White Hat Management Leaves Ohio Charter Industry

Source: Mitch Felan, WKSU, August 8, 2018
White Hat Management, the once-prolific Ohio charter school operator and early advocate for school choice in the state, is leaving the charter school business. The company has been steadily losing contracts over the past few years in the competitive market. …


When it comes to facing down Ohio’s well-heeled charter school lobbyists, will state lawmakers be leaders — or lapdogs?
Source: Brent Larkin, Northeast Ohio Media Group, July 24, 2015

…… In the past 17 years, Ohio’s two largest charter school management companies — David Brennan’s Akron-based White Hat Management and William Lager’s Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — have funneled more than $6 million to Republican candidates and causes. In the last election cycle, ECOT alone gave more than $400,000. The payoff? About $1.76 billion in taxpayer money has flowed into charter schools run by Brennan and Lager since 1998.

Start the investigation of the state Department of Education
Source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal, July 18, 2015

Let the formal investigation begin, preferably by David Yost, the state auditor, or an independent investigator tapped by the State Board of Education. The target? The Ohio Department of Education, its director of school choice admitting last week that he removed or ignored failing grades for online and dropout recovery charter schools as part of evaluating the performance of sponsors, those organizations that oversee the publicly funded yet privately run schools.

EDITORIAL State school board is right Lawmakers, bureaucrats standing in way of charter-school reform
Source: Columbus Dispatch, Friday July 17, 2015

…. Lawmakers who favor tough charter-school reform long have been blocked by colleagues who receive substantial campaign contributions from a few wealthy owners of charter-school chains and who run interference against meaningful change. Now comes the troubling allegation that the Education Department, too, has favored charter-school titans at the expense of public accountability.

State withdraws charter school evaluations that ignored the F grades of online schools
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, the Plain Dealer, July 17, 2015

The Ohio Department of Education just announced that it is withdrawing the charter school evaluations that threw aside F grades for online schools…State school board members said this week that not counting those schools violates state law. They and State Sen. Peggy Lehner, the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, confirmed that omission by questioning David Hansen, ODE’s top school choice official on Tuesday.

Charter-school reform is tabled in Ohio House until September
Source: Jim Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, July 1, 2015

A bill that would implement widespread Ohio charter-school reforms to a system that has been sharply criticized and ridiculed both inside and outside the state passed the Senate last week with unanimous support. The House had enough votes to concur with the Senate’s changes to House Bill 2, including a prime bill sponsor, Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson. That would have sent it to Gov. John Kasich, who also has been pushing for charter-law changes. Despite all that, the bill stalled, leaving supporters scratching their heads about why legislation that appeared to be a priority to finish before the summer break will instead collect dust until the fall.

Ohio online charter schools not accountable for students who do poorly in first year
Source: Doug Livingston, Beacon Journal, June 27, 2015

Ohio lawmakers scrap elected school boards and union contracts, usher in private control after barring opposition testimony Ohio lawmakers stall on charter-school reform after they hurried through school choice bill Academic performance is so inexplicably bad for first-year students in online charter schools that the state, when deciding to shut them down, has chosen to ignore thousands of test scores not only for the online schools, but also for all charter schools.

White Hat charter school operator may sell off management of 12 schools
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 9, 2015

White Hat Management, the most prominent for-profit charter school operator in Ohio, is considering selling off management of 12 of its K-8 “Academies” to an operator that mixes online and classroom learning. According to an email to school boards and sponsor/authorizers from White Hat CEO Thomas Barrett, the company has had “engaging and constructive discussions” with Pansophic Learning, a Virginia-based school operator, about “the potential acquisition of our operations that provide services to the White Hat Academies.” White Hat operates eight “Academy” schools in Cleveland, one in Lakewood, and one each in Akron, Canton and Cincinnati. See a full list below. Barrett’s email stresses that the sale would not include White Hat’s OHDELA online school or its 15 Life Skills high schools….

