About this project

The Ohio State Board of Education sets into motion the policies governing education in Ohio. Members devise graduation and testing standards, teacher licensure rules and evaluations, accountability methods, curriculum and more.

The News Outlet and The Akron Beacon Journal, a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University and the University of Akron, teamed up to design and conduct interviews with board members and research public records to provide an understanding of how education is administered.

Beacon Journal staff writer Doug Livingston was the lead reporter on the project. The News Outlet reporters who contributed to this project were: Karen Bell, Harry Evans, Lee Murray, Natalia Fenton, Rachael Kerr, Ashley Morris, Max Kalik, Rachel Salyer and Matt Hawout.

Instructors of the The News Outlet who devised and directed the research are Alyssa Lenhoff, Mary Sweetwood, Tim Francisco, Tom Maraffa, Andrew Bush and Christine Davidson.

Ohio Christian University collects public school dollars to teach ‘biblical truth’ as its president and lobbyist sit on state school board

A Christian university in Ohio, whose president sits on the state school board overseeing school curriculum, is offering classes to public high school students at taxpayer expense and teaching courses from a conservative Christian perspective.

Ethics issues on Ohio school board become confrontational

C. Todd Jones, one of the most influential members of the state school board, went on the offense at a board meeting last week, suggesting that if he has ethical problems, so do a lot of other members.

Bryan Williams resigns from state school board amid ethics concern

State school board member Bryan Williams of Fairlawn resigned Monday, telling colleagues that recent media reports have made him aware that as a publicly elected official, he may have violated Ohio ethics law by lobbying the government for private interests.

Ethics issues arise when state school board work crosses into private business lives of members

What is a clear conflict of interest for an Ohio state legislator is not so clear for a member of the State Board of Education. Four state school board members have business and private interests that compete directly for education dollars. Two are lobbyists, one is married to a lobbyist, and another benefits from public money given to the Christian college where he is president for post-secondary education. When it comes to the state school board, “Lobby law is silent,” said Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Direction of Ohio education depends on politics of ruling party

The Ohio State School Board is one of three hybrid boards in the nation. The board has 11 elected and eight appointed members. Prior to 1995, the 11-member board was entirely elected. Now, with more governor appointments, the board has lost its independent nature. The Beacon Journal in Akron and The News Outlet based at Youngstown State University explore the workings of the board that directs education in Ohio.

Ohio Parents caught in the middle of battle over school choice

The State School Board of Education has focused its attention on more school choice in Ohio. Proponents say more choice will lead to competition and result in better quality schools. They also say parents are capable of making informed choices on where their children should go to school. Opponents of expanded choice say it’s hard for parents to make an informed choices when they are inundated by road signs, TV and radio ads, robo-calls and mailers. They also say private and for-profit schools don’t face the same level of accountability as their public school counterparts.

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PROFILES OF OHIO STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBERS

