Archives for category: Ohio

The blog has its own poet, who signs as “Some DAM Poet—Devalue Added Model.” Here is his or her poem for Imagine charters in Ohio:

“”Imagine” (sincere apologies to John Lennon)

Imagine no regulation
It’s easy if you try
No tax below us
Above us only $ky

Imagine all the charters
Living for today

Imagine there’s no oversight
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to sweat or lie for
And no inspections, too

Imagine all the charters
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will cheat as one

Imagine no prosecutions
I wonder if you can
No need for lawyers and trials
A brotherhood of scams

Imagine all the charters
Ruling all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will rule as one

The leader of Cincinnati’s largest charter school pleaded guilty to charges of misusing school funds.

 

This story was published by the Cincinnati Enquirer but ignored by the Columbus Dispatch.

 

When will the public wake up and demand accountability and transparency from charters?

 

“A former superintendent accused of using her charter school as her “personal feifdom” is now a convicted felon, marking the latest blemish for charter schools in this region and statewide.

 

“Lisa Hamm, who ran the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, the region’s largest charter school, cut a deal with prosecutors last week. She pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to three of 26 felony counts against her. The remaining charges, including multiple counts of theft in office and tampering with evidence, were dismissed.”

 

“Hamm, who court documents claim ran the school as her “personal fiefdom,” could get up to 18 months in prison on the charges of unauthorized use of property. Probation is also an option. She agreed to repay $75,000 to the school. She’s scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 24 by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John West.
Hamm of Fairfield, and former treasurer Stephanie Millard, of Walnut Hills, were accused of stealing or misusing $148,000 in taxpayer money that should have gone to educating the 950 students at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy. The court documents allege Hamm instead used the money to pay for extravagant trips, plays, concerts, luggage, spa visits, jewelry veterinary care and other personal uses…..”

Where have the state watchdogs been while Imagine Charters have profited handsomely with taxpayer dollars?

Where has the media been!

The Toledo Blade reports:

“The charter school Imagine School for the Arts is paying rent of nearly $1 million a year on a downtown building with the education funding it gets from the state, prompting criticism from a progressive advocacy group that studied charter-school finances around the state.

“The complicated financial arrangement also involves a school-affiliated trust company spending more than $7 million last year to buy a building valued at less than $2 million.

“The liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio attacked the size of the rent payments at charter schools operated in Toledo and other Ohio cities by Imagine Schools Monday as excessive. Imagine is a national for-profit educational management company.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine’s subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance, collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for the company’s 17 Ohio schools. Of that, $8.9 million covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs” to Imagine to provide management services.

“The state of Ohio and its oversight have been asleep at the wheel. If you look at the Imagine schools and the annual rents, they are outrageous,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio in Columbus. “These for-profit management corporations have become profiteers, and they are taking this money to enrich themselves.”

The story says ProgressOhio receives union funding, as though that changes the facts. No, it does not. If the state won’t investigate, then welcome to anyone who does.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine Schools pays annual rent of $301,320 for the Clay Avenue Community School building, $175,464 for the Hill Avenue Environmental School, and $942,549 for the Madison Avenue School for the Arts.

“In addition, all three pay a management fee to Imagine: $483,852 for Clay Avenue, $124,646 for Hill Avenue, and $608,020 for Madison Avenue.

“All three had a performance index grade of D in the most recent statewide report card. The district in which those schools are located, Toledo Public Schools, had an overall performance index grade of D.”

Imagine buys the building, then leases it to itself at inflated rentals. That’s the business plan.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Education/2014/10/14/Charter-school-rent-stirs-debate.html#c7BTQOGG4UQjbbxI.99

Many Imagine charter schools are part of a portfolio owned by an entertainment and real estate corporation. Nine Imagine schools are in Ohio. They have a business plan that makes them a good investment as long as they don’t get shuttered for poor performance. Imagine buys a building, then rents the building to itself for the school. It pays a very high rent, above market rates. Imagine turns a profit on these sale-leaseback deals.