Four Ohio charter schools to close for poor academic performance; one in Canton
Source: Doug Livingston, Beacon Journal, June 4, 2015

The Ohio Department of Education has taken control of eight charter schools and has initiated the process of closing four for poor academic performance, among them one enrolling about 138 children in Canton. The charter schools are among eight that had been sponsored by the Portage County Educational Service Center. When the center closed this year, Ohio law required the Ohio Department of Education to assume sponsorship so the schools would not lose oversight and close immediately.

Charter schools misspend millions of Ohio tax dollars as efforts to police them are privatized
Source: Doug Livingston, Beacon Journal, May 30, 2015

No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio. A Beacon Journal review of 4,263 audits released last year by State Auditor Dave Yost’s office indicates charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency. Since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival . And the extent of the misspending could be far higher.

State could give charter schools $25 million to buy, rehab buildings
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 21, 2015

….Until now, Ohio drew a hard line between charter schools and traditional school districts in helping cover costs of school buildings…. Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio House have each supported increasing that $100 to $200. And even bigger. Both support giving select charter schools $25 million in state tax money to help pay for buildings. A similar plan is having hearings now in the state Senate, though there is still disagreement on what schools should qualify for the money. ….. Another key provision in Lehner’s proposal would give any building improved with state money to the state if the school closes. If the school is shut down for violating state law, the school must also return a portion of the money to the state. That rule would eliminate some of the ongoing debate about what items are public property and what become private, once state money to the private companies that run many charter schools. That issue is still before the Ohio Supreme Court regarding several schools once run by the White Hat management company.

How Ohio School Choice Moved from Vouchers to Charters
Source: Mark Urycki, State Impact Ohio, May 6, 2015

….. The state legislature this spring has been updating rules for how charter schools operate in Ohio. It’s the latest in the evolution of charters here. Mark Urycki of State Impact Ohio begins our series on charter schools with this look at how they gained a foothold in the Buckeye State. … Democratic Governor Ted Strickland tried to clamp down on charters when he was in office with a mechanism to close very low performing schools. But some that were closed simply reopened under new names. Now the Senate Education Committee is proposing new restrictions, at least on charter sponsors, but Tom Suddes says the schools are here to stay.

Tougher rules for Ohio charter schools getting widespread support
Source: Jim Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, February 12, 2015

A legislative hearing on charter-school law broke out yesterday, but a fight did not. …. As opponents become more accepting of the role of charter schools in public education, and supporters face a blizzard of reports detailing bad charter schools and weak laws, both sides are largely coalescing around proposed upgrades in accountability and transparency. …. Among its provisions, the bill would prevent a charter-school sponsor from selling services to its schools; eliminate the ability of a charter operator to appeal its firing by a school board to the school’s sponsor; and require that a school treasurer be independent of the sponsor and operating company. …. Lehner also would like to address questions of who actually owns school property — an issue pending before the Ohio Supreme Court in a case involving charter-school operator White Hat Management.

Surprise check finds charter students missing
Source: Amber Hunt, enquirer.com, January 23, 2015

Two Hamilton County charter schools had fewer than 25 percent of registered students in the classrooms when investigators from the Ohio Auditor’s Office stopped by for a surprise head count, according to a state report released Thursday. State Auditor David Yost announced that he’d dispatched investigators unannounced to 30 schools statewide after fielding complaints that some schools were over-reporting their registration numbers to get more state funding….
Report on Community School Attendance Counts
Source: State of Ohio, Auditor of State, January 22, 2015

Press release

State law holds back Ohio’s charter schools
Source: Catherine Candisky, Columbus Dispatch, December 17, 2014

Almost two decades after Ohio lawmakers authorized the creation of charter schools, experts say most offer poor alternatives to traditional public schools. A report released yesterday gave a bleak assessment of charter-school regulation in Ohio, saying it has failed to attract good schools and allowed poorly performing schools to flourish. “You don’t have the great schools in nearly the number you would expect after 17 years of chartering here,” said Andy Smarick, co-author of the report by the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners. …. The analysis placed blame largely on state regulations and laws that favor for-profit management companies, encourage less oversight and allow poorly performing schools to remain open while doing little to attract superior schools to Ohio….

