Paolo DeMaria, presented the findings and recommendations of a report he co-authored, Education First’s, for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. June 15, 2015.


Revealed:  DeMaria's Deep Fordham Ties

by Scott Pullins


On May 24, 2016, State Auditor David Yost boldly declared the Ohio Department of Education “among the worst, if not the worst, state-run agency.” Yost, in a Toledo Blade interview, “declared that the department has too many missions to do justice to its core mission of overseeing public schools.”


Those must have been sobering words for statehouse veteran Paolo DeMaria, who had been named the new State Superintendent of Ohio Schools on May 11th.  Yost had argued that the Education Department should essentially be broken up and many of its functions given to other state agencies or entities.  


So, what was DeMaria’s reaction to this?  Silence.  In fact, DeMaria, who started work at the sprawling department on June 27th, has stated he has no plans to reform the department or ask for any legislative changes.


One gets the sense that Superintendent DeMaria is coasting.  Treading water, while awaiting the end of the lame duck Kasich administration.  Much of his time has been spent on a low profile, listening tour of local schools and ceremonial functions like presenting awards and announcing grants.  


The Cleveland Plain Dealer, which salivates at every missive from the Ohio Department of Education, shows only 39 mentions of the superintendent.  Meanwhile, the most prominent cheerleader for poorly run government schools in Ohio, Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), appears a whopping 243 times.   


Likewise, the Columbus Dispatch, which gushed over DeMaria’s appointment, shows 53 mentions of the Superintendent.  Meanwhile, Senator Lehner has 265.


Perhaps none of this should be surprising.  Much of the media, the political, and the education establishment have apparently anointed Senator Lehner as the de facto state superintendent anyway.  


This is probably because of her close ties to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which 3rd Rail Politics has reported on extensively.  But there has been little mention of Superintendent DeMaria’s also close ties to Fordham.


In 2015, DeMaria, through his then affiliation with Education First Consulting LLC, co-authored a 33 page paper on educational deregulation, co-sponsored by, yes, the Fordham Institute.  In fact, the Fordham Institute still lists him on their website as a member of its staff.



DeMaria presented his paper as part of the Education Speakers Series event sponsored by Fordham in June of 2015.  You can watch his video presentation here and view his slides here.


The Education First website lists the Thomas Fordham Institute, the Ohio Department of Education, and the Ohio Business Roundtable all as recent clients.  Susan Bodary is the Managing Partner of Education First and Paolo DeMaria’s co-author for the Fordham Report.  She resides in Kettering, Ohio less than a mile from State Senator Peggy Lehner’s home.  In 2012, her husband gave his only recorded campaign contribution to, you guessed it, Peggy Lehner.


Susan Bodary is also listed under staff at the Thomas Fordham Institute.  She moderated a panel discussion of education leaders in 2015 when Superintendent DeMaria presented their Fordham paper.


In one of 3rd Rail Politics first articles, we speculated that the Thomas Fordham Institute wants to run all charter schools in Ohio.  Ron Adler, Co-founder of Ohio Coalition for Quality Education said then that such an action would be devastating to Ohio charter schools because “Fordham has been very critical of charter schools and online schools around the country and have been successful in gaining media coverage by perpetuating false information.“


Perhaps our speculation stopped too short.  Perhaps the Fordham Institute doesn’t just want to run all charter schools in Ohio, but all education policy in Ohio?  


Connect the dots.  They own the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, lock, stock, and barrel.  The new Superintendent of Ohio Schools worked for them as a consultant.  Superintendent DeMaria’s former boss and business partner, Susan Bodary of Education First most likely still works for them.  


RaShaun Holliman, the new Director of the Office of Community Schools formerly served as CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  The alliance was founded by Fordham and recently shut down because other charter school advocates won’t work with a group controlled by Fordham.


Where is Paulo DeMaria?  Right where the Thomas Fordham Institute wants him.