SEO_Logo Newest BOE member has extensive background in education
Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings is the newest member of the Ohio Board of Education. She brings with her a long history in education affairs. She also favors schools partnering with businesses, community officials and parents.
Stephanie Dodd with son, Augustine, Oct. 7, 2013 Dodd uses business background to improve education system
Stephanie Dodd, the District 9 representative on the State Board of Education in Ohio, has a history in politics, having worked as a fundraiser for Democrats. Also, her husband, Dan Dodd, is a former state lawmaker who now works as a lobbyist for private preparatory and religious schools. In her mainly rural district, she cites the lack of technology as one of her biggest concerns.
Michael L. Collins, Oct. 7, 2013 Collins decries politicization of education in Ohio
Politically neutral Michael L. Collins is the elected State Board of Education member from District 6 in Ohio. He decries the increasing political nature of the board and the lack of a responsible and fair funding system to pay for education in Ohio.
Deborah Cain, Oct. 7, 2013 Cain supports public over for-profit schools
Deborah Cain was president of the State Board of Education in Ohio until elections installed a Republican governor. Once that happened, the makeup of the board changed and she was in the minority. She says her main goal is to support traditional public schools.
Joseph L. Farmer, Oct. 7, 2013 Farmer believes in vouchers, parental rights in education
Joseph Farmer, an at-large member of the State Board of Education in Ohio, got his post after a recommendation was made to the governor on his behalf. The recommendation came from his son, Kyle, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. Farmer came to the job with 19 years of experience as a local school board member. Farmer said his decisions are guided by his beliefs about right and wrong, and freedom of choice.
Sarah Fowler (C. Todd Jones, left; Tess Elshoff, right) Oct. 7, 2013 Home-school graduate Fowler promotes parental rights in education
Sarah Fowler was elected in November 2012 to the District 7 seat on the State Board of Education in Ohio. At 25, she is the youngest member on the board and the only member who was home-schooled. In fact, it was through the home-schooled network, Ohioans for Educational Freedom, that Fowler learned of the opening on the state school board and decided to run. That group was aware that regulations regarding home school were due for review and were trying to make sure home-schoolers were represented on the board.
Thomas W. Gunlock, Oct. 7, 2013 Board VP Gunlock supports accountability, choice efforts
Ohio Republican governors have twice appointed Thomas Gunlock to positions on the State Board of Education. Most recently, he was appointed to an at-large seat and serves at the vice president of the board. He is a major donor to Republican politicians. Gunlock said his focus on the state board is to be a principal player in implementing the teacher evaluation system and to “change the accountability system.”
Ann E. Jacobs, Oct. 7, 2013 Jacobs critical of attempts to politicize state school board
Ann Jacobs is serving her second term as the District 1 representative on the State School Board of Education. She is at odds with Ohio’s Republican governor over public funding of private schools and the use of vouchers. Jacobs says she is a “big advocate of the public school systems, which unfortunately the board isn’t anymore.”
C. Todd Jones, Oct. 7, 2013 Jones, head of lobby group, becomes an outspoken member on state school board
C. Todd Jones was appointed in 2011 to an at-large position on the State School Board of Education by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He has become an outspoken member, who sits on five committees including Achievement and Graduation Standards. Also, he is president of a group that lobbies on behalf of 50 private universities and colleges in the state seeking funding and influencing legislation.
Kathleen A. McGervey (Darryl D. Mehaffie in background) Oct. 7, 2013 McGervey critical of federalization efforts, traditional public schools
Kathleen McGervey was elected in 2010 to her first term as the District 2 representative to the Ohio State Board of Education. She is active in the Ohio Republican Party and in the Roman Catholic Church. As a board member, she is critical of the Common Core standards and traditional public schools, and is a proponent of parental choice in schools.
Jeffrey J. Mims Jr. Oct. 7, 2013 One of few urban voices on state board to leave post in December
Jeffrey Mims Jr. will step down in December from his seat as the District 3 representative on the Ohio State Board of Education. He was the only African American on the board and one of few members with experience in urban school districts. During his tenure, he said he has been on the “short side of the majority.” Mims expects that, after leaving, the governor will appoint someone who sides with the majority thinking. “The balance politically on the board is already out of whack. It shouldn’t really make a difference, but it does.”
Mary Rose Oakar, Oct. 7, 2013 Oakar a fervent critic of ‘bad’ charter schools
Mary Rose Oakar is a Cleveland native and the first woman sent to Congress from Ohio. Now, she represents District 11 on the State School Board of Education. Oakar finds herself at odds with the majority decisions on the board especially when it comes to charter schools and funding for public education. However, there is one shared goal. “I do think that making sure kids know how to read by the time they’re in the third grade is very, very important – and that is one of the goals the governor has that I agree with.”
Darryl D. Mehaffie, Oct. 7, 2013 Mehaffie finds social problems plague today’s education system
Darryl Mehaffie came to the Ohio State Board of Education with a background as a teacher and a player in the state’s Republican Party politics, having served as campaign finance director for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. He is also a 30-year veteran of the classroom, having taught fifth-graders. Once a critic of school vouchers, Mehaffie now says he supports this method to publicly fund private schools because they offer parents the right to determine the education of their children.
Ronald W. Ruddock, Oct. 7, 2013 Latest appointee, Rudduck, critical of Ohio school funding system
Ronald Ruddock was appointed in August to the State Board of Education by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to fill an open seat in District 10. While he is the newest member on the board, he has a long history in education, having worked as a teacher, administrator and superintendent in public schools. He also wrote a book about the school funding system in Ohio, titled “The ABCs of School Finance.” While he has much experience with the funding side of schools, he admits he needs to educate himself on the issues facing urban school districts.