White Hat Charter Scandal Continues in Ohio

This week, for the first time in my memory, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports extensively on the scandal of White Hat Management, the charter school operation owned by powerful Akron political contributor, David Brennan. In Funds are at Issue in Charter School Suit the newspaper reports on a case that has now been appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Several White Hat schools, trying to pull out of the network, sued White Hat in 2010 to find out what equipment belongs to the management company and what belongs to the school. The plaintiff schools won at the trial court and appellate level, but White Hat continues to appeal the case. At issue is that White Hat, a privately held corporation, is not required to explain how much it spends on salaries or equipment. Not even to its own appointed school boards or to the staffs at its schools.

What the Plain Dealer does not point out this morning is that the public’s interest is a little different than the interests of the boards of the schools trying to leave the network.

White Hat is known to take 96 percent of the state revenue provided for the schools, but White Hat is not required to document publicly how much goes into educating the children and how much is taken as profit by owner David Brennan.

The attorney for White Hat, Charles “Rocky” Saxbe is reported in today’s paper as explaining “that the company already has provided as much information as state law and the Ohio auditor’s office require.” That is of course the problem: the state of Ohio has failed its obligation to protect the public from waste and to protect children from low performing schools. Charter school boards appointed by Charter Management Organizations are not in a position to provide adequate oversight over the corporations that appoint them.

The other problem, as the Akron Beacon Journal reported on June 29 is that David Brennan, a huge political contributor, got a boost of $1,400 per child in Basic Aid in the biennial budget that our governor signed into law on June 30. This is far higher than the increase in state aid for traditional public school districts or for other charter schools, even those posting far higher test scores than Brennan’s schools.

In a 2010 pastoral letter sent to the President and Congress, the governing board of the National Council of Churches wrote: “We believe that democratic operation of public schools is our best hope for ensuring that families can secure the services to which their children have a right. On balance, we believe that if government invests public funds in charter schools that report to private boards, government, not the vicissitudes of the marketplace, should be expected to provide oversight to protect the common good.”

For more about troubles in Ohio’s charter schools, read this new report from Innovation Ohio: Unfair Funding: How Charter Schools Win & Traditional Schools Lose.

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