The New York Times scrutinized Imagine’s business dealings a few years ago.

St. Louis closed six Imagine charters in 2012.

Most taxpayers assume that they are paying for education, not for corporate profits. They don’t understand how for-profit charters work. ProfitsFirst.

Governor John Kasich has been charter-friendly, to say the least. Ohio is home to some of the nation’s most profitable charter operators. Think ECOT. Think White Hat. These charters gove generously to friendly politicians (think Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party). But now Imagine charters had some embarrassing publicity about some of their lucrative sale-leaseback deals, and even charter champions are calling them “crony capitalists.”

So ProgressOhio has called for an investigation of Imagine.

““Our ‘fiscally conservative’ governor needs to explain why he’s allowed all this money to be wasted and all these kids to be hurt. And his charter school watchdog needs to go,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio.

“Rothenberg asked why David Hansen, who heads the state Department of Education’s charter-school accountability office, has ignored the problem, noting that he formerly served on the board of an Imagine school in Columbus and should have known about its lease arrangement.

“Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was on Imagine Academy of Columbus’ board and among those recommending that the school be closed because of poor academic performance. The school closed but reopened weeks later as a new Imagine school with the same lease, which directs more than half of its state aid to rent.”

And more:

“The Dispatch reported on Sunday that five Imagine schools in Franklin County received a combined $20.2 million in per-pupil state aid in the 2012-13 school year. A quarter of that money — more than $5.1 million — was spent on rent, all under long-term leases with Schoolhouse Finance, an Imagine subsidiary.

“A sixth school, Imagine Integrity Academy, spent 81 percent of its $440,009 in state aid on rent in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent audit available.”

High profit margin, no?

“Research by ProgressOhio showed that, despite Imagine’s poor academic performance, Imagine and Schoolhouse Finance collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for their 17 Ohio schools, according to records from the schools and state auditor.

“More than half — $8.9 million — covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs’’ to Imagine to provide management services.

“Rothenberg said the arrangement leaves little money for classroom instruction, and administrators for some of the schools complain that low teacher salaries have caused high staff turnover, which further undermines student achievement.”

Crony capitalism? Yes. Ripoff of public funds intended for children? What do you think?

In September, I wrote about Dawn Neely-Randall, a teacher in her 25th year of teaching in Ohio who decided she had to speak out against the testing madness that had swept the nation. I said if there were 1,000 teachers with her gumption in Ohio (and every other state), we could drive the “reformers” out of our schools and back to the smoke-filled rooms and financial institutions where they came from (of I didn’t exactly say that, I meant it).

Dawn has continued to speak out, and she sent me her Facebook page, which has pictures of her in conversation with Governor John Kasich. Governor Kasich looks on approvingly while charter pirates raid the state treasury of about $1 billion a year. He doesn’t worry about their poor performance or about their high profits because they also are generous contributors to his party! He doesn’t worry about wasting the lives of Ohio’s children by putting them in schools run by mercenaries. He doesn’t care about squandering the public’s money intended for education.

Dawn sent this new letter:

“Diane, I just thought I’d share my FB post from today. I’ve now talked with 1 Governor (and 1 Governor Candidate); 3 Senators; 6 State Reps; 1 Congress Woman (and 1 Congress Woman candidate); the Ohio Board of Education (twice); and the Ohio School Board. Here’s a photo of me trying to hold Governor Kasich to task over all this testing (who agreed that 18 hours for my fifth-graders “seems excessive” and who PROMISED I would be heard, but, of course, I have still not received the guaranteed phone call from our State of Ohio School Superintendent. (I’m the one who wrote the Washington Post piece of throwing students to the testing wolves…) In the meantime, parents in Ohio are starting to activate. It is all so overwhelming.

“Here is my FB post. Please see photos with Koch-funded and future Presidential candidate John Ka$ich from last Saturday at LCCC in Elyria, Ohio:

Dawn Neely-Randall

“Stress is really setting in.

