Archives for category: Ohio

A reader in Ohio shared this unbelievable link.

You may recall that David Hansen was in charge of monitoring charter schools in Ohio. You may recall that his wife, who was John Kasich’s chief of staff, is now running his presidential campaign. You may recall that Hansen was compelled to resign when he was caught manipulating charter school test scores to protect some big Republican donors. Well, Hansen may be gone but his legacy lives on, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education, which ignores scandals if they involve charter schools.

A top Ohio Department of Education official who resigned in July after manipulating data to boost charter schools also participated in a successful effort to obtain $71 million in federal money that could allow the wholesale takeover of urban school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education this week announced that it is providing $249 million to six states and the District of Columbia over the next five years for the expansion of charter schools.

The single-largest grant of $71 million goes to Ohio, which ranks near the bottom nationally for charter-school academic performance and has a history of financial failures. [My emphasis].

Records show that David Hansen, a longtime advocate for charter schools hired by State Supt. Richard Ross to run his school-choice office, was involved in the grant application that will facilitate the takeover of Youngstown city schools and other targeted urban districts.

The takeover of so-called “recovery school districts” such as Youngstown was secretly negotiated by Ross, Kasich’s then chief of staff Beth Hansen and Youngstown business officials and approved by the legislature in June in a stunning last-minute maneuver.
David and Beth Hansen are husband and wife, and she left Kasich’s staff in July to run his presidential campaign.

Records released by the Ohio Department of Education Sept. 3 in response to newspaper investigations of Hansen’s role in the data manipulation also show that he assembled the supporting documents for the federal grant.
In those supporting documents, charter schools, charter-school advocates and members of the U.S. Congress painted a positive picture of Ohio.

This is an astonishing story. The charter school scandals run from the state departments of education, which have been caught playing games with data to bolster politically-connected charters, right to the U.S. Secretary of Education:

In those supporting documents, charter schools, charter-school advocates and members of the U.S. Congress painted a positive picture of Ohio.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in announcing the $71 million this week, cited a Stanford University report suggesting that charter schools nationwide are showing improvement.

He didn’t mention another Stanford report that says Ohio charter schools are among the lowest-performing in the country.

Instead, the federal officials gave the state a perfect score for “High-Quality Authorizing and Monitoring Processes” — or policing of charter schools — although it is the manipulation of that system that resulted in Hansen’s forced resignation.

He resigned two days after the filing deadline for the grant application. Duncan’s office reviewed the application and provided feedback on Sept. 4, months after the Ohio Department of Education rescinded the manipulated evaluations.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for ODE, said federal officials were notified of the flawed accountability formula. “They approved the grant with that knowledge,” she said.

The state application also lacked academic data to show whether Ohio’s charter schools, which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion annually, turn tax dollars into student success.

Education Week noted that Ohio’s charter sector was riddled with scandals and had lower performance than public schools:

Among the seven states and the District of Columbia to receive the grant money, Ohio is getting the largest grant. Charter school critics, and even some charter supporters, point to Ohio as an example of the kind of dysfunction that can arise from a lightly regulated charter sector.

The state has come under a lot of scruitiny lately following multiple federal, state, and press-led investigations into corruption among some Ohio schools and their CMOs over the last few years. And a December study by the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that Ohio charter school students on average learn less in a year than their district school peers.

So, yes, the U.S. Department of Education knew the Ohio charter data was phony but they gave Ohio $71 million anyway.

Why did ED decide to give the most money to the state with the most dysfunctional charters?

Peter Greene has just discovered the most amazing fact about the U.S. Department of Education’s award of $157 million to the charter industry. The state that won the most money for charters is OHIO! Ohio, where there have been more charter scandals in the past few years than in any other state!

He says in the title of his post: Accountability is for public schools only.

Arne Duncan today held a press chat to announce that USED would be throwing more money ($157 million) at charter schools.

Throwing money at public schools is, you may recall, anathema to reformsters, who are concerned that while money has been thrown higgledy piggledy at public schools, it appears that insufficient amounts of the money have struck students in the test-taking parts of their brains.

