Archives for category: Ohio

Progress Ohio reports that the many thousands of secret government cables released by Wikileaks contained references to the Gulen charter schools, a number of which are being investigated by the FBI for unknown reasons. The Gulen charter chain is the largest in the nation.

State Dept. Notified CIA, National Security Council About Suspicious Charter School Visas

The U.S. State Department raised serious and repeated concerns about Turkish charter schools in America, sending cables to the CIA, Secretary of Defense and the President’s National Security Council. Special attention was paid to the large number of Turkish nationals with questionable credentials seeking visas to teach at schools such as Ohio’s Horizon Science Academies, which are linked to a controversial Islamic faith leader.

A review of over one hundred diplomatic cables made available at WikiLeaks found numerous warnings about underqualified applicants for teaching visas. One cable states that applicants “might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the US.” Another, ominously observed there is “considerable debate” about whether members of their faith movement were “a threat to secular governments.”

Background

Fethullah Gulen is an exiled Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania. He is currently the subject of an extradition request[1] on charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.[2] Gulen has millions of well-organized followers in central Asia and his organization is said to have “some of the characteristics of a cult.”[3] Gulen’s followers founded and administer a number of charter schools, including Ohio’s Horizon Science & Noble Academies.

These schools import the majority of their administration staff and many of their teachers on work visas from Turkey and neighboring countries. Secret diplomatic cables show that the “evasiveness” of the applicants and their “uneven at best” qualifications left State Department employees “uneasy.”They voiced these concerns to the top levels of government and even suggested the Department of Homeland Security should investigate the schools.

Memos Back Ohio Teacher Testimonies

Teachers who had worked at Dayton’s Horizon Science Academy made headlines last month when they told the state school board about apparent test tampering, attendance padding, Turish teachers who could barely speak English and even an incident when parents were not told their adolescent children were caught having oral sex at a school function.

Many of the teachers’ observations are supported by the cables. In one memo, the US consulate observed Turkish visa applicants with an “inability to speak English” and a “lack of understanding of basic math concepts (when they were going to teach math or science subjects).”

In another memo, federal officials note that Gulen schools in Turkmenistan can only employ teachers who are “fully qualified in the field.’’ Teachers employed by traditional public schools in Ohio must have a college degree and teach in the area or grade level in which they are licensed. Ohio charter schools, however, are exempt from that requirement

This led ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg to ask, “Why are Ohio charter schools not required to employ only qualified teachers?Taxpayers should be outraged these schools are hiring teachers who aren’t even qualified to teach in their home countries.”

Rothenberg continued, “America’s top intelligence and diplomatic personnel confirmed what a panel of Ohio teachers told the state board of education: Many of the teachers and administrators at these schools are unqualified, and students and taxpayers are suffering because of it. The only entity that doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the problem is the state school board.’’

Excerpts from Secret Cables

Over a quarter million previously secret diplomatic cables were published by WikiLeaks. ProgressOhio review approximately one hundred of them referencing Fethullah Gulen and found the following:

“There is considerable debate whether the Gulen movement represents a threat to secular governments. Skeptics argue the Gulenists seek to transform societies from the inside-out by developing sympathetic elites in a country’s government and business circles. […] Gulenists’ penchant for secrecy raises questions. For example, Gulenists seeking U.S. visas at the Embassy often are evasive about their religious views and their work-related duties in the U.S. (NOTE: Many U.S. visa applicants at the Embassy seek to work at Gulenist-linked schools in the U.S.)”[4]

“…there are concerns that Gulenist charter schools in the U.S. are capitalizing on the local successes to petition for visas for marginally qualified temporary workers.”[5]

“While on the surface a benign humanitarian movement, the ubiquitous evasiveness of Gulenist applicants — coupled with what appears to be adeliberate management of applicant profiles over the past several years — leaves Consular officers uneasy, an uneasiness echoed within Turkey by those familiar with the Gulenists.”[6]

