SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

May 31, 2011

Kasich’s (charter school) Buddies

Bill could make schools’ suit moot

House’s changes in charter-school laws favor one operator

By Catherine Candisky THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A Franklin County judge has given charter-school kingpin David L. Brennan and the schools suing his for-profit management company an additional 60 days to work on a new contract.

But Gov. John Kasich and GOP leaders in the General Assembly might resolve the year-old lawsuit sooner.    The Senate will decide next week whether to keep several charter-school provisions added to the budget by House Republicans at Brennan’s request.

Many involve issues at the center of the lawsuit against his White Hat Management Co., including one that would allow the for-profit company to keep secret how it spends tax dollars it receives to operate charter schools. Another would give White Hat possession of school desks, supplies and other items purchased with tax dollars, should a school close.    An attorney for the charter schools suing White Hat said that, if the budget bill is approved with the provisions left in, White Hat will claim that the lawsuit is effectively over and Brennan will have won.   

“White Hat will likely go back to the judge and say there aren’t any issues (left to decide). ‘We don’t owe them an accounting, the money is private, case dismissed,’” attorney Karen S. Hockstad said.

Overcoming such a legal hurdle would be very difficult. “We’ll be right back where we started, with the additional arguments that the legislation is unconstitutional and being applied retroactively,” she said.    House Speaker William G. Batchelder, who had repeatedly insisted that he did not know where the amendments came from, acknowledged yesterday that House Republicans acted at the request of Brennan.

  • The charter-school operator has been Ohio’s second-biggest campaign contributor, almost exclusively to Republicans, in the past decade.   (Who knew there was so much profit in Education?   Jan)

The Medina Republican’s remarks came during taping of Sunday’s Capital Square program on the Ohio News Network.    Charles R. Saxbe, Brennan’s attorney in Columbus, could not be reached.    A number of charter-school advocacy organizations, including the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, have sent the Senate a list of what they would like to see stay in the budget and what should be pulled. The group has serious concerns about much of the House-added language related to charter-school operators.    “We are optimistic that there will be some important changes that we have pushed for, along with other charter-school groups across the state,” said Stephanie Klupinski, vice president of government and public relations for the Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Some GOP senators said they anticipate that much of the House charter language will be removed.

The White Hat case was to go to trial this week before Franklin County Common Pleas Judge John F. Bender. In postponing it, Bender asked both sides to try again to reach a new contract.

One of the nation’s largest charter-school operators, Brennan’s White Hat Management receives tens of millions in tax dollars each year to run more than 30 charter schools across Ohio. The schools are funded by the state like traditional public schools but are privately operated.    Last year, nine schools in the Akron and Cleveland areas filed a lawsuit against White Hat to terminate or renegotiate their contracts with the company.

Provisions added to the budget by House Republicans would allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools without a sponsor , a move that would give White Hat and similar companies complete control.

The lawmakers also agreed:

  • to ban the state from suspending or putting on probation charter schools with poor student performance, fiscal mismanagement or a law violation;
  • not to require charter schools to comply with any education law that doesn’t also apply to private schools;
  • and to make the renewal of a contract between a community school and its sponsor subject to the operator’s approval.

Dispatch reporters Jim Siegel and Joe Vardon contributed to this story. ccandisky@dispatch.com

(Not only is this all unbelievable – – it is unconscionable.  Only in Ohio with a governor called Kasich!    Jan)

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