Who owns school contents being litigated in Ohio

Source: Jennifer Dixon, Detroit Free Press, December 14, 2014

In neighboring Ohio, the question of who owns what’s inside a school building is pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. Ten schools suing their former management company, White Hat Management, insist they are the rightful owners of that property because it was bought with school funds. The court heard oral arguments in the case in September.

The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter School Sector
Source: Juliet Squire, Kelly Robson, Andy Smarick, Bellwether Education Partners, December 2014

In 1997, the Buckeye State embraced a new approach to public-education delivery, launching a pilot program of community (charter) schools. Since then, the state’s community schools sector has grown tremendously.

White Hat’s Magic Trick: Transforming Public Schools into Private Assets
Source: PR Watch, October 21, 2014

…. Oversight is impossible without transparency. But when the governing boards at ten Ohio charters run by White Hat Management tried to find out how the company was spending its budget, the company simply refused to provide detailed records, claiming that information about how it was spending taxpayer money was proprietary. The years-long legal struggle which is pending in the state Supreme Court relates to two questions at the heart of the school privatization controversy: When do public funds become private assets? And how much transparency do private companies owe when they provide public services on the public’s dime?

Ohio Supreme Court: Are Millions In Public Charter School Dollars Private?
Source: Ohio Public Radio, September 24, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court will now decide whether a private management company that was paid tens of millions of dollars in tax money to run charter schools is — at least to some extent — a public entity. M.L. Schultze of member station WKSU in Kent has more on the first day of arguments over how much White Hat Management should have to account for its academic and financial performance… In White Hat’s mind, the case is a simple contract dispute – not a wide-ranging question of whether private businesses that make big money from—and carry out—government functions are essentially public entities. So when the schools ended their deal with White Hat, Paragus says it made sense for White Hat to claim ownership of most of the equipment and supplies at the school. It’s a point on which Justice Paul Pfeifer pressed Paragus. …

Court To Hear Dispute On Charter School Equipment
Source: Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press, August 24, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court is weighing arguments by charter schools that they are entitled to equipment bought by their management company with taxpayer dollars without having to pay for the property. The case, to be heard Sept. 23, comes with a political twist: The Democratic candidate for attorney general is criticizing GOP incumbent Mike DeWine for dropping out of the case after strongly backing the schools’ arguments earlier. …. At issue are arguments by several charter schools formerly run by Akron-based White Hat Management that taxpayer dollars remain public when management companies use them for operating publicly funded charter schools.

Teachers Deliver Alarming Allegations Against Charter School
Source: Andy Chow, NPR, July 16, 2014

The state board of education is launching an investigation into at least one charter school after hearing disturbing testimony from a group of former teachers. Sexual misconduct, racism, teacher intimidation, questionable testing policies, and mishandling of complaints about those claims were among the allegations the teachers brought to a meeting of the state board of education meeting Tuesday. The teachers were all former employees of the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School, a charter school managed by the Chicago-based Concept Schools…. He also said the schools attendance reports didn’t seem right. “In terms of when I saw that we got a 97% attendance rate I just would look over my class roster and be like ‘I never had a full class almost every single day,” Neary said. “So those are just things that are very alarming and I know that that was one of the state indicators that indicates whether a school gets money.” He says students were punished differently based on race adding that many top school officials are of Turkish descent. According to Neary, Turkish students would receive preferential treatment—especially compared to black students….