[I]n summer/fall of 2008, the consular section received a number of visa applications for highly-skilled temporary workers (H1B) to go teach in charter schools in the U.S. The applicants all had in common a tie to a Gulenist school, either in Turkey or in Turkmenistan. Their qualifications were uneven at best. Some were bona fide teachers with several years of experience and advanced degrees. Others claimed teaching experience by assisting, volunteering, or substituting at a Gulenist school (language center or high school) in Turkmenistan. These minimally-qualified applicants prompted further investigation, and it turns out that the charter schools in the U.S. are also part of the broader Gulenist movement. The minimally-qualified applicants, petitions were returned to DHS for revocation based on a lack of qualifications, such as theirinability to speak English, possession of degrees not related to the subjects that they intended to teach and further lack of understanding of basic math concepts (when they were going to teach math or science subjects).[7]

On the other hand, we are concerned by the link with charter schools in the U.S. that have petitioned for marginally-qualified H1B candidates … These applicants were simply not convincing…might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the [United States]. Post, after discussions with others in the region that see similar applicants, recommends that these H1B candidates receive a high degree of scrutiny before any visas are approved…. Further, Consular Affairs, Fraud Prevention might, in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, wish to investigate or audit these Turkish-run charter schools in the U.S. for compliance with U.S. immigration law.[8]

A reader sent me to this article at The Daily Kos, which asked the simple question: when are students more important than free markets? The author’s argument is that the governor and the legislature are so head over heels in love with free markets that they have exempted charter schools from most of the state’s laws. Charters must follow the state curriculum and take the state tests but are freed from complying with more than 150 other state laws and regulations. One immediately wonders why the legislature requires public schools to obey all those laws and regulations that are somehow unreasonable and unnecessary for charter schools.

The Daily Kos article sends the reader to one of Ohio’s best blogs, called Plunderbund. There we learn more about the more than 150 state laws that charter schools are exempt from. Plunderbund writes:

“If it wasn’t so appalling, we might be able to laugh at the continued insistence that Ohio’s charter (community) schools are held to the same level of accountability as are traditional public schools. In fact, some charter school proponents actually insist that charters are held MORE accountable than their public school counterparts.”

And then goes on to show some of those laws that do not apply to charter schools.

For example:, writes Plunderbund:

“We’d like to highlight a few of these laws:

3301.07: State Board of Education minimum standards covering the assignment of professional personnel according to training and qualifications; instructional materials and equipment, including library facilities; proper organization, administration, and supervision of schools; buildings and grounds (other than any building health and safety standards); admission and promotion of students; phonics instruction; instruction in energy and resource conservation; and reporting requirements.

And in the footnotes, the LSC adds this for clarification: Ohio law also appears to exempt community schools from the provision of the State Board’s minimum education standards that requires teachers to be assigned to teach in the area or grade level in which they are licensed.

Charter schools? EXEMPT

3313.60: School course of study requirement

A sentence or two can’t quite do this one justice, and you really need to click the link and read the law to get the full effect, but a summary of the law reads like this: [A school district] shall prescribe a curriculum for all schools under its control … in any such curriculum there shall be included the study of the following subjects: The language arts, including reading, writing, spelling, oral and written English, and literature; Geography, the history of the United States and of Ohio, and national, state, and local government in the United States; Mathematics; Natural science, including instruction in the conservation of natural resources; Health education; Physical education; The fine arts, including music; First aid.

Charter schools? EXEMPT

3313.602(B) and (C) – Requirement that the “principles of democracy and ethics” be emphasized and discussed in appropriate parts of the curriculum and to encourage a school’s employees to be cognizant of their roles to instill in students “ethical principles and democratic ideals”.

This might explain why charter school proponents are able to, with a straight face and clean conscience, continue spreading the lie about them being “more accountable” than public schools — no need for those pesky ethical principles.

