Pennyslvania Education Adviser Resigns Amid Criticism

Ron Tomalis, whose job as special adviser for higher education under Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett generated controversy this summer, has handed in his resignation effective August 26.

Tomalis moved on from his previous position as state education secretary when he was selected by Corbett for the newly created job 14 months ago.  He retained his salary of $139,542.

“Ron has truly been an asset to me and the department since I assumed the role of education secretary,” acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said.  “He has been instrumental in overseeing the creation and re-establishment of important educational programs that benefit the students of the commonwealth.  I wish him all the best.”

According to Tomalis, he advised the governor on education matters from Pre-K through higher education.  He also stated that he contributed to several education reform plans, including the re-institution of the Governor’s Schools program; the creation of a STEM competition for high school students; the evaluation of the department’s role concerning online charter schools; the Ready to Succeed Scholarship program, which offered financial assistance to middle-income students in the state; and the evaluation of ideas for the educational reform of the higher education system.

“Ron has been committed to Pennsylvania’s education system since the early days of my administration,” said  Corbett.  “He has worked closely with Secretary Dumaresq and the Department of Education to shape programs and policies that are in the best interest of students.  I thank him for his work and commitment to education.”

However, it is unclear to many within the state exactly what Tomalis had done in his short time as special adviser.  The Observer-Reporter found he went for long stretches with nothing written in his calendar.  The paper also found that he had written only seven e-mails in the course of an entire year.  Phone records showed he made about one call per day averaging about two minutes.

He has also never met key legislators who would have been working closely with him on many of the educational reforms, or officials from the state’s higher education offices.  Nor did the paper find any travel reimbursements requested from Tomalis for any visitations he may have made to different schools around the state.

Fresh Start, a Democratic political group, is calling for an investigation into what Tomalis actually did while he held the position of special adviser.  They also are asking for an investigation into the illegal deletion of e-mails within the department.

“Mr. Tomalis was announced as special adviser directly to the governor. But when questioned, the governor could not name a single thing Mr. Tomalis was working on,” said Fresh Start PA chairwoman Katie McGinty, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate. She pointed out that Mr. Tomalis’ salary is three times that of the average salary in Pennsylvania.

Tomalis was not available for comment on the matter.