“This morning, I awoke feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don’t know how one little rant on Facebook last March got me from just being a concerned teacher to being so out there politically and publicly. I have NO political aspirations and I have received NO compensation for anything I’ve done, however, as I’m sure you can imagine, once you enter the public arena, you become a target since there is no way to please everyone. I go to bed writing letters to legislators and stakeholders in my head and awake wondering what I can do next to stop all this testing madness for my students. It has become a heart and moral issue for me. It is all so out of control and if you were already on my FB page prior to March, you heard me forewarning that all this was coming. I have said before that I felt I was building an ark and telling everyone that a flood was coming and trying to get them to save their children and that is really how I feel. (And it is only going to get worse and is already happening in other parts of our country.) If things don’t change soon, my health really can’t continue to tolerate all this stress and I don’t know what I will do differently with my career next year, but I have a feeling that the testing students will have to sit through from February through May will be a deal breaker and will send me out of the classroom for good.

“The other problem is that the more I speak out, the more people want to refuse the tests which does, indeed, hurt a teacher’s evaluation rating (brilliant move by the State of Ohio to give students a zero for refusing a testing and penalizing teachers to keep teachers silent), so, you can imagine, this will not make me popular with my colleagues. However, what about the children? I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Legislators from both sides are telling me they can’t help and that it will take a massive act of civil disobedience from parents to change things. Teachers have duct tape over their mouths. Many School Board members are starting to catch on (thank God) and I’m putting my hopes in the fact that they will take their roles very seriously as the first line of defense against the state harming the students on their watch. And in the midst of it all, slowly but surely, I have to teach my students to navigate the computer for all the online PARCC (Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers) testing coming their way and just the first introduction I gave them to the online practice test seemed to really freak (and stress) them out; I fear it is literally breaking my heart.

“Here’s a list of Ohio Department of Education testing hours JUST for 3rd through 8th grade (NOT INCLUDING) all the other state mandated testing, which adds ample hours to each school year and not including students’ course work testing as well. Remember, please that this will be the SAME child (your child or your neighbor’s child or your grandchild) testing from grade to grade to grade; add up the hours. Which grade level will suffer the most? The grade level AFTER the grade level that students were testing. In other words, each year that goes by, the more fried students will, of course, become. (Imagine how “happy” students will be about going to school by their middle school years and how dejected they will feel about testing by then.)

“How many drives to Florida could I make from Ohio in the same amount of time that students are testing 3rd through 8th grade? And remember, kindergarteners this year started testing first off this school year. Also, remember, this is just a partial list of hours students are tested. Is it just me, or is this so insanely insane?

“The Ohio Department of Education assessment staff is pleased to report session times for this year’s administration of Ohio’s New State Tests”:

“PARCC TESTNG 3rd Grade: 9.75 hours

4th Grade: 12.5 hours
5th Grade: 12.5 hours
6th Grade: 12.3 hours
7th Grade: 10.8 hours
8th Grade: 13.3 hours”

Thank you, Dawn. Thank you for your courage. This testing is not helping children, and you know it. It is a hoax intended to make public education look bad so the profiteers can move in and “save” more children from public education. They will open fly-by-night schools staffed by uncertified “teachers.” They will profit. Our kids will not. Keep fighting. As the scandals accumulate, and as voices like yours continue to be heard, the public will support you, not the people who seek to profit by destroying what belongs to the public.