Throwing money at public schools is bad, because we are just certain that they are wasting it and that the taxpayers are not getting a sufficient bang-to-buckage ratio.

But throwing money at charter schools is awesome, because we have no idea where the hell it’s going.

The department’s inspector general issued a report in 2012 that Lyndsey Layton calls “scathing.” The report suggests that the feds have been throwing that money at charters with blindfolds on. The Center for Media and Democracy has a more recent, more scathing report on the vast piles of money that has been thrown into charter black holes. “Gosh,” say the feds. “That’s a state problem. It’s up to them to exercise oversight. Not our problem.” Although, just in case you think USED is providing no oversight at all, I am happy to report they did send states a strongly worded letter, exhorting them to be more oversighty.

With all that, you’ll be unsurprised to discover that the top winner in the charter change chunking festival is the state of Ohio. Yes, that Ohio. The Ohio where hundreds of charters have failed in just about every way a charter can fail, the Ohio where the husband of the governor’s campaign manager had to resign from his ed department job because he was caught cooking the books to make charters look better (including some belonging to some political money throwers, proving that throwing money at politicians can also work well). That Ohio gets another $32.5 million to throw at charters. Even the journalists listening to Duncan’s news apparently felt the urge to question that decision, but USED assistant deputy secretary Nadya Dabby responded:

“Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality and oversight,” said Dabby, although she could not provide details. “We believe Ohio has put practices in place, although there ‘s always room for them to grow.”

Room to grow? Well, that’s one way of putting it. Another way would be to mention that under the Ohio charter law, helpfully written by charter lobbyists, any equipment purchased by charter operators with taxpayer dollars belongs to the charter operator as private property. Ohio is the state where the charter monitor for the state was fired for rigging grades to help the especially low-performing online charters.

It appears that Arne will keep throwing money at the charters as long as he is in office, no matter how little supervision or oversight there is.

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

We like to think that judicial decisions are the result of a thoughtful perusal of case law and precedents.

Stephen Dyer, former legislator and current policy analyst, suggests there may be other issues involved.


“Today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that White Hat Management — the state’s worst performing large-scale charter school operator — gets to keep all the equipment it uses public money to buy, even if the school was shut down for being one of the state’s worst performing schools.

“White Hat — run by Republican mega donor David Brennan — can sell the equipment how it sees fit, even if it was its own incompetence and failure that led to the school’s closing.

“While this opinion may seem somewhat surprising, what isn’t surprising is that the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion has taken $5,000 in campaign contributions from Brennan and his family. Justice Judith Lanzinger received that money in 2004.

“Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor — whose political career started in Brennan’s Summit County backyard — received money every year she was up for the court in 2002, 2008 and 2010 when she ran for the Chief Justice seat. She has received a total of $11,900. Surprised she signed onto Lanzinger’s opinion?

“Justice Judith French received $7,200 last year when she ran for the high court — as the White Hat lawsuit was pending. Any surprise she voted to uphold White Hat’s right to profit from their failed school management?

“I credit Justice Terrence O’Donnell for recusing himself from the case. He received more money than any other sitting Justice — $15,000.

“Justice Paul Pfeiffer took money from Brennan in the early 1990s, but hasn’t recently and dissented from the Lanzinger opinion.

“The opinions on this case are complex and complicated, with many of the Justices trying to seem like they are with White Hat on some things, but not others. Don’t let them fool you with their strained efforts. On the only thing that mattered — allowing Brennan to profit from his failed operations — they were lock step behind their benefactor.”

The other big charter operator in Ohio, William Lager, received $100 million last year from the state. All of his schools received Fs and Ds. He also gave to the campaigns of Lanzinger, French, O’Connor, and O’Donnell.

Money talks in a loud voice. What about the taxpayers’ dollars? What about the children?

Forget about it. A contract is a contract.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that property purchased by the for-profit charter management corporation White Hat using public funds belongs to White Hat, not the public.

I’m no lawyer, but this decision says to me that the schools’ stuff does not belong to the public, but to a private entrepreneur. I take that to be an acknowledgement that White Hat privatized the assets of the school. More evidence that charter schools are not public schools. If they were, their stuff purchased with public funds would belong to the public.

