Friday, September 12, 2014
Horizon charter schools no longer can be protected, they are exposed GULEN
Charter schools were originally conceptualized as a small-scale experiment, where administrators, parents, teachers and students could come together and try innovative approaches to educate local students. Sadly, in recent years, this idea has been overshadowed by the private interests of a charter school industry now rife with fraud, waste and abuse.
In Southwest Ohio, it’s been no different. In June, as reported by The Enquirer, the FBI raided Horizon Science Academy as part of an ongoing investigation into its improper relationships with technology vendors.
In 2009, a state audit of Horizon Cincinnati warned that questionable financial practices could result "in more than a remote likelihood that the School's internal control will not prevent or detect a material financial statement misstatement." Yet, for unknown reasons, nothing was done and the school just kept on trucking forward.
Horizon is part of Chicago-based Concept Schools, which has 19 different campuses in Ohio, 6,700 students and has taken a whopping $48.5 million in taxpayer money, including $3.3 million for the Cincinnati Horizon School. All of Concept’s schools are currently being investigated by the State Department of Education and Auditor Dave Yost for “alleged sexual misconduct and tampering with test and attendance records.”
Under what circumstances should such malfeasance be tolerated? With both student safety and considerable sums of taxpayer money at stake, how could any lawmaker justify not taking immediate action to curb the potential for more such abuses?
A partial answer to these questions might be found in a different charter industry conflict, and the silence of influential politicians like Attorney General Mike DeWine. Quietly, as a battle between the for-profit White Hat Charter Management Co. and the state over who gets to keep and should pay for equipment such as computers and textbooks purchased with taxpayer money makes its way to the Supreme Court, DeWine has made himself scarce.
Yet, two years ago, when White Hat first made this argument, DeWine rightly called it “bad public policy,” even going so far as to accuse them of trying to violate Ohio law. But something changed, and DeWine’s seemingly principled advocacy for Ohio taxpayers vs. corporate greed somehow became worthy of abandonment.
What could have happened to so change his outlook?
Interestingly, White Hat’s owner is Akron-based industrialist David Brennan. He gave large donations to both DeWine and the Summit County Republican Party’s candidate fund, from which DeWine received hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $95,000 in 2013 and $40,000 in April.
So, to get this straight, a major DeWine donor stands to gain millions by winning a Supreme Court case, and Ohioans stand to lose millions in public funds. With this equation in mind, suddenly DeWine has other things to do with his time than protect Ohio taxpayers. Meanwhile, as Ohio’s charter schools close at a record rate, and the very same Ohio taxpayers are owed $31 million dollars, DeWine has only collected $500,000 of it, or 1.6 percent.
Elected officials such as the attorney general need to do their jobs to protect students and taxpayers, regardless of the ideological preferences of their donors or potential to profit. Ohioans, like all Americans, deserve a public school system that works, isn’t rigged to enrich the few at the expense of the many, and is run honestly and transparently.
In Ohio, this is one test that DeWine and the charter school industry have both failed.