Archives for category: Ohio

Denis Smith worked in the Office of Charter Schools in the Ohio Department of Education. In this article, he points out the paradox of tasking a state agency with both promoting charter schools while supposedly regulating them. This is a conflict of interest.

 

This explains, he writes, why it was predictable that David Hansen, who was supposed to regulate charter schools, got in trouble for cooking the books to make the charters owned by Republican campaign contributors look good, even though their schools perform poorly.

 

Hansen, the husband of Beth Hansen, Governor John Kasich’s chief-of-staff, was put in place by the governor’s team to head the Office of Quality School Choice. His background, as head of the right-wing Buckeye Institute, famous for maintaining a database detailing the salaries for thousands of public school teachers and devoid of salary information for CEOs of national for-profit charter school chains and other privatizers, is now being examined by charter watchdogs as they discover a series of conflicts-of-interest that raise basic questions about his actions.

 

Here are a few morsels:

 

“Hansen and ODE were ignoring the big fish,” Stephen Dyer observed. “And that was, unfortunately, Hansen’s undoing. None of these crackdowns were against schools run by big Republican donors — David Brennan of White Hat Management or Bill Lager of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — whose schools rate among the worst in the state and who educate about 20% of all Ohio charter school students.”

 

Plunderbund readers, in fact, were informed several days ago that Hansen is a serial data offender.

 

“This isn’t the first time Hansen has been caught altering charter school data to improve the image of these charter school operators. Hansen was President of the Buckeye Institute in 2009 when they put out a report on Ohio’s dropout recover schools. Similar to the current incident, Hansen’s group altered data to improve the apparent performance of the charter schools. The shady data changes resulted in “a dramatic overstatement of the graduation rates at the charters.” Many of the schools in the 2009 report were owned and operated by White Hat Management. Meanwhile, White Hat owner David Brennan was quietly contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the Buckeye Institute through his Brennan Family Foundation.”

 

Hansen was a cheerleader for charters who was supposed to regulate them. Never happened, never will happen,

Ohio ‘s charter watchdog had to resign because he wasn’t watching charters with vigor. Some charters, especially if they were GOP campaign contributors, barely got a glance from the watchdog.

Stephen Dyer writes:

“Looks like David Hansen, who is the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, was forced to resign as the state’s top charter school watchdog because he (tell me if you’ve heard this before) rigged the state’s accountability system to benefit big Republican campaign donors. Sad day for Ohio’s kids and another setback for the state’s quality-based charter school community. http://bit.ly/1Kesmgi

​Best,​

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215
http://www.innovationohio.org

This is a comment by Billl Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition:

Follow the money-yes, tax money

Tax funds have likely made White Hat Charter school operator David Brennan and ECOT operator Bill Lager very, very rich. (Some out-of-state charter operators are also cashing in on Ohio’s Wild, Wild West charter industry.)

The charters, that these fine, civic-minded gentlemen operate, generally speaking, perform at a pathetically low level.

Brennan’s total take on tax funds for charters since the beginning is in the range of $1 billion. Lager has not been in the business as long but is within reach of $1 billion total. This is money extracted from school districts thus, harming school district students. This enormous financial drain from school districts would be more tolerable if their schools were outperforming school districts.

With their respective stables of lobbyists and their multimillions in campaign contributions, they leverage legislation which expands their charter school empires and profits.
Although they contribute a lot to political campaigns, these donations constitute a small percentage of their cost of doing business.

Plunderbund, in a July 7, 2015 issue, posted the donations that Brennan and Lager made to certain House and Senate leaders.

Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger:

$12,155.52 from David Brennan in 2014
$24,311.04 from Bill Lager in 2013-14

Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz:
$67,500 from David Brennan (and his wife, Ann) between 1998-2012
$30,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-12

Majority Floor Leader Barbara Sears:
$10,000 from David Brennan in 2012
$40,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-13

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jim Buchy:
$31,543.70 from Bill Lager in 2012-13
Senate President Keith Faber
$32,156 from the Brennan’s in 2012-14
$25,500 from Bill Lager in 2010-13

This pay-to-play scenario probably explains why House leadership derailed HB 2 with Senate amendments. This derailed legislation has a modicum of charter reform, some of which would likely affect the bottom line of Brennan and Lager.

Why are Ohioans not outraged about these shenanigans? Probably because they don’t know about them. Inform your fellow Ohioans.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Stephen Dyer writes about a new report from the White House, detailing state achievement gaps.

