Punish school statistics’ scrubbers

In what amounted to a spot check of Ohio school districts, state Auditor Dave Yost found eight that engaged in “scrubbing” of attendance reports. Clearly, officials responsible for lying about the data were trying to make it appear their school systems were doing a better job than actually was the case.

Yost also found more than 70 districts in which it appeared simple errors were responsible for inaccurate attendance reports.

Though cheating by school officials has been known since last year, little concrete action has been taken to punish those responsible.

Acting state school Superintendent Michael Sawyers said Monday that the eight districts accused of the most egregious misbehavior have until March 15 to respond to Yost’s findings. He added the more than 70 districts where errors were reported have until the same date to submit plans for corrective action.

Investigators at the state Department of Education are examining the eight districts where serious problems have been detected. Sawyers said cheating of which they have been accused is illegal and, if proven, could result in reductions in state school funding or revocation of education licenses for the personnel responsible.

It is highly doubtful any cuts in funding will result from the investigation. Unless it is found that cheating involved efforts to artificially boost state aid, such action would merely hurt students in the districts.

While revoking educators’ licenses is serious, it is not enough when clear intent to defraud is involved.

That is precisely what may have happened in some districts. Officials there know their jobs depend upon them proving they are doing good jobs. Falsifying data may have been viewed as a way to convince superiors – and taxpayers – that was the case when it was not.

In other words, scrubbing school statistics was fraud, purely and simply. Anyone found to have engaged in it should be prosecuted, to show other school officials in Ohio such criminal behavior will not be tolerated.