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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brennan's White Hat Charter Schools: "purely driven by greed"

From the Cleveland Scene:

Back when Bob Taft ran this defiled land, you could win a charter-school license with a $3 bet in a craps game.

But new Governor Ted Strickland has decided that spending millions on schools that perform worse than Cleveland's may not constitute reform. So he's axed funding for start-ups, and is demanding that everyone else keep a checkbook.

It may be Ohio's greatest educational achievement in 50 years: Hey everybody, what if we decided to keep track of the money?

Unfortunately, this poses a small problem for White Hat Management, Ohio's biggest charter company with 31 schools statewide. Mission statement: Sellabratin Rok Bottm Acheevment for Way Long Times.

Compared to White Hat, Glenville High is Oxford. And despite producing lower test scores than you'd get at a Klan rally or a Cleveland City Council meeting, the company has gobbled up $109 million in state tax money -- though it refuses to say where any of it went.

Fortunately, owner David Brennan is hedging his bets by operating in multiple states. Even better, he's finding that bribery outside Ohio is more competitively priced.

Take the Denver Public Schools. In February, leaders voted unanimously to yank White Hat's charter, due to the small matter of sucking something fierce. So Brennan fixed the problem by Ohio rules: He bribed a guy.

Enter Bob Schaffer, former congressman, current member of the Colorado State Board of Education, and prospective U.S. Senate candidate. Schaffer's board essentially overruled Denver, forcing the city to keep White Hat. In return, Schaffer received $4,000 in campaign contributions from Brennan, most of which arrived just a month after the vote.

ProgressNowAction, a Denver advocacy group, accused Brennan of buying Schaffer's vote. "They're the worst of what's going on in the school-reform movement," spokesman Michael Huttner says of White Hat. "It's all purely driven by greed."

Here in Ohio, of course, we simply call that government. More alarming was how little Schaffer charged.

Brennan has given $40,000 to Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor, and thousands more to her predecessor, Betty Montgomery. If you don't want anyone looking at how you're spending state money, these are the people to pay.

And just to make sure he never runs afoul of the law, Brennan has given $130,000 to Ohio Supreme Court justices.

So while Punch appreciates Schaffer's importing of our traditions to the Rocky Mountains, we urge him to reconsider his fee schedule. If he doesn't hike up his prices, he runs the risk of making politicians look cheap.

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