I have always hoped that leaders of the charter industry would call out the frauds in their midst. Where to start? It looks like they have finally turned against the profiteering of Imagine charters. This is from politico.com:

“CRONY CAPITALISM IN THE CHARTER SECTOR? Imagine Columbus Primary Academy in Ohio plans to spend $700,000 on rent this school year. That’s more than the charter school will spend on salaries and benefits, The Columbus Dispatch reports [http://bit.ly/1yrG77D ]. The cost of rent will eat up more than half of the school’s annual state revenue. Meanwhile, Imagine Schools Inc. – one of the nation’s largest charter school operators – rakes in hundreds of thousands in public tax dollars. It’s all thanks to a complicated real estate maneuver, the Dispatch said Sunday. A subsidiary of Imagine Schools Inc., named SchoolHouse Finance, buys buildings and resells them for two or three times the purchase price. SchoolHouse Finance then leases the building from the new owner and rents the space back to Imagine. “It’s legal, but that doesn’t mean it should be,” said Greg Harris, Ohio director of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that supports charter growth. “We don’t want charter-school operators profiting as landlords.”

- “Let’s call this what this is: Crony capitalism,” Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli tweeted [http://bit.ly/1s7ZXzT]. At least three states and Washington, D.C. are investigating Imagine for similar practices, the Dispatch noted. One state even shuttered schools operated by Imagine. After an investigation conducted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri, the state board of education shut down six schools run by Imagine in 2012. The paper uncovered real estate deals similar to the ones happening in Ohio and poor academic performance.”

The Network for Public Education endorses candidates who share its values: supporting strong and better public schools, opposing high-stakes testing and privatization. We don’t know everyone running for office everywhere but endorse candidates who seek our endorsement, after a review of the records of all candidates in the race. We are ptoud to endorse Michael Charney, who is running for the state board of education in Ohio.

“The Network for Public Education endorses Michael Charney

“The Network for Public Education is proud to endorse Michael Charney for District 7 Ohio State Board of Education.

“Michael Charney was a social studies teacher for over 30 years. He has worked for smaller classes and to bring student, parent and teacher voices into decision making on public education. He also created community based literacy campaigns that ensured parents had books at home for their children, creating literacy friendly homes.

“Here’s what Charney has to say on high stakes standardized testing:

“Let’s end all high stakes standardized testing and replace the test with thoughtful teacher developed tests and performance assessments that will help teachers decide how best to make sure their instruction is working with all students.

“Stop hurting students with the overreliance on high stakes standardized testing.”

“Charney supports reducing class size:

“His plan would massively reduce class size so students can have personal attention. “Low-income students who enter kindergarten without a large vocabulary especially need that attention and high school teachers need smaller classes so that they will develop projects and in-depth writing assignments for their students.”

“Charney wants Congress to hold Hearings on Testing

“I support Congressional Hearings on standardized tests. Look at my website for the summaries of my listening sessions with Ohio educators to see more day to day examples of how high stakes standardized testing is hurting children, and driving teachers out of teaching.”

“Here’s what Ohioans say about Michael Charney.

“State Representative John Patterson:
“Michael Charney has been an educator and teacher for over 30 years. He gets it. He understands what needs to be done for public education.”

“Tom Schmida, retired teacher and former President of the Clevelnd Heights Teachers Union for 22 years:

“Charney is “incredibly passionate about public education and students. He will work with communities to provide them the very best instruction as well as resources.”

“He goes on to say, “Charney has always been a community activist, he founded Youth Voices in Cleveland. He is a stellar candidate.”

“Charney’s opponent is Sarah Fowler, a strong supporter of home-schooling.
According to the Education Action Group Foundation, Fowler says,
“Gay rights, Marxist ideals, and other elements of the left’s political agenda have slowly crept into school lesson plans with the help of teachers unions and their allies and it’s important to counter that influence to provide students with a proper education. I would say the union is definitely promoting that agenda.”

“According to the Education Action Group, Sarah Fowler says “American history in most Ohio public schools, for example, starts at the Civil War, omitting lessons on the people and documents that founded the United States of America.”

“This is not accurate according to the Ohio Department of Education, 8th grade students study U.S. History from 1492 to 1877.

“Michael Charney understands schools need to improve. His proposes to:

Stop the over-reliance on high-stakes tests

Protect student privacy and not allow the sharing of your children’s data

Increase parent engagement

Continue to support smaller classes

Two things you can do to support Michael Charney:

Today, donate

http://charney2014.com/Contribute.html

VOTE NOVEMBER 4th for Michael Charney

Ohio State School Board, District 7.

