Archives for category: Ohio

Denis Smith worked in the charter school office of the Ohio Department of Education. He knows the problems of oversight of these deregulated schools.

In this post, he proposes 10 reforms to rein in corruption and malfeasance in Ohio’s charter sector.

The major reform that is needed is financial transparency. All schools–public and charter–should be subject to public audit.

Most of his recommendations focus on the misuse of public funds, for example, to pay for celebrity endorsements and advertising.

Here are his top three recommendations:

“#3: Administrative qualifications. Incredibly, there are no minimum educational or professional licensure requirements for charter school administrators. This situation needs to be addressed immediately if all charter reform efforts are to be viewed as substantive. After all, school is about education.

“#2: Citizenship requirement. In traditional school districts, board members have to be qualified voters – citizens – in order to serve as overseers of public funds. News reports in the last year have focused on one charter school chain where some of the board members and administrators may not be American citizens. If charter proponents want to emphasize the word public in the term public charter school, they should also agree that requiring American citizenship for board members is a no-brainer for the charter industry.

“And the Number One Needed Charter School Reform –

“Get the money out!

“The influence of charter moguls David Brennan and William Lager on the Ohio Republican party is well-known. Money talks, and in charter world, money speaks loudly. Public funds – the profits gained from running privately operated schools with public money – should not be allowed to unduly influence legislators. The fact that HB 2 stalled at the very time that another $91,726 arrived to replenish state Republican campaign coffers is no coincidence.”

Columnist Marilou Johanek of the Toledo Blade writes that Governor John Kasich let the cat out of the bag, unintentionally, of course. Or, as she put it, he let his mask slip.

It was probably an accident. Ohio Gov. John Kasich let his public education mask slip. He ranted when he should have relaxed.

What Mr. Kasich blurted out to a roomful of incoming legislators, assembled in Columbus for an orientation session last November, was enormously revealing. It was prophetic about a secret effort, already begun, to erode local control of Youngstown Schools and any Ohio district like it.

Representative-elect Michele Lepore-Hagan, a newly elected Youngstown Democrat, wanted to talk to the governor about the troubled school district she represented. “And he threw a tablet into the air and said those Youngstown City Schools are in such a mess I want to shut them down and put one great big charter school in there.”

Later a committee, quietly spearheaded by the Kasich administration, would sign off on a plan to change the Youngstown district and others like it in the state. The plan, crafted behind closed doors by the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet, could put traditional public schools out of business.

Do Republican voters really want to eliminate traditional public schooling? Do they really want public money to go to unregulated, for-profit charter schools? Do they really want the state’s children to be sent to religious schools with taxpayer funds?

Let’s hope that Governor Kasich lets the cat out of the bag more frequently and does it in public. Let’s hope that when the Republicans debate again, one of the moderators ask him about his views on privatization of public education. And when they do, let’s hope that the moderator is fully informed about the long list of charter school scandals in Ohio, where charter schools underperform traditional public schools across the state.
Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/MarilouJohanek/2015/08/22/Governor-Kasich-s-education-agenda-unmasked.html#MxmBbUqjxq2k2F5M.99

John Kasich has been trying, along with Jeb Bush, to present himself as a moderate. Readers of this blog, especially those from Ohio, know that he is no moderate on the subject of education. Ohio is a state where wealthy charter operators pay with campaigb contributions to operate their low-performing schools without accountability. If it were up to Kasich, public education would be replaced with charters and vouchers, unions would be banned, and teachers would serve at-will.

Kasich blew his cover the other day. He said if he were king, he would eliminate teachers’ lounges, so that teachers could not congregate and complain. Free speech seems to be a problem for Kasich.

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

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