Charter Schools? EXEMPT

3315.07: Requirements related to the publishing of school materials for the public; prohibition against using public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any district employee for time spent on any activity meant to influence the outcome of a levy or bond issue

Or stated in the language in which the law is written, “A charter school may use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any employee for time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a school levy or bond issue election.”

Charter Schools? EXEMPT

3317.061: Requirement to annually report licensed employees to the State Board

Who’s working in those charter schools anyway? Apparently they aren’t required to report the names, salaries, college experience, degrees earned, or type of teaching license held.

Charter schools? EXEMPT

3317.15: Requirements specifying the number of speech-language pathologists and school psychologists a school district must hire”

Why comply with these laws and rules and regulations when the free market knows best?

Here is the deal in Ohio: Greater autonomy and flexibility in exchange for LESS accountability.

Progress Ohio invites YOU to join the rally at the Statehouse in Ohio this Thursday.

Join us this Thursday at the Statehouse to demand a comprehensive investigation into poor performing charter schools

Recently:

FBI raided 19 Gulen-affiliated schools in Ohio and two other states.

Former teachers asked the state school board determine why apparent test tampering and other irregularities at the Gulen Horizon Science Academy in Dayton were covered up.

After hearing explosive testimony from teachers about cheating, racism and sexism, a state school board member asked for all 19 Gulen schools to be investigated but the Ohio Department of Education is limiting the probe to just one school.

A new study by Innovation Ohio suggests cheating has been systemic at Gulen’s Horizon Science Academy in Columbus.

Yet the state is still not aggressively investigating these allegations.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE to protect kids and taxpayers?

Join us this Thursday for a Rally at the Ohio Statehouse to call attention to the growing mountain of evidence of poor-performing charter schools and state officials’ anemic response to this crisis.

What Does it Take Rally

Thursday, August 7 at 11 A.M.

Ohio Statehouse Steps – Broad Street Side
(across from the Rhodes Tower)

Speakers include former Teachers and Education Experts

Deregulation sounds like a swell idea. Get rid of all those government regulations and innovation will flourish. That’s the theory.

But many regulations serve important purposes, especially where taxpayer dollars are concerned; they screen out unqualified people; they monitor how the money is spent; they prevent frauds and scams. Take away regulation, take away government oversight, and the door will be open to the greedy and the opportunistic.

We saw that in the financial sector, where companies like Enron and Madoff used lax regulation to profit at the expense of investors.

When the same ideas of deregulation are imported from business to education, the conviction that an unfettered market will unleash innovation and success–the results are predictable. We should know by now that these principles don’t work in education (and some would argue that the spectacular collapse of the economy in 2008 proved they don’t work in business either.)

What the unfettered free market allows into education is unqualified leadership and lax oversight. How can anyone argue that this strategy will improve education? A few schools may prosper but many will flounder and fail.

Here is the story of FCI Academy charter school, which was founded by Bishop Edgar Allen Posey, his wife, and a third person. The campus is on the grounds of Bishop Posey’s church, the Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus. The school was in financial trouble, and it fired 17 staff members. It plans to open again this fall.

The fired teachers were skeptical:

“Some of the laid-off teachers doubted that kids will be getting a quality education next year at FCI.

“It’s just been mass chaos,” said Tina Geygan, who is one of the teachers let go. “We were having kids drop out like flies.”

“Annette McFarland, a middle-school science teacher at FCI who also was laid off, said she can’t see how the school could reopen in the fall.

“Just my own personal opinion, but I don’t know how they can,” having lost so many of the staff members, McFarland said.

“Blair Miller, who taught at the school under a one-year substitute-teaching license, said he can’t imagine the school hiring anyone for less than the former staff members were making. The father of three made $25,000 a year, putting him close to officially living in poverty.

“You can’t pay very much lower,” said Miller, 25, who took the FCI job right out of college with an education degree. “I’m going to be honest with you, I was hired to be paraprofessional, but I was teaching a full-time class.”