“Recently, the White House put out a report outlining the country’s student achievement gap, and the news wasn’t great for Ohio.

“We had the nation’s ninth largest reading gap between our highest and lowest performing schools, the second-largest math achievement gap, and the fourth largest graduation gap. While much of this difference can be explained by the high performance of our highest performing schools, the gap is and should be a serious concern for Ohio’s educators, parents and policy makers.

“What the data show, however, is that far from being a solution to the achievement gap issue here, Ohio’s charter schools are part of the problem.”

He writes:

“Here are what the data tell us:

“Despite making up 8% of all Ohio school buildings, charters represent 13% of the worst-performing math buildings, 31% of the worst-performing reading buildings, and 78% of the buildings with the worst graduation rates.

“Ohio’s achievement gap is 6% bigger in math, 8% bigger in reading and a whopping 23% bigger in graduation rates than they would be if the analysis included just local public schools.

“And while the state’s achievement gap is still too large, in all three cases, eliminating charters from the calculation drops Ohio’s achievement gap ranking. Math drops from second to fourth greatest. Reading falls from ninth to 11th greatest. And the state’s graduation rate gap tumbles from fourth to 14th highest.

“The achievement gap is greater in charter schools for math than it is in the local public schools.”

Dyer warns:

“Folks in Youngstown and other places should take note of this federal data: Relying on charter schools to close achievement gaps in Ohio has not worked. In fact, it has led to greater gaps in student achievement overall. So before the new CEO in Youngstown decides to turn all of that city’s schools into charters or something, here’s hoping he or she looks at the evidence first and carefully considers district options.”

The post includes specific data and is worth a read.

Stephen Dyer of the Innovation Institute was sure that the Ohio legislature would pass a bill to reform the state ‘s unaccountable charters. But he was wrong. The Senate passed the bill but it died in the House.

Why?

Money. Lobbyists.

“The Real Politick of Ohio charter school reform stems from big campaign contributors William Lager, who runs the nation’s largest for-profit school – the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – and David Brennan, who runs White Hat Management, which also has an E-School – OHDELA. Between them, they’ve given about $6 million to politicians since the charter school program began. In return, they’ve collected one out of every four state charter school dollars ever spent.”

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy calls on parents to mobilize against the politically charter operators:

 

Lesson learned: Parents parked PARCC and when they learn about the failed charter school experiment they will can charters

Regardless of the merits/lack of merits of PARCC, public school parents sent the message to state officials that PARCC was not good public policy. Hence, PARCC was kicked out of Ohio.

That testing debacle was too controversial for most lobbyists to touch; but parents took it on.

Public school personnel and advocates must inform their respective communities about the horrific failure of the charter school experiment; the one that rips one billion dollars annually from school districts. When parents become informed they will send the message to state officials to can charters.

It is apparent that the for-profit charter lobby is operating the charter train. House leadership derailed HB 2, as amended by the Senate, until September. It may never be put back on track.

It should be noted that according to a July 1 Columbus Dispatch article, ECOT founder William Lager gave $400,000 in direct campaign contributions in the last election cycle. “That does not include any money that he may have given to non-profit political organizations set up by House and Senate leaders.”

 

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net |

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

Bill Phillis is a watchdog for Ohio public schools. He is a man of great integrity who cares passionately about fair and equitable funding of the schools. He was Deputy State Superintendent many years ago and is now a fighting septugenarian, with no goal but the public interest. He created and leads the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

Here is his reaction to the collapse of charter school reform a few days ago:

“An initiative petition for a law or a constitutional amendment will be necessary to hold the charter industry accountable or phase it out

“High hopes were dashed by the refusal of House leadership to schedule HB 2 for a vote on June 30th. Democrats and Republicans, charter proponents and charter opponents were in support of HB 2 as amended by the Senate. Had the bill been scheduled it would most likely have passed; hence House leadership kept it off the House floor.

“This lack of House action on HB 2 demonstrates the absolute legislative control the for-profit sector of the charter school industry has on charter policy in Ohio. It matters not that the industry is laced with fraud, corruption and education malpractice. It matters not that Ohio is the butt of jokes regarding its deregulated, injudicious charter policy. Maybe Senate leadership permitted the Senate amendments with a nod from the House that the bill as amended would not pass in House. Who knows?

