Archives for category: Ohio

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:


“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.


“Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215”;

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio says that the state senate passed a charter reform bill that could help eliminate some of the scandals in that sector. He warns that if the bill goes to a conference committee, the lobbyists will eviscerate it.

He writes:


A meaningful charter reform bill passed out of the Ohio Senate late last night. While there were a couple changes that would help shelter some of the ways for-profit operators spend their money, it would for the first time have the state track, rate and account for their spending. In addition, it would force charters with Fs AND Ds on the report card that have been dropped by sponsors (authorizers) to have to go to a highly rated sponsor and then have that sponsor join the school at a hearing before the Ohio Department of Education to explain why they should remain open.

In addition, it creates better transparency, forcing charters to actually put who’s on their board on the school’s website, restricting who can be on the board, bans self-dealing, and several other worthwhile provisions. It doesn’t directly deal with tightening the state’s closure law (which has only closed 24 schools in 10 years), nor does it address the greatest issue out there — funding — but it is a big step forward for our nationally ridiculed charter school sector.

Today, the Ohio House was set to send the Senate bill to a conference committee — a secretive negotiation setting — which would have allowed Mssrs. Brennan (White Hat) and Lager (ECOT) to wield their typical legislative “magic”. There was a strong push last night and this morning from me and some friends on the pro-charter and pro-public school side of the ledger to have the House vote to concur in the Senate bill, meaning it would go to the Governor’s desk as is — a far more preferable outcome.

The good news is our work paid off. There were enough Democratic and Republican votes to avoid conference committee. So Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who wants a conference committee, pulled the bill from the House Calendar — literally erasing it from members’ laptops just before they were set to take it up.

The General Assembly is in session Tuesday for the last time until September. We are ratcheting up the public pressure through media outlets and networks to try to convince the House to simply concur with the Senate bill, which while not perfect, is certain to be weakened in conference.

I am asking each of you to reach out to your media friends, your social media contacts, and to your legislators to encourage them to accept the Senate bill as is — in legislative parlance, Vote to Concur. We can’t let the same people who drove our charter school system into the ditch to undo the good work done in the Senate.

For the first time in my memory, Ohio’s charter school law has a shot of not being written primarily by those who profit from it. That is a good step for us. Please help me keep it that way.

Best Regards,

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215

As feared, the Ohio legislature installed a CEO to take control of Youngstown’s public school. This move to eliminate local control is based on ALEC model legislation. It allows the governor to choose one person with dictatorial power to do whatever he or she wants.

What the CEO usually wants is to privatize public schools

“In a bold move that has the potential for booting teachers unions from schools, stripping local voters of their authority over their school districts and turning operations over to for-profit companies, the Ohio legislature introduced and passed legislation in a matter of hours with no opportunity for the public to deliver opposition testimony.

“The bill began innocuously in the House as an effort to help communities turn schools into comprehensive learning centers for the neighborhood. The bill passed from the House to the Senate a month ago with an overwhelming 92-6 vote.

“Almost everyone liked it — until Wednesday….

“The discussion centered on Youngstown, which has been guided by an academic distress commission since 2010. The change has the potential to accelerate school choice, sending more children and public dollars to charter and private schools.

“Lorain, the other Ohio school district in academic distress, must perform poorly another two years before it falls under the new provision, Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said.”

Stephen Dyer describes the latest move by the corporate reform crowd in Ohio. In typical “reformer” fashion, their idea of a solution to school problems is to eliminate democracy, local control, the voice of the people. The law he refers to is similar to the “emergency manager” law in Michigan, which gives one person total control of struggling school districts. It is similar to New Jersey’s state-appointed superintendent, who ignores any input from those who live in the community. It is similar to ALEC model legislation, which encourages states to remove local control so that privately-managed charter schools may be imposed, regardless of local opposition. The so-called reformers have a problem with democracy.

The law was passed by the Ohio Senate, 18-14, with five Republicans voting against it. For the past five years, Youngstown has been run by an “Academic Distress Commission.” The Governor has decided the way to “fix” the schools is to have one uber-Meister, in charge of all. In other words, the politicians are just enacting hunches. We know where this one will go: charters and vouchers.


Stephen Dyer writes:


I’m not given to hyperbole. I’m not one of these guys who tells you that something is the “Death of Democracy”, or that education reform efforts are trying to completely privatize the public education system. I really try to be level headed when analyzing various education policies, no matter how out there they may be.


But when I received an amendment to House Bill 70 — the plan to fix Youngstown City Schools — I was absolutely stunned. It is, without a doubt, a direct attack on Democracy. Why some feel the best way to fix a school system is to create a dictatorship, I have no idea. Democracy’s biggest problem is what has always been Democracy’s biggest problem — we keep electing people who think that the best way to fix a school system is to give absolute power to one person … and other crazy stuff.


