Kasich gets a foul for remarks on Detroit, Cleveland schools

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

Who:John Kasich, governor of Ohio
What:Response to question about Detroit schools
The Call:Foul

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was asked at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate how he would fix Detroit’s schools, which are under state oversight, struggle academically and are positioned to run out of money as soon as April. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Kasich, “If the federal government bailed out the auto industry here in Detroit, should it also bail out the Detroit schools?”

Relevant statement from the debate:

“I think the mayor now is controlling the schools. 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.

Statements under review:

“...I think the mayor now is controlling the schools.”

His first sentence is incorrect. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is not in control of Detroit’s public schools. A state-appointed emergency manager is in charge. Gov. Rick Snyder last week appointed retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, who also oversaw Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, to be the fifth emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools.

“This is not much different than what happened in Cleveland, Ohio...”

The Ohio state legislature in 1997 voted to place Cleveland’s schools under mayoral control. That is quite different from what happened in Detroit. Since 2009, governors have appointed emergency managers to take over control of the school system and assume all responsibility for operations, sidelining the elected school board.

“…where the African-American Democrat mayor, the union, and business leaders came to see me...”

In 2012, as governor, Kasich was a key figure in creating the Cleveland Transformation Plan that was backed by the city’s African-American mayor and some business leaders.

However, the teachers union was not in the group that approached the governor, and was angry at initially being left out of the plan. Apparently, that anger still lingers, with the union chief calling Kasich a “liar” for his debate description of the events of 2012. Though it’s also true that months after the Cleveland plan was launched, the union came around to supporting it.

“...and said, ‘Would you help us to pass legislation to really create a CEO environment so that we can take control of the schools?’…”

Cleveland’s schools had actually been led by a CEO since 1998, well before Kasich was elected governor. At the time, Kasich was a U.S. Congressman and not involved in the initial takeover of Cleveland’s schools. The Cleveland Transformation Plan that Kasich signed into law in 2012 did not create the CEO environment, but it did make some key reforms. It changed the relationships between the school system and its teachers and local charter schools. Under the plan, in the event of teacher layoffs, the school district can now consider performance over seniority or tenure. And the district can share funds with charter schools but also can have a say in which charter school operators can open schools in the city, among other changes.

“...The Cleveland schools are coming back because of a major overhaul.”

The financial stability in the school system has improved. In 2012, with support from Kasich, the school system proposed a four-year tax millage to raise up to $85 million a year and voters approved it. That money has helped to strengthen the district’s budget and prevent layoffs.

However, the district’s test scores do not reflect an academic “comeback.” State test scores have improved marginally. And scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national standardized test given every two years, show Cleveland’s fourth-grade math scores and eighth-grade scores in reading and math have not changed since 2003. Scores have declined from 2003 to 2013 in fourth-grade reading. Cleveland’s scores tie Detroit for last place among the nation’s large cities in reading, and rank second-to-last in math.

The Call: Foul

Detroit’s schools are under state control, not mayoral control. Kasich claimed the teachers union was among the groups that approached him to help overhaul Cleveland’s public schools; it was not. And while taxpayers anted up to stabilize Cleveland’s school budget, the financial and governance changes have not yet shown evidence of resolving that district’s academic challenges. Gov. Kasich should’ve done more homework.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Lola Johnson
Mon, 03/07/2016 - 2:17pm
Fascinating how these pols are so quick to pontificate on the situation in Michigan, when none of them really understand the dictatorial power of the emergency manager. Run it like a business, with a CEO, indeed. We can see how well that works. When they speak of which they know nothing, they merely showcase their ignorance and naked ambition.
John Grant
Mon, 03/07/2016 - 5:33pm
Go get'em, Lola! Good job throughout. And a tip 'o' the hat to Bridge for an excellent job. Wouldn't it be nice if our politicians had a reputation for truth telling? and we didn't need a fact check? How can anyone vote for someone who chronically misrepresents the facts, who thinks the truth is something malleable to fit their political needs. Thank you, Bridge. And thank you for your excellent reporting on the Flint water crisis. The best!