The Network for Public Education joins parents and teachers and community leaders throughout District 7 who know Michael Charney is the best candidate for the job. Please support MIchael on Tuesday, November 4!

This note of alarm comes from Denis Smith, a retired consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office:

 

 
On Tuesday, September 23, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in the notorious White Hat Management case, where the boards of 10 charter schools operated by White Hat Management have sued the operator to assert their right to control the physical assets of the schools. White Hat says that since it is the operator, all tangible property (student and office furniture, equipment, books and supplies) belongs to the company, while the boards maintain that the assets belong to the individual schools.

 

If White Hat wins, this means that upon the closure of any of these charter schools, the operator can sell or auction off this property and maintain the proceeds rather than returning the funds to the state through the normal liquidation process for public proerty.

 

What is disgraceful is that Ohio’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has failed to file an amicus brief on behalf of the Ohio Department of Education, and therefore has decided not to join the argument that the property, bought with state funds, belongs to the public rather than the company.

 

But what is even more disgraceful is that only the Ohio School Boards Association has filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting the schools’ contention that the company has no right to these physical assets purchased with state tax funds.

 

So the questions are:
Where is the Ohio Education Association in this case?
Where is the Ohio Federation of Teachers in this case?
Where is the Buckeye Association of School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators?
Where is the Ohio Association of School Business Officials?
Where is Ohio ASCD?
If you belong to any of these organizations, would you consider calling them tomorrow or contacting them TODAY via email to find out why they are AWOL in this case that affects the very future of public education?

 

When I found out about all of these organizations being AWOL after being on the road for two weeks, I was outraged. I hope you might be as well. Needless to say, White Hat has the support of several charter school organizations in this case, but public education organizations, save the Ohio School Boards Association, are absent.

 

This is absolutely shameful.

 

What are professional dues for? What is the reason these organizations exist?

 

If you’re not outraged about this, you haven’t been paying attention. To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of all of us in the education community.

 

http://www.dispatch.com/content/blogs/the-daily-briefing/2014/08/08.25.2014-animus-about-amicus.html

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/09/Pepper_on_charter_schools.html

A message from Donald Cohen of “In the Public Interest,” which follows news about privatization of public services.

“Cashing in on Kids, a joint project of In the Public Interest and the American Federation of Teachers, is working to ensure that parents, teachers, students and taxpayers continue to have a strong voice in how we run our schools and educate our nation’s children. Below is an action that needs your attention.

“The FBI is currently investigating Concept Schools, Inc., a charter management company, which operates nineteen schools in the state of Ohio. The federal investigation is for “white-collar crime,” self-dealing, and misusing federal money meant for the neediest students.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations, it is likely that all nineteen Concept charter schools will be shut down, but too often this puts taxpayers on the hook for the schools’ liabilities and debts.

“Can you sign our petition today and help us protect taxpayers from any more grief and costs created by Concept Schools?

“That’s why we are demanding that the Ohio Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education take the necessary steps to protect taxpayers’ and students’ interests against further wrongdoing on the part of Concept Schools.

“Total enrollment in Concept Schools in Ohio is nearly 6,700 students and is funded by $48.5 million from state taxpayers. Working men and women in Ohio should not be forced to spend a single dime due to the potential closure of Concept Schools as the result of its own misconduct.

“State education officials have the power under Ohio law to take back control of Concept Charters as the schools’ sponsor and require that each of the nineteen Concept Schools post a “bond payable to the state or to file with the state superintendent a guarantee, which shall be used to pay the state any moneys owed by the community school in the event the schools closes.”

“Please add your voice to those of parents, students and taxpayers across the country upset by poor oversight over charter schools and demand that we take back control of our schools. It is time that for-profit charter school operators like Concept Schools be held accountable and pay for their own wrongdoing, instead of taxpayers footing the bill.

“Sign our petition today.”

Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

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