“Miller taught middle school language arts and math, he said.

“According to its 2012-13 state report card, FCI spent 44.8 percent of its revenue on classroom instruction, compared with a state average of 67.5 percent. The school met 6 out of 24 state performance standards, earning an F. It scored a D on its performance index, which gives credit for how many students scored well on proficiency tests despite the overall standards met.”

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition explains here what the failure of the FCI Academy charter school means for Ohio.

“FCI Academy charter school is another poster child to prompt state and federal agencies to expand investigations to all charter schools

The July 25 Dispatch article-Charter lays off 17 but plans to reopen-is about a charter school in financial trouble, but accompanying details in the article signal a need for a full-scale investigation.

FCI charter school is on the campus of Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus. It was founded by the Church’s leader, his wife and one other person. The Church leader’s wife is president of the school’s board. There may be something wrong with this picture. It doesn’t pass the smell test-Church leader’s wife is president of the board and the school is housed on Church property. 3314.03(A)(11)(c) of the Ohio Revised Code states: “The school will be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and will not be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution.”

In recent weeks the Horizon Science Academies, managed by Concept Schools, a Gulen Islamic-associated company, has been the target of state and federal investigations in Ohio and in many other states. Investigations should be extended to all charter schools beginning with the for-profits, such as White Hat, ECOT, Ohio Virtual Academy operated by K-12, Inc. and Imagine Schools.

Charter schools in Ohio spent over $900 million of funds belonging to public school districts. In most cases, there has been scant scrutiny of these publicly-funded, private, and in most cases, secretly-operated quasi-education organizations. It is time for ODE and the sponsors of these charter schools to give taxpayers the facts about these stealthy operations.

The governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Education, who have recently been concerned about four teachers and their role in exposing alleged illegal practices at a Dayton Gulen charter school, also need to explain how the FCI Academy is compliant with state laws that govern the formation, operation, and performance of schools that serve Ohio children. Hopefully the answer citizens receive about these questions is as swift as the attacks generated by the governor’s office and ODE on the four courageous charter school teachers and their role as whistleblowers.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A
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Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Education and dequacy writes:

The Ohio Department of Education will limit investigation to one Gulen Horizon Science Academy charter school.

After four former teachers in a Dayton Horizon Science Academy charter school testified on July 15 regarding serious irregularities in that school setting, some state board of education members called on the Department of Education (ODE) to investigate the whole chain of Gulen charter schools that operate in Ohio. ODE, however, has announced that only the Dayton charter school will be investigated.

Perhaps ODE officials are not aware:
that the FBI recently raided three Ohio Gulen charter schools and a total of 19 in various states.

that Los Angeles United School District is investigating the network of eight Gulen charter school authorized by that District. The investigation involves charter school funds being used for immigration costs, loans to the management company, some of which were not repaid.

of the FBI raid on the Des Plaines, IL headquarters of Concept Schools, the management company for Horizon Science Academies (Search and Seizure warrant, Case No. 14MZ87, dated June 17, 2014).
that some Horizon Science Academy board members refuse to respond to questions about their citizenship
that Concept schools have attempted to import nearly 400 Turkish teachers, arguing that Ohio’s workforce lacks high quality educators to fill positions.

The issues surrounding the Concept charter school chain, (Horizon Science Academies and Noble Science Academies) are systemic. ODE should be investigating the entire chain. The members of the State Board of Education, by virtue of their constitutional oath, are duty bound to force ODE to investigate, not only the Gulen chain, but all of charterland.

The lack of transparency and accountability inherent in Ohio charter school law should prompt the State Board of Education to fill the void by aggressively pursuing the misdeeds of charters.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Sometimes it is hard to believe that anyone cares anymore about old-fashioned things like integrity, honesty, accountability, and transparency, especially in the red red states where the charter chains have bought the legislature and the governor.