According to the amendment, which I’ve posted here, Youngstown (and any other district that’s in “academic distress,” but for the moment only Youngstown) would be taken over by a “Chief Executive Officer” who would have “complete operational, managerial, and instructional control” of the district.


That’s right. All those elected officials the people of Youngstown bothered putting into office? Forget them. Because, apparently, the problem with the elected board is they’re not making decisions fast enough? I really don’t get this.


Anyway, the amendment would allow this CEO to make all decisions. In fact, throughout the amendment, the CEO would be given “sole” authority to reconstitute buildings, put any whackadoodle in charge there, decide which schools get which resources, which schools get turned into charters, etc….


And there would be zero input from the public. That’s right. He (or she) could just do this because they felt like it. Total dictatorship.


And here’s the thing. Only when the district gets an overall C grade on the state report card will the district even start to get out of this academic distress thing. So, essentially, we are creating a city-wide, more or less permanent dictatorship in Youngstown.


Why do I say this is permanent? Because all the grades on the state report card are based on test scores, which are nearly perfectly correlated with a district’s poverty rate. So Youngstown, with its nearly 100% poverty rate has almost zero chance of ever getting out from under this dictator’s thumb.


The “reformers” don’t buy the idea of democracy, you know, of the people, by the people, for the people. The urgency of the situation, they believe, requires a single decider to impose his or her will. You have an inkling of what they will do: eliminate public schools and replace them with charters. Perhaps friends of the Governor will get the contract; or a for-profit corporation. The CEO doesn’t need local approval for anything he or she imposes. Stephen is correct in his terminology. That’s dictatorship. The people of Ohio should not stand for it, not matter what ALEC wants.



Lets face it. The Ohio legislature and Governor John Kasich protect failing charter schools from any accountability. Could large campaign contributions have anything to do with it?

Stephen Dyer reports the latest gambit.

he writes that:

“The worst-performing general education schools in the state — E-Schools — are not being counted by the state when they calculate the performance of sponsors. SO, for example, even though the Ohio Council of Community Schools sponsors two of the worst-performing schools in the state — the Ohio Virtual Academy and David Brennan’s OHDELA, the astounding number of Fs those schools get on the state report doesn’t count for OCCS’s rating. So the state says they’re academically perfect, even though OCCS gets $1.5 million in taxpayer money to oversee these schools.

“The other schools not counted? Dropout Recovery schools. So the schools David Brennan earns his money on aren’t counted on sponsor ratings? So that means that no sponsor should fear oversight of a horrible White Hat school, especially now that they’ll only be online schools or dropout recovery schools, because they won’t count.

“Amazing what $4 million will buy you these days, isn’t it?”

Remember: it’s all about the kids!

Ohio is a happy state for the for-profit charter industry. They make huge profits regardless of school performance.

Stephen Dyer reminds us of the great financial success of David Brennan of White Hat, the state’s largest charter chain.

“Now we know what White Hat Management is all about. There was always a pretty strong indication that White Hat was about making money, not educating children.

“After all, when you get exactly 1 A on a state report card and have 72 opportunities to get an A, you’re probably not in the game for the same reasons most educators are.

“When you’ve collected more than $1 billion in taxpayer money without having to make a single appearance before a legislative committee, as White Hat founder David Brennan has been able to do, you’re probably not in the game for the same reasons most educators are.

“When you contribute more than $4 million to politicians, you’re probably not in the game for the same reasons most educators are.

“But then we got the news last week that Brennan’s White Hat Management was going to sell off their least profitable, “highest performing”, and most at-risk for closure schools to a group run by K12, Inc.’s founder Ron Packard. That’s right, the same guy who gave us the Ohio Virtual Academy and all its “success.”

“But White Hat will keep its cash cow online school, OHDELA, which has the worst performance index score of any statewide E-School — and that’s saying something, given how abjectly horrible Ohio’s statewide E-Schools perform. Its performance index score actually dropped more than 4% from four years ago, the only statewide E-School to see such a precipitous drop. Again, that’s saying something.”

Do you think the day will come when legislators will demand real accountabilility from charter operators? When they will stop giving away hundreds of million or billions to failed charter operators?

Surprise: Most of the teachers in Ohio are effective or highly effective.


However, there are more ineffective teachers in districts with high levels of poverty.


Chicken-and-egg? Correlation?


Lesson: if you want to be a highly-rated teacher, avoid high-poverty schools and districts.


Second lesson: This is a ridiculous way to evaluate teachers, and the results were predictable and flawed. Also meaningless.


How many millions were spent to learn this?



Just when I think the charter scandals in Ohio can’t possibly get worse, they do. The State Auditor, a Republican named Dave Yost, reported that a charter owner had inflated enrollment and overcharged the state by $1,3 million.

“General Chappie James Leadership Academy in Dayton reported enrollment of 459 students, however an investigation by state Auditor Dave Yost found nearly half of those students had never attended or long since left the school.

“To illustrate the extent of the deception, Yost said one parent told investigators “her kid could not have been in school because the child was incarcerated for two years. Another family had moved to Georgia.”