White Hat was sued by the boards of 10 of its charter schools, all of which have closed for poor performance.

“A charter school operator – not the schools themselves – own the classroom desks, computers and other equipment purchased with state-provided tax dollars, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

“The ruling represented a victory for the charter-school operator, White Hat Management Co., and a defeat for 10 now-closed schools in Northeast Ohio that claimed they owned the property since it was bought with public funds.

“Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in the majority opinion that charter school operators perform a governmental function and establish a fiduciary relationship with the schools they manage in purchasing school equipment, contrary to the position taken by White Hat.

“That finding should allow the public to obtain charter-school operator financial records that long have been withheld, said Karen Hockstad, a Columbus lawyer who represented the ex-White Hat charter schools.

“Current law largely does not address the duties of school operators and does not restrict the provisions of contracts between operators and charter schools, Lanzinger wrote.

“Therefore, a provision in White Hat’s contract allowing it to title property in its name and later require the schools to buy back any property they wanted to keep is enforceable, the opinion stated.

“Unless there is fraud, courts cannot save “a competent person from the effects of his own voluntary agreement,” the opinion said.

“The schools were represented by their own legal counsel and they agreed to the provisions in the contracts. They may not rewrite terms simply because they now seem unfair….”.

“The funds were paid by the state to the seven Hope Academies and three Life Skills Centers in the Cleveland and Akron areas that hired White Hat in 2005 to handle operations. White Hat received 95 percent of each school’s state funding to pay teacher salaries, building rentals, utilities and other expenses.

“The schools’ lawyer had argued the funds remained public despite their payment to White Hat and that classroom equipment belonged to the schools.

“About $100 million was paid by the state to the seven Hope Academies and three Life Skills Centers in the Cleveland and Akron areas that hired White Hat in 2005 to handle operations. White Hat received 95 percent of each school’s state funding to pay teacher salaries, building rentals, utilities and other expenses.

“White Hat Management is owned by David L. Brennan, of Akron, one of the early proponents of the publicly funded and privately operated charter schools and a major donor to Ohio Republicans…. ”

Two judges dissented. Their dissents were well-reasoned and common sense:

“There has been no quality education, there has been no safeguarding of public funds, and there most certainly has been no benefit to the children,” Justice William M. O’Neill wrote.

“He concluded that the contracts are not enforceable because they “permit an operator who is providing a substandard education to squander public money and then, upon termination for poor performance, reap a bonus, paid for by public money.”

“Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote that the court should have overturned the contract.

“The contracts require that after the public pays to buy those materials for a public use, the public must then pay the companies if it wants to retain ownership of the materials,” he wrote.

“This contract term is not merely unwise as the opinion would have us believe; it is extremely unfair, so unfair, in fact, as to be unconscionable. … The contract term is so one-sided that we should refuse to enforce it.”

Ohio has withdrawn from the federally funded PARCC test, but the results came in from last spring’s tests. A little more than one-third “met expectations.” Put another way, nearly two-thirds “failed.”

Under the old state tests, 75-80% were proficient. Ohio softened the blow of high failure rate by creating a new category called “Approached Expectations.” This reduced the proportion of “failures.”

“That will have, for example, students that “Met Expectations” on PARCC rated as “Accelerated” by Ohio. And students will be labeled as “Proficient” by Ohio, even if they still just “Approached Expectations” of the 12 PARCC states.

“That means that many more kids will labeled as “Proficient” than the PARCC states would consider as meeting expectations.

“Jim Wright, ODE’s director of assessment, told the board this morning that shouldn’t be a concern.

“Educators across the country have warned that scores and ratings would drop with the new tests. The proposed ratings will bring a drop, just not the “cliff” that people warned about, Wright said.”

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity notes that significant numbers of charters in Ohio are failing. He has a modest proposal: let high-performing districts take over failing charters.

