"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ohio Supreme Court To Rule in Corporate Charter Case

After years of waiting for the definitive ruling on the legality of corporate welfare schools in Ohio, the lawsuit brought by the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio PTA, and the Ohio School Boards Association will be heard Tuesday in Ohio's Supreme Court (now 6-1 Republican). See story here reprinted in the Charlotte Observer.

The ruling will have a significant impact, particularly in Ohio, where the state dropped $455 million last year alone for privately-run charters, with $100 million going to David Brennan''s company, White Hat. Brennan was named in the 2001 suit as a "benefactor of unconstitutional activity." Here is how the Akron Beacon Journal reporters present the conflicting points of view:
The two sides disagree on whether charter schools are really public schools on two bases: governance and accountability.

The OFT maintains that charter schools are not public because private companies like White Hat organize the nonprofit boards that run the charter schools. That ensures that the charter boards then will hire the same private, for-profit companies as school manager.

Supporters maintain charter schools are public schools with open enrollment that are held to the same academic standards as traditional public schools.

Opponents also say charter schools are exempt from many state regulationsand are performing far below local traditional schools.

Supporters point to efforts by the legislature to address problems in charter schools as an acknowledgment that, while the system may be imperfect, it is not unconstitutional.

Also regarding governance, the OFT argues that charter schools are unconstitutional because local voters and school boards have no input in the decision to open the schools or how they should be funded.

Supporters say the legislature has the authority to create alternative public schools, and charters are held accountable by independent, state-authorized sponsors.

Why does this sound like corporate corruption to me?

And could there be any chance for conflicts of interest on the part of the judges hearing the case? Here's another clip:

. . . while justices are required to weigh issues of legality, questions have been raised about their own stake in the case.

The majority has benefited from the political fund-raising efforts of Akron businessman David Brennan, who founded the state's biggest charter-school management company.
. . . .

Since 1990, Brennan has acted as a key Ohio Republican Party fund-raiser and helped establish and fund political action committees aimed at electing Republicans to the courts.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, a critic of charter schools, last week called on the six Republican justices to withdraw from the case because of Brennan's campaign influence -- nearly $130,000 in contributions since 1992.

Court spokesman Chris Davey said the justices can separate themselves from the politics.

``The Supreme Court of Ohio has a 200-year history of objectively considering only those matters in the record,'' Davey said. ``Partisan news releases are not part of the record.''

Earlier this year, five of the six Republican justices recused themselves from hearing a case involving prominent Toledo Republican fund-raiser Thomas Noe, suspected of improperly distributing campaign dollars to avoid contribution limits.

Davey said the Noe case is different because it contains potential illegal activity.

It would appear from Davey's statement that the Court has already decided that there is nothing even potentially illegal about corporate welfare schools.

Gee, I wonder how they will rule on this one--6-1 maybe?

Jim Horn

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