data scrubbers identified by the Ohio Auditor who ODE is requiring to re-submit unscrubbed 2010-2011 data) as its witnesses in the lawsuit. There appears to be no consistency in CCS’s positions, as it appears CCS says one thing to the public and another thing to the court. Is CCS lying to the public, or is CCS preparing to engage in perjury to the court? Question: Was the practice of retroactively withdrawing students without documentation an approved activity of the school district that complied with state law, or was it the outlaw behavior of a few individuals? * If it was an approved and lawful activity, why were individuals pressured to resign? * If it was the outlaw behavior of a few individuals, why has CCS issued public statements saying it was allowable and why does CCS appear prepared to defend it in court? 2. Background: To date, CCS has appeared more interested in hiding information about past misdeeds from the public than in disclosing it and being transparent. To date, the only reports issued have been reports of monitored activity from the Ohio Auditor of State and the CCS Internal Auditor. These reports did not get into the behavior of the management of CCS. Attorney Buzz Trafford has been engaged to review requested documents prior to submission to the State Auditor and other investigators. The Board has not released a comprehensive report that explains what happened over the past decade, who was responsible, what was done about it, and how have changes been made so it can never happen again. Question: When will CCS take ownership of the misdeeds of the past decade by issuing a comprehensive report on what went wrong from 2004 when initial allegations were made, to the present? * Did former Superintendent Gene Harris know about and approve the data scrubbing at any point prior to the allegations becoming public knowledge? * How can CCS claim “A New Day,” when it is not willing to publicly acknowledge the past, identify any wrong doers, pursue remediation, and set clear plans in place so this never happens again? * Why did CCS not follow the Internal Auditor recommendation to report people suspected of breaking enrollments to the Offices of Employee or Labor Relations, and why instead is CCS keeping its investigation of employees it pressures to resign out of the public domain by avoiding Labor Relations and claiming attorney-client privilege? * Does CCS’s refusal to maintain all documents as public records not create suspicion of a cover-up and evidence a lack of willingness to be accountable to the public? 3. Background: Issue 51 proposes to create an “Independent” Auditor, who would be hired, supervised, and/or fired by five politicians serving on the “Selection Committee” -- 4 of whom will have schools subject to the auditor’s jurisdiction to audit. Specifically, the proposed “Independent” Auditor would audit CCS schools and would be subject to oversight by the School Board President who would be a member of the Selection Committee, also the Auditor would audit City-sponsored charter schools established pursuant to HB 167 and would be subject to oversight by the Mayor, City Council President, and City Auditor. Under HB 167, it takes four votes to dismiss the proposed Independent Auditor, which is exactly the number of members of the Selection Committee whose schools would be subject to the Auditor’s review. Question: When the stated rationale for the Issue 51 position is to give the auditor independence, how does putting the Auditor under the control of more audited entities create more independence for the Auditor, rather than more control over the Auditor? * How does Issue 51 change the fact that the auditor would still be overseen by representatives of the very entities s/he audits? * The Columbus Education Commission’s Plan compares this position to the City Auditor position, but the City Auditor position (and County Auditor and State Auditor) is an elected position accountable to the electorate. Why did the CEC not propose a truly independent auditor accountable to the electorate, which is the model it cites? 4. Background: Columbus City Schools suffers from a lack of trust, yet many of the same people responsible for that lack of trust are now presented as part of the solution. Specifically, City Council President Andrew Ginther would serve as a member of the Issue 51 Selection Committee, though it was his failure to follow up on whistle blower information during his tenure overseeing the Internal Auditor from 2004-2006 that led to the expansion of data scrubbing. Mr. Ginther also participated in the firing of Internal Auditor Tina Abdella, as she was set to begin investigating attendance and enrollment practices. Stephanie Hightower is featured in radio commercials in support of Issues 50 and 51 and served on the Columbus Education Commission – yet Ms. Hightower fired Internal Auditor Abdella during her tenure as school board president. School Board President Carol Perkins was chastised by the Auditor of State for putting pressure on the CCS Internal Auditor to wrap up her investigation, yet she is proposed as a member of the Selection Committee that would oversee the proposed “Independent” Auditor. Question: Should Columbus City Council enforce accountability for everybody involved in the data scrubbing scandal by requiring Andrew Ginther to release a public statement detailing why the Board of Education’s Accountability Committee he chaired did not respond to whistleblower allegations of data scrubbing from 2004-2006, prior to his being appointed Council President in 2014 when he would oversee another school auditor?, or should accountability be limited solely to CCS staff? 5. Background: Issue 50 proposes a fund to attract and retain teachers. Levy supporter say Columbus is a training ground for teachers who then leave for the suburbs. Levy supporters say that pay differentials between the suburbs and Columbus encourage mid-career teachers to leave the District for the suburbs. This fund proposes to address that issue, yet there does not appear to be much definition to this area of proposed school board spending. Question: Are there studies that document the extent to which teachers leave for the suburbs because of pay scale? * How many teachers leave each year under those conditions? * Are those the most qualified teachers with the best student outcomes? * If passed, in the event a great teacher was prepared to leave Columbus, how would this fund prevent that? * What are the specific elements of this fund, how much money is allocated to each, and how would they be implemented? * Do high performing charter school teachers typically earn more, or less, than Columbus City Schools teachers; and if they typically earn less, does fact create inconsistency in the strategy to expand the use of charters at the same time complaining of wage competition from suburbs? 6. Background: Issue 50 provides additional funding for high performing charter schools. Charter schools can set their own admission policies. Questions: * When you are paying for performance, how do you not create an incentive for charter schools to skim and only admit higher performing students? * If Charters are already performing at an A or B level with the existing state payment, why should Columbus taxpayers give them more money to do what they are already doing? * Would charters be able to use Columbus taxpayer payments for sports programs and other extracurricular activities, or would it be restricted to academics? 7. Background: Issue 50 proposes to expand the District’s Pre-K program. Right now, Columbus has 31 pre-K sites, including 14 nationally-accredited sites. To date, CCS has not provided any information to the public about the effectiveness of its existing pre-K sites. Question: Can the District provide data showing the effectiveness of Pre-K for children in its current Pre-K programs? * Please provide data from existing CCS pre-K program that shows children in Pre-K do better than those who did not have Pre-K. * Please provide data showing that any benefits of Pre-K extend until 3rd grade and show up in proficiency test results. 8. Background: The private sector has invested considerable sums of money in this campaign to increase taxes, but has not yet appeared to commit money to invest in the schools. The Columbus Education Plan calls for a $30-50M per year public-private innovation fund. Question: What firm commitments have come from the private sector to support that fund? Have any corporations committed to permanent funding, as the School Board is requesting of the taxpayers? * The Columbus Education Plan calls for City contributions to an innovation fund. What financial commitment has the City of Columbus made to this public-private partnership fund? 9. Background: The Board of Education is the entity that can place a school levy on the ballot, not the Mayor. However, not a single commercial or advertisement has focused on the Board. Question: Why is the Board taking such a low profile, when money is being raised for its activities? * Is this downplaying of the Board of Elections amount to misleading advertising? 10. Background: A 24% property tax increase for schools has a disparate impact on low income and elderly, fixed income residents of Columbus. Question: Were any seniors a part of the Columbus Education Committee or the CCS Millage Committee? * How did CCS balance the needs of children against the reality that many Columbus residents, including seniors, are struggling to pay their bills?