Name: Charles Todd Jones.
Appointed, at large: Appointed January 2011 by Gov. John Kasich to fill an unexpired term, reappointed in January 2013. Term expires Dec. 31, 2016.
School board committees: Achievement; Executive; Legislative and Budget; Accountability; Graduation Requirements.
Residence: New Albany.
Political party affiliation: Republican.
Occupation: President, general counsel and lobbyist for Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, represents about 50 privately supported nonprofit colleges and universities; owner of rental properties in Pueblo, Colo.
Education: K-12 history unknown; bachelor’s degree in business administration; master’s degree in law; juris doctorate.
Family: Not married, two children in public schools.
Other boards, affiliations:
Previous occupations: First president of the National Education Knowledge Industry Association, an association of researchers, educational developers, service providers, and entrepreneurs; Bar Association member in Ohio, District of Columbia and Colorado; immediate past chairman, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; treasurer, board member of Crew Soccer Foundation.
An attorney in the administration of President George W. Bush and now a lobbyist in Ohio, C. Todd Jones was appointed to the state school board by Gov. John Kasich shortly after taking office in 2011 and has become one of its most outspoken members.
No one sits on more board committees than he does, and he chairs two of the most important: Achievement and Graduation standards, both of which set benchmarks for children, schools and teachers.
On occasion, he has joined board vice president Tom Gunlock in representing the body in testimony before the state legislature, taken on state lawmakers with whom he disagrees, and ventured into hostile public meetings to take a minority position.
However, of 17 current board members, he is the lone member who over a period of several weeks did not return phone calls or answer emails requesting a biographical interview.
He did, however, return a call when a message was left seeking comment about potential conflicts of interest between his position on the state school board and his lobbying for an association of private colleges, which he heads.
Jones explained that he was not refusing to talk to the students, saying that while he has “hundreds of opinions on matters of educational policy, I am not interested in giving interviews to explore the variety of topics that are not related to matters before the board or subject of current public policy debate. They are no more important to my work on the board than are my preferences for neckwear, television shows, or fermented beverages.”
Most of the profile of Jones is pulled from public records.
He is the president and chief legal counsel for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, a group that lobbies on behalf of about 50 private universities and colleges in the state seeking funding and influencing legislation. One of the association’s members is Ohio Christian University, whose president Mark Smith, is on the state board with Jones.
Jones’ lobbying reports filed with the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission show that in his regular job, he attempts to influence the legislature, the governor and state departments on education, education technology and education funding. As recently as this year he lobbied the legislature on matters that benefited his organization and require the state school board to take action.
His Association of Independent Colleges and Universities has an annual budget of about $800,000 a year, and he receives about $220,000 a year in wages and benefits, according to Form 990s filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The association web site identifies a staff of five.
Jones is a lawyer who began his college career in Colorado and finished in Washington, where he became a staff lawyer for the American Rehabilitation Association and helped launch an organization that attempted to identify the most effective methods of education improvement through solid research. The organization later became the Knowledge Alliance.
He was a staff attorney in the U.S. House in the 90s, and joined the Bush administration immediately after he became president, working in civil rights then the Department of Education.
Jones came to Ohio in 2005 to head the independent colleges association. He lives in New Albany, one of the Columbus area’s most exclusive communities, has two young children and is recently divorced, according to Franklin County court documents.
This year, Jones is in key board positions. In addition to the achievement and graduation committees, he is on three others: Executive, which selects and evaluates the state superintendent; Legislative and budget, which determines budget needs and legislative action. This was a budget year for the governor and legislature; and Accountability, which determines how to hold schools and teachers accountable to the achievement and graduation standards.
He has been a defender of the Common Core standards, part of a national effort to assess and raise the level of academics nationwide. Ohio began implementation this year.
The Common Core uses standardized tests and benchmarks for student performance and has become a hotbed of controversy in Ohio and other states, as groups from the tea party to teachers’ unions oppose the standards, albeit for very different reasons.
In April, the Republican National Committee passed an anti-Common Core resolution. In July, State Rep. Andy Thompson of Marietta, along with 13 other Republican representatives, introduced HB 237 to repeal Ohio’s adoption of Common Core.
In the May 14 session of the House Committee on Education, Jones suggested that critics of the Common Core are misinformed or unknowledgeable about education and education policy, according to the Hannah Report, a daily newsletter that covers Ohio government.
“These people don’t necessarily know much about education. Knowing the chairman of the RNC (Reince Priebus), I can say that with good authority,” Jones said.
He ventured into unfriendly waters in April to defend the standards at a public meeting in Lewis Center. Among those attending was State Rep. Andrew O. Brenner, R-Powell, vice-chairman of the Education Committee and a sponsor of the bill to cancel the program.
However, Jones is not an unflinching advocate. He said the standards aren’t high enough, and believes the program will collapse before full implementation.
He was quoted saying the standards have been implemented by the Barack Obama administration through “extralegal means by overriding the explicit provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act,” but also said conservatives were complicit in the implementation. “…They don’t want to go through a negotiation, which they believe they will lose.”
“I have a little skepticism myself, but what’s the alternative? I’m waiting for people to put the standards on the table … if you think Ohio will do stronger standards than the Common Core right now, you are kidding yourself. I’m already hearing backlash from the Republicans about raising standards in this state,” he reportedly said at the April meeting. “If you think Republicans are complaining, wait till you hear from the constituencies that represent the low-performing districts of the state.”
Nonetheless, he was highly critical of Ohio’s level of education and its impact on the future.
“If we don’t improve the education of people in this state, we’re going to continue to have a large sub-population of low-educated, low-employed people. I can assure you that the welfare state as it exists in America will not be changed by the time I retire. In some way, some how, you’re gonna pay for it … through higher crime, higher insurance and higher direct taxation.”
He also was critical of those who see a conspiracy behind the Common Core.?“The idea that there’s a plot here is due to a series of misapprehensions – and a fear of the Obama administration.”
At the February state school board meeting, Jones came prepared for a different fight.
President Debe Terhar was under fire and there were calls for her resignation after she shared on her personal Facebook account a photo of Adolf Hitler with a statement that to conquer a nation, tyrants take away guns. Her posting appeared as President Obama called for additional controls on guns following the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“At some point this is going to end, and in my view this is going to end today,” Jones told the audience and other board members, according to the Hannah Report.
After a representative from the Ohio Democratic Party called for her removal, Jones responded. He had a piece of Democratic Party literature that cited the Terhar-Hitler incident as a reason to donate to the party.
“It’s demeaning for you to take money for this,” Jones said, suggesting that any revenue from the literature be donated to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
And Jones, still fresh to the board, issued a warning: “This is not my first rodeo, and I know how political parties work.”
The vote to remove Terhar failed.
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, the University of Akron and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM radio and the Vindicator in Youngstown, the Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio in Akron.