 

But look at this story.  All of these schools are associated with the Gulen movement, a Turkish chain of charters, the largest in the U.S. They get high test scores. but apparently they crossed the line, wherever that is.

 

 

The Ohio Board of Education ordered an immediate investigation of a chain of 19 charter schools in the state today after hearing allegations of test cheating, attendance tampering, sexual misconduct and other misdeeds.

Former teachers from the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School in Dayton testified at the board’s monthly meeting in Columbus about years of misconduct. Some said they had been afraid to come forward before finding new jobs.

One teacher said he’d made a previous complaint to the Department of Education but never heard back from agency officials.

“Your concerns have not fallen on deaf ears,” promised Board President Debe Terhar. “We hear you and we will move forward with making sure this is investigated.”

Other board members said they were outraged and disgusted. Some said they were taken aback because they’d visited the schools and observed nothing questionable.

“Inside my blood is boiling,” said Deborah Cain, a board member from Uniontown. “It is almost incomprehensible.”

Kellie Kochensparger, a teacher at the school until last year, told board members of an incident in which school officials failed to tell parents that their children were suspended for having oral sex while other students watched at a school festival. The activity was caught on surveillance cameras.

“The school told parents the suspensions were handed out because the kids were outside of their assigned areas,” she said. “As a teacher and parent, when I questioned further, I was told that I ask too many questions and the situation was being handled.”

On another occasion Kochensparger said she was asked to make sure students completed all questions on a standardized state exam before allowing them to turn it in. When she told an administrator that it was not permitted and she would inquire of the Department of Education, she was forbidden from contacting the state.

“I know of one student who failed the 7th grade and then had to repeat the year with the agreement with (an administrator) that she would be promoted to the 9th grade if she passed 7th grade during the second attempt. She indeed completely skipped 8th grade and all associated curriculum,” Kochensparger said.

“I don’t think parents had any idea what was going on at the school. There was great emphasis on keeping parents happy and there was a culture of intimidation intended to discourage teachers from doing anything that could adversely affect the school’s relationship with parents,” she said. “Any teacher who asked too many questions was at risk of getting fired.”

The Chicago-based Concept Schools operate 30 schools throughout the Midwest, including the 19 Horizon Science academies in Ohio. Four are in Columbus. Like all charter schools, they are publicly funded and privately operated.

Some of the schools, including some in Columbus, are part of a broader probe by the FBI.

Could it be those free trips to Turkey for key legislators?

One of the curious aspects of the charter movement, beloved by both Republicans and the Obama administration, is the growth of Gulen charter schools. These are schools associated with a reclusive Turkish imam named Fetullah Gulen who lives in the Poconos but leads a vigorous political movement in Turkey. The Gulen schools have a board of directors composed typically of Turkish men, and most of their teachers are Turkish immigrants.

The Gulen charters are the nation’s largest charter chain. Texas has the largest number of Gulen charters.

As the Akron Beacon-Journal reports in a story by Doug Livingston, “Ohio taxpayers provide jobs to Turkish immigrants through charter schools.” The state has 19 Gulen charters. Some powerful state politicians have traveled to Turkey, and they return as supporters of Gulen charters. Gulen charters have innocuous names that do not reflect their ties to Turkey.

Livingston writes:

“A chain of 19 publicly funded Ohio charter schools, founded by Turkish immigrants, is taking the position that the United States lacks a qualified pool of math and science teachers and is importing perhaps hundreds of Turks to fill the void.

“The schools are run almost exclusively by persons of Turkish heritage, some of whom are not U.S. citizens — a new twist in Ohio’s controversial charter-school movement.

“In addition, the Horizon and Noble academies, run by Chicago-based Concept Schools, are related through membership, fundraisers and political giving to the nonprofit Niagara Foundation, which provides trips to Turkey for state, local and federal lawmakers.

“Among those touring Turkey has been State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican on the powerful finance and appropriations committee and considered to be a leading candidate for House speaker next year. He was joined on the trip by at least four other state legislators and local government leaders from his area in southwest Ohio….