“When will Ohio taxpayers rise up to demand accountability of their legislators and the Governor? Until state officials are held accountable, charters will extract a billion dollars annually from school districts. Much of this money flows to for-profit management companies which is used for campaign contributions, cozy business arrangements, marketing and of course, PROFITS. When one thinks Statehouse turpitude can’t get worse, it does. Citizens must rectify this matter by by-passing the legislature and Governor with an initiative petition.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net |

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

This past year, there were numerous reports of scandals, arrests, and convictions of charter operators in Ohio. There seemed to be real hope to enact legislation that would hold charter schools accountable and make their finances transparent. But that died in the closing hours of the legislative session.

Why?

Charter operators wrote the charter law. They give millions of dollars in campaign contributions to key legislators. The Speaker of the House took a free trip to Turkey, thanks to the Turkish Gulen charter chain.

Charters don’t want to be regulated. They don’t want to be accountable or transparent. The leading charter operators receive hundreds of millions from taxpayers each year, even though most of their schools are rated as low-performing by the state.

In this post, Denis Smith explains the inner workings of the charter industry, which he calls “the dark side.” Smith worked in the State Department of Education, in the office intended to oversee charter schools.

He writes:

“At a national charter school conference in Indianapolis several years ago, two attendees saw my registration badge at a reception and approached me. “Ohio, huh? So you’re from the Wild, Wild West!”

“They, of course, were talking about a state that allows two charter school operators to direct several million dollars in GOP campaign donations during the last decade in return for favorable treatment (read: weak oversight) and the receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars from state funds. Finance types and Wharton School profs would marvel about such a robust return on investment.

“They were also talking about a state that does not require charter school board members to be American citizens and doesn’t have a problem with non-citizens serving on charter boards, and where one of the members of the House Education Committee advocates burdensome Voter ID requirements for citizens trying to vote.”

Ohio has an excellent website called “KnowYourCharter.” It was not created by the State Education Department, but by independent groups using official data. The charter sector has some of the state’s lowest performing schools and is far behind the state’s public schools. But don’t expect Givernor Kasich and the current legislature to hold them accountable.

Accountability is only for public schools.

The fast-shrinking PARCC testing consortium dropped by another one as Ohio pulled out.

 

Governor John Kasich signed a bill to replace the trouble-plagued PARCC with another test.

 

The number of states in the federally-funded PARCC consortium has declined from 25 in 2011 to only 11 in 2015.

 

The Ohio decision was the result of voluminous complaints about PARCC, from technology glitches to the hours of time the tests require. PARCC has agreed to cut

 

AIR may well get the Ohio contract, but some parents and educators are unhappy with AIR.

 

PARCC also agreed in May to shorten its tests by 60 minutes in math and 30 minutes in English.

 

But that change wasn’t the dramatic reduction many sought. Students took about 10 to 11 hours of PARCC exams in just English and math this year, depending on their grade. With that much testing, the combined 90-minute drop amounts to a 15 percent cut at the most.

 

PARCC is rapidly losing states who are unhappy with the quality and time required for the PARCC tests.

 

PARCC states, as of 2011(25): Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, District of Columbia.

 

Note that some states, like New York and Massachusetts, use PARCC in a far more limited way than Ohio has.

 

PARCC states now (11): Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, District of Columbia.

 

Arkansas is in the middle of a battle between the governor, legislature and state school board over PARCC’s future there.

 

 

Despite a flood of charter school scandals in Ohio, the lobbyists for the big-money charter operators are working hard to torpedo any reform of the charter industry.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio warns that lobbyists want to block any reforms of a system they created, which enriches their employers.

Dyer writes:

“All-

“It looks like the Ohio House won’t take up the charter reform package that cleared the Ohio Senate last week before the end of business tomorrow. So now, it’s being slow walked, which means at best we wait until mid-July for the bill to pass and at worst, we wait until September, which means that many of the provisions would likely be delayed by a year. I suppose the worst that could happen is nothing changes — a possibility that becomes more and more likely with each delay. We know that the powerful Ohio poor performing charter operator lobby would love for both chambers to bog this bill down so nothing changes.

“Anyway, I was reminded of just how sneaky our state’s big charter school operators (and campaign donors) are when the Beacon Journal wrote a story late last week that showed that E-Schools don’t have their students’ first-year test scores counted (and by extension, neither do most other charters).

“Again, every minute the legislature deliberates on this bill is another minute for these legislative ninjas to work their magic. Hopefully, the bill gets worked out tomorrow and we can have a meaningful piece of legislation passed. But until that happens, I’m nervous that all this work over the last couple years may go for naught.

“Best,

“Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215
http://www.innovationohio.org”;

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