He writes:

“A proposed plan for high-performing school districts to take over the failing Ohio charter school industry

The idea for this plan was concocted after reading Diane Ravitch’s blog referencing a proposal by the Superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks school district in Texas. He proposed that his high performing district takeover and manage failing charter schools in Texas.

Here is a plan for Ohio. Divide the state into five or more regions. Identify all of the top-rated school districts in each region and assign each low performance charter school to a district. For example–a designated district in central Ohio would take over the management of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and other low-performing charter schools in central Ohio. Ohio Virtual Academy and other low performers would be assigned a designated district in northwest Ohio. The charter sponsors would be eliminated to save costs and the management companies would be fired. Charters that don’t meet the expectations of the school district would be closed and students reassigned.

The public school districts, having eliminated the charter profit centers would plow those savings into the education of students.

This plan would have the added benefit of complete transparency and accountability.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition reports another charter school collapses and wonders why it was ever allowed to open. And he asks, “where’s the money?”

“The FCI Academy charter school in north Columbus closed at the start of this school year

“The closure of FCI Academy sent 300 students scrambling to enroll in another school on the first day of school. The sponsor revoked the contract due to lack of appropriate fiscal management.

“This is a school that should never have been allowed to open. As pointed out in a post a year ago, Section 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.”

“FCI Academy charter school was on the campus of Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus. It was founded by the church leader, his wife and one other person. The church leader’s wife was president of the school board.

“It should be noted that FCI Academy had already received nearly $400,000 thus far this school year. What will happen to that money?

“This arrangement does not pass the smell test. But, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the sponsor, Lake Erie West ESC, apparently had not sniffed out the nonsectarian prohibition. It appears that ODE has seldom, if ever, used its leadership role to correct abuses in the charter industry.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

During John Kasich’s governorship, charter schools have been the beneficiaries of political favoritism. The charter operators who give large sums to Republican candidates are never held accountable for their performance. In most states, this practice is called “pay to play.”

This article describes the corruption of the charter sector in Ohio. Some of the lowest performing charter schools in the state give the biggest political contributions. Certain for-profit charter chains have abysmal performance yet they will never be closed. Money talks.

Kasich appointed David Hansen as executive director of Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice and Funding. “Kasich tasked Hansen with overseeing the expansion of the state’s charter schools and virtual schools, which are online charter schools typically used by homeschoolers.” Hansen had been a board member of a failed for-profit charter school. When Hansen was found rigging charter school grades, he had to resign.

“In July, Hansen resigned after admitting he had rigged evaluations of the state’s charter school sponsors—the nonprofits that authorize and oversee the schools in exchange for a fee—by not including the failing grades of certain F-rated schools in his assessment. Specifically, he omitted failing virtual schools operated by for-profit management companies that are owned by major Republican donors in the state.”

So Hansen is gone, gone, gone, but his wife is Kasich’s campaign manager and his former chief of staff.

And what of Ohio’s charter industry?

“Schools with D or F grades receive an estimated 90 percent of the state’s charter school funding. Virtual schools, which have an even worse academic track record and insufficient quality controls have been permitted to flourish….

“In the four years that Kasich has been in office, funding for traditional public schools has declined by almost half a billion dollars, while charter schools have seen a funding increase of more than 25 percent. Much of that funding appears to have been misspent.”

Ohio has so many low-performing charters, so many scandals, and so much corruption that the state has become “a national joke.”

John Kasich is portraying himself in the campaign as a moderate. Ha! He is no moderate. He tried to eliminate collective bargaining but the voters turned back his effort. He is as far right as Scott Walker. Don’t be fooled.

Three major newspapers in Ohio have seconded the State Board of Education’s call for an investigation of grade-rigging of charter school data by state officials. They demand that the state open its records but the state has been stonewalling their requests.

Here is one from the Columbus Dispatch:

“If state Superintendent of Education Richard Ross is not covering up something embarrassing or illegal at the Ohio Department of Education, his recent actions aren’t helping his credibility.