The state may never recover the money because the school closed a year ago. “Results of the investigation have been passed along to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office for review and possible criminal charges.”

When will Ohio taxpayers wake up?

Valerie Strauss sums up the embarrassing situationS of the Ohio charter industry: It has become a national joke.


Strauss quotes a story in the Plain Dealer in Ohio saying:


Ohio, the charter school world is making fun of you.


Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system was the butt of jokes at a conference for reporters on school choice in Denver late last week, as well as the target of sharp criticism of charter school failures across the state.


The shots came from expected critics like teachers unions, but also from pro-charter voices, as the state considers ways to improve how it handles charters …


Even charter supporters were laughing at Ohio’s troubled charter sector, which is low-performing and riddled with ethically challenged charter operators who care more about profits than education.


Strauss quotes:


An example of a joke from the conference: “Be very glad that you have Nevada, so you are not the worst,” charter researcher Margaret “Macke” Raymond said of Ohio. Raymond, from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, conducts research on charter schools and issued a report late last year that said Ohio charter school students learn 36 days less math and 14 days less reading than traditional public school students — conclusions she drew from crunching data obtained from student standardized test scores.


Lest we forget: Nevada recently passed an all-state voucher program so that almost any student can attend a charter school, a religious school, a virtual school, or be home schooled. This is the state that Macke Raymond holds up as the worst in the nation for the poor quality of its choice schools. And Nevada wants more, to cement its reputation as the worst of the worst!


Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio summarizes what is wrong with the charter industry in Ohio. Under the guide of helping “poor kids escape failing schools,” charter operators have created a profitable business running mostly low-quality schools. Deceptive marketing and contributions to key politicians keep the hoax going, stealing money from taxpayers and public schools to fatten the wallets of entrepreneurs.


“Charter schools –alternative schools meant to provide better educational options for parents and children while creating healthy competition for local public schools – have been hijacked in Ohio by profiteers and huge campaign contributors whose great talent is making money and winning elections, not educating kids. The results have been the poorest performing charter school sector outside Nevada.


“How bad is it? Some charter schools in Ohio can remain open even though they only graduate 2 out of 155 children. Meanwhile, more than half a billion state dollars that were meant for districts went instead to charters that performed the same or worse than the district last year.


“However, there is great hope that meaningful charter school reform is coming to Ohio. This could mean that my home state’s well documented status as the country’s most notorious charter sector could soon change.


Senate Bill 148, currently being merged in the Ohio Senate with another reform bill, takes meaningful and significant steps toward fixing many of the most obvious transparency and accountability issues with Ohio law.


“Despite its shortcomings on funding and tightening closure standards (due to how far behind Ohio is than any bill weakness), this is without a doubt the most comprehensive and courageous charter school reform effort offered by Ohio Republicans in three decades.”



Dyer warns that the biggest profiteers and their lobbyists could still weaken or torpedo the reforms, allowing charter scams to continue uninterrupted.



Nothing will really change, he writes, unless the funding formula for charter schools changes.

There is no end of charter school scandals in Ohio. Blogger Plunderbund follows these stories and reports the details. Here is the latest:

“Columbus Dispatch readers were shocked, shocked to learn last week that members of Imagine Columbus Primary School’s charter board, protesting that they had no say in negotiating the terms of an operational contract, resigned “en masse” over a lease imposed by the management company that had the school paying $58,000 per month in rent for space to house 150 students, as well as other issues related to the viability of the school.

“The board’s action, which did get some attention from the usually somnolent “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” was so dramatic that the Casablanca Prefect of Police might have exclaimed it was time to “round up the usual suspects.”

“But Captain Renault and the rest of us don’t have to look too far. In this case, the usual suspect is Imagine Schools, a national for-profit charter school chain founded by Dennis Bakke, a well-known Christian evangelical, and his wife, Eileen.

“The Bakkes have found great success with Imagine and its subsidiary, SchoolHouse Finance. But as is the case with many charter school enterprises, success is one thing, and ethics is quite another.”

But is Imagine a charter chain or a real estate empire? A breathless world awaits the answer.

“Conflict of interest? When the friend of a governor is appointed to a commission to study the feasibility of charter schools and, using his insider knowledge, forms a charter school management company to coincide with the enactment of the legislation, when one of the sponsors of the original charter school legislation works to have it designed so that a political friend and a family member profit from its enactment, and when a private foundation affiliated with a school management company offers free international travel to members of the legislature as a vehicle for influencing favorable charter school legislation, could these be examples of possible conflicts of interest?”

Plunderbund adds:

“Unfortunately, the terms charter school and conflict of interest are becoming synonymous. And redundant. ”

Who owns the charter schools in Ohio? Like many states, Tthe charters are called “public.” But the owners of the for-profit Imagine chain believe they “own” the charters. The boards are a necessary encumbrance. The public has no role, other than to supply money to the corporation.


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