Punish School Fraud Coverups

It has been said that over, the coverup is worse than the crime. Well, what about a coverup of a coverup? That may well be happening in one of Ohio’s largest school districts.

Columbus is among districts being investigated over allegations school attendance reports were falsified. Last week, Ohio state Auditor Dave Yost’s office felt it necessary to warn Columbus school officials they could face legal action if they continued pressuring the district’s own auditor to end her probe, which is independent of the state’s.

Also last week, there were reports records related to the investigation were removed from a high school.

School officials in Columbus, Toledo and a small district near Cincinnati have been accused of altering attendance records. Doing so can cover up education administrators’ failings in various ways, including students’ performance on standardized tests.

Now, some Columbus schools employees apparently are trying to cover up the initial coverup. The action about which Yost’s office warned them involved the districts own auditor. She had said she felt pressured to stop investigating falsification of attendance records.

It was disturbing enough to hear about the situations in Columbus, Toledo and the Lockland district near Cincinnati. But probes of those three apparently have sparked concern about school systems throughout the state.

Yost said other districts may be involved in such fraud – and that the state Department of Education may not be blameless. “It appears attendance report rigging is not a localized problem … but that it may be more systemic, and that raises the question of what role (the state department) played,” Yost said in announcing a statewide investigation by his office.

Yost clearly is hinting at some sort of conspiracy – possibly to hide schools’ inadequacies from the very taxpayers who pay for them.

Yost’s probe should be a comprehensive one, looking into any school district in which there are questions about honest reporting of statistics. If intent to mislead is uncovered, it should be punished as severely as the law allows.