“Ross, who formerly worked for Gov. John Kasich as head of the Office of 21st Century Education, has been dragging his feet for a month in honoring a request from several Ohio newspapers for documents that might shed light on why someone at the education department decided to omit the poor performance of online and dropout-recovery charter schools from the department’s evaluation of charter-school sponsors. The omission artificially inflated the rankings of at least one sponsor. Several charter-school sponsors have made large donations to Republican officeholders. These donations are routinely cited as a major reason why Ohio’s lawmakers have failed to reform Ohio’s abysmal charter-school system.

“David Hansen, former head of the education department’s office of school choice, was blamed for the data omission and resigned. Declaring that Hansen — who happens to be the husband of the woman who heads Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign — acted alone, Ross hoped the matter was closed and everyone would move on. But seven members of the State Board of Education instead called for an investigation of the matter.

“That call has gone unanswered. Even State Auditor Dave Yost, who was zealous in the investigation of performance-enhancing data-rigging at Columbus City Schools, is surprisingly incurious about the attempted data-rigging at the education department. He declared himself satisfied that the attempt was disclosed and corrected and that no financial harm had come to the state.

“Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

“Absent any official interest in investigating the matter, Ohio’s newspapers, including The Dispatch, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the Akron Beacon Journal, The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Dayton Daily News all filed formal requests for records that might show whether Hansen truly acted alone.

“The papers have been waiting for weeks for the education department to comply with state open-records law. The education department says the process is taking so long because the emails are being vetted to ensure that no mistakes are made.”

Here is another, from the Akron Beacon-Journal:

“John Kasich subscribes to the theory of a rogue offender in the Ohio Department of Education. The governor deems “political” the calls to look deeper into David Hansen doctoring the grades of charter schools so they would remain in position to add students and thus collect additional state money.

“I mean, the guy’s gone. He’s gone,” the governor declared, as if Hansen admitting his deed and resigning as the head of the school choice and accountability office ends the matter. Legitimate questions remain. They start with whether other officials, in particular, Richard Ross, the state school superintendent, had anything to do with altering the grading system.

“Perhaps Hansen acted alone. Yet the way this governor and fellow Republicans in charge at the Statehouse have coddled many in the charter school industry, there is much room for skepticism about the claim. More, some state school board members see possible violations of the law, which requires the full inclusion of grades in evaluations.

“The job of investigating is ripe for the state inspector general. Unfortunately, in his case, politics do interfere, Randy Meyer closely aligned with Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Seven members of the state school board (six Democrats and one Republican) rightly requested an independent investigation. They were rebuffed.

“Which leaves this and other newspapers to dig into what happened. That means, in large part, seeking and examining public records. The trouble is, as Doug Livingston, the Beacon Journal education writer, explained over the weekend, that process has encountered a lengthy delay. The Education Department has been slow in releasing related email messages and other documents.”

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote a scathing editorial as well.

“The Ohio Department of Education needs to stop its inexcusable foot-dragging and turn over emails and other public documents requested by news outlets attempting to determine who was responsible for trying to omit from overall charter evaluations the poor grades of online charter and dropout-recovery schools.

“The scheme, which was first revealed by Plain Dealer Education Reporter Patrick O’Donnell, would, among other results, have helped the academic standing of charter school organizations in which some large GOP campaign donors have a financial stake.”

Thanks to Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition for alerting me to this situation. If Kasich gets onto the GOP ticket, the national press will be digging along with the Ohio press, to see how much payola influenced the grade rigging.

Phillis writes:

“ODE is under a dark cloud, which is of its own creation. Never before, in its history dating back to 1956, has ODE been under such a veil of suspicion. ODE is hiding suspected misfeasance and malfeasance regarding its dealings with the charter school industry. Since the Governor’s office is now in charge of ODE, the probe should include that office.

“According to the ODE website, Frank Stoy is now director of the charter school office. It should be of interest that David Hansen, while heading up the charter school office, brought Mr. Stoy into ODE. Stoy had been associated with the Ohio Council of Community Schools, which as a result of data manipulation ended up as the top-rated charter school sponsor. Just a coincidence?

“An independent investigation, as called for by seven elected State Board of Education members, should reach all the way back to the beginning of the charter industry in 1999.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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


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