“However, as early as 2002, state audits found thousands of public dollars “illegally expended” to finance the U.S. citizenship process for Turkish employees — some fresh out of college with no classroom experience and broken English. Help with legal and immigration fees also extended to their children and families, including the spouses of directors.

“The auditor also cited suspect wire transfers, totaling $36,000, and checks made out to “cash” to repay personal loans issued by individuals in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Three of the Ohio schools have been visited by the FBI as part of a multistate probe. The agency said it is part of a white-collar criminal investigation.

“Federal agents have not disclosed details, only that the investigation originated in Cleveland, has spread to Indiana and Illinois, and may or may not be connected to previous investigations at related schools in Baton Rouge, La., and Philadelphia.
Last school year, these Ohio charter schools, called Horizon and Noble Academies, received nearly $50 million in public funding transferred from local school districts where students otherwise would have attended.

“At $50 million, Concept is among the larger players in Ohio’s charter-school movement, totaling $914 million last year. For years, charter schools have come under fire for poor academic performance and questionable finances…..

“Last school year, Ohio’s Turkish-run schools — which offer the Turkish language and promote themselves as specialized in math and science — enrolled more than 6,700 students.

“In Cleveland alone, $12 million was transferred from the municipal school district to Concept schools. Academies also exist in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Euclid, Toledo and Youngstown.

“According to the Ohio Department of Education, the academies’ performance on state tests varies widely from school to school and year to year. In 2013, 12 received D’s, four C’s and three B’s….Former employees allege that Turkish employees generally are paid more than U.S.-born teachers, then asked to contribute as much as 40 percent of their pay to an Islam-based religious movement known as Hizmet that supports interfaith dialog.”

To learn more about the Gulen charter, read Sharon Higgins report on Valerie Strauss’s blog.

For a guide to the Gulen charter movement, read here. For a state-by-state listing of Gulen-connected charter schools, see this list compiled by Sharon Higgins.

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

Charter schools have been the beneficiary of a myth, the myth that a free market in schooling will produce miraculous results. Unfortunately, like most myths, it is not true. Deregulation translates into lack of supervision and oversight. In the absence of supervision of public funds, scams, frauds, and corruption flourish.

Jeff Bryant here reviews some of the egregious examples of charter school corruption in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being transferred to the private sector, where no one supervises how those dollars are spent. Worse, the businesses that get the money spend large sums to hire lobbyists and to contribute to key legislators to make sure their charters remain free of oversight.

It is alarming that Congress is about to hand more money over to the same shady entrepreneurs and to encourage more of them to jump into the unregulated, very profitable charter industry.

From Bill Phillis of the Ohio Adequacy and Equity Coalition:

Another charter school will close down: corruption, ethics, nepotism and poor performance, at issue.

The superintendent of the VLT Academy, a charter school of 600 some students, was making $140,000 per year; her daughter was making $92,000 per year for data entry; and her husband was making $62,000 in addition to running his company that performs the charter’s janitorial services, under a highest bid contract, for $323,000 per year. The family was receiving nearly $1,000 per student for central office duties and cleaning.

The board of this VLT Academy charter school recently voted to start closing procedures. The operator (family) is shopping for another sponsor. The current charter school sponsor is dropping authorization for VLT Academy.

This charter school, in six years of operation, has been rated academic emergency, two years; academic watch, three years; and continuous improvement, one year.

State officials, via the laws they have enacted, have invited this kind of nepotism, mismanagement and low academic performance in the charter school industry. At least a half dozen charter school accountability and transparency bills are pending in legislative committees, but are not being heard, in the 130th General Assembly. Apparently the current Governor and majority leaders in the General Assembly are either oblivious to or unconcerned about this kind of reckless charter school operation.

Remember, this wasted money was extracted from school districts to the detriment of public school students. Where is the outrage from taxpayers and public school advocates?

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

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