Eye on Education

State Superintendent Apologizes for Ethics Lapse

Stan Heffner is Ohio's Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Last week the state auditor’s office announced it will investigate the Ohio Department of Education to see if it was involved in attendance rigging at Ohio schools.

Now, the Inspector General has logged an ethics violation against the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Last year, then interim-superintendent Stan Heffner testified before Ohio lawmakers in support of a bill that would increase teacher testing. That bill could have directly benefited one of the nation’s largest for-profit testing companies: the Educational Testing Service.

The problem?

Heffner had already signed a contract with Educational Testing Service to go work for them in Texas.

“This is a huge deal, any time you betray public trust,” says Randall Meyer, Ohio’s Inspector General. “He knew he was seeking employment with ETS; he knew ETS was at least in the market to get some of the testing for the state of Ohio. They’re one of the two largest testing firms in the country. He should have used some common sense in this and thought, ‘I may have some problems giving this testimony.’”

Heffner ultimately decided to stay in Ohio and accept the full time state superintendent’s position, but Meyer says since Heffner thought he was taking the job with ETS when he gave the testimony, there was a conflict of interest.

The report also found that Heffner used public property for personal purposes, like communicating about that job with people at ETS. He also asked public employees to run personal errands for him as he prepared to move to Texas.

Heffner apologized in a statement, saying, “I have learned from my mistakes and I will work with the Board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”

State Board of Education President Debe Terhar said in a statement that she is “disturbed” by the findings, and that Heffner showed a “woeful lack of judgment.”

Heffner has not resigned, but the Board is set to consider the report at its next meeting in September. It has 60 days to decide on any disciplinary action.

You can read the Inspector General’s findings here:

UPDATE: The Ohio Democratic Party is now calling for a criminal investigation of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner.


  • Craig

    The fact that the State School Chief lacks ethics is awful. No wonder the Ohio Department of Ed is being investigated! If he has no judgment or ethical fortitude it is likely some others exhume the same characteristics. Mismanaging data, no oversight of the programs in the agency, misuse of state property, intimidating and mistreating employees, paying large salaries to unethical shills, misuse of taxpayer dollars, failing to abide by law set forth in this great state, and who knows what. This is an embarrassment to all educators, children, districts and government!!

  • Duckmonkeyman

    So this guy who has poor judgement wants to judge teachers? He should be gone.

  • AppalachianMom

    According to the Columbus Dispatch article, Heffner serves at the pleasure of the State Board of Education. It is clear to me that the public must write to the Sate Board of Education and DEMAND Heffner’s removal as the state superintendent. I concur with board member Kristen McKinley’s statement that Heffner “should have known better,” contending it would be a double standard for him to keep his job. She continues with, “I am extremely concerned about (the allegations) because I think a lot of government employees have been found to use state resources for their personal use, computer equipment, cellphones, and they have lost their jobs,” McKinley said. “I think higher-level employees would be held to a higher standard.”
    Heffner was well aware of his employment actions; contract negotiation and signing, directing his assistant to carry out personal activity in his behave and using state resources for personal business. He disregarded legal standards (probably thinking, “What are they gonna do to me…I’m already gone.”) and now needs to be gone.

  • Paul

    Why would the State Board President wait until September to take action? That is absurd. The whole education system in Ohio looks awful. You have the top person lying and scamming (for 2.2 million dollars I might add), you have others below him, clearly not overseeing data from school districts, you have a bozo squad pulling people into a room and censoring if they can give auditors information……….and much more I am sure. If I attempted to scam someone for 2.2 million dollars by omission (AKA lying) I would be in a jumpsuit.

  • SueBob

    He has to go! And take his team who knew about this, and who also engage in this behavior with him! All the way down to middle management who are involved in unethical cover ups.

  • Concerned Educator

    An embarrassment! Much praise for R. Meyer! Now they need to dig into the rest of the improper activity at this place. If the state board of education had any sense they would be digging into what is happening at this agency and the acts occurring. It’s obvious taxpayers can’t count on them if their president is shrugging off taking action for 6 weeks. But in case you are listening Board, you need to be active and pay close attention to what is happening in your agency. It is not good, it is not fiscally responsible, it is not ethical! Heffner is at the top and doing this type of thing, what do you think your other leaders are doing? Why are law abiding people running out of your agency? Or trying to get out? Start policing your own backyard and start looking into things. The signs are there for you! It’s time to act like a professional board!

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