Charter school dream turns to nightmare
Source: Jessica Brown, Enquirer, June 5, 2014

…And that was likely the last time she’ll celebrate with VLT students. The K-12 charter school will close for good June 30 if it can’t find another organization to sponsor it after its existing sponsor chose not to renew its contract. Lee thinks the state is trying to force her out of business. But others say the school – and a host of other troubled charter schools throughout Ohio – needs to close after years of too little oversight and too many problems. For the first time, the state is cracking down on charter school sponsors – the nonprofit entities in charge of overseeing the schools. Sponsors are now on notice they are not to take on risky schools, a move that could lead to a wave of closures like VLT…. So the Ohio Department of Education is cracking down on charter school sponsors in an attempt to weed out poorly performing schools. It can’t close the schools unless they meet state closure laws. But it can pressure sponsors to close or drop them. Law requires charter schools have a sponsor to stay open….

Charter CEO from Dayton pleads guilty
Source: Josh Sweigart, Dayton Daily News, November 27, 2013

A Dayton man who ran charter schools here and across Ohio has pleaded guilty to parts of a scheme to allegedly steal $1.8 million from a charter school in Cleveland, according to court records. William Peterson pleaded guilty this month to having an unlawful interest in a public contract, one of 32 charges laid out against 10 people — four from Dayton — and 13 companies involved with the Cleveland Academy for Scholarship, Technology and Leadership charter school. As head of CASTLE, Peterson was accused of laundering and stealing $857,963 by steering it to other companies in which he had a financial interest between 2004 and 2010. Peterson, 43, also is past CEO of four Dayton charter schools, including Arise Academy and the Colin Powell Leadership Academy. He graduated in 1988 from the University of Dayton, where he played football alongside Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Ohio paid for charter schools that quickly closed
Source: Associated Press, November 25, 2013

A newspaper reports that the state of Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million to a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened. The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1ck7QJo) said Monday that all the schools operated under the name Olympus High School. They were operated by Education Innovations International, whose officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment. The schools — which are now suspended by the state — were operating under a model that blended classroom time and e-learning. The classrooms had no teachers, only coaches to help the students with their online lessons.

Taxpayers’ $1.2 million propped up owner’s 2nd charter-school bust
Source: Bill Bush, Columbus Dispatch, November 19, 2013

After resigning this year as superintendent of a financially troubled Internet charter school amid allegations of nepotism, James McCord had a new plan, and it again involved a charter school employing him and his family. This summer, McCord opened eight Olympus charter schools, including four in Columbus. They would be managed by a for-profit corporation formed by McCord called Education Innovations International, or EII, which would get most of the state money each month, own all the schools’ property and employ all the workers. His wife, brother, children and an in-law all had jobs with the company, former employees said. And again, it all collapsed. The school’s sponsor suspended it last month. Olympus’ sponsor was a Cincinnati orphanage, St. Aloysius, which also sponsors 45 other charter schools. But St. Aloysius has little to do with overseeing them. Instead, the orphanage contracts out the oversight to a Pickerington company, Charter School Specialists….

Reality Check: Ohio Charter Schools Are Exempt From Over 150 State Education Laws
Source: Greg, Plunderbund, November 10, 2013

If it wasn’t so appalling, we might be able to laugh at the continued insistence that Ohio’s charter (community) schools are held to the same level of accountability as are traditional public schools. In fact, some charter school proponents actually insist that charters are held MORE accountable than their public school counterparts. … Last year, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC), a nonpartisan agency that provides drafting, fiscal, research, training, and other technical services to the General Assembly, published a brief titled Education Laws and Community Schools. In that brief, they document over 150 references to Ohio Revised Code that don’t apply to charters, but which all public school districts must follow. …

Public educators cut out of online charter school franchise
Source: Doug Livingston, Beacon Journal, July 22, 2013

The Ohio Department of Education this month flunked itself on an application to oversee an online charter school. The proposed school would have been the first online operation sponsored by the department, and would have been done in cooperation with an educator from Cincinnati who has a history of public school administration. But the cards are stacked against the department and public school districts across the state in favor of for-profit companies that already have a lock on Ohio’s charter school business. That’s because state legislators wrote the rules on how charter-school applicants are scored in order to determine who gets the right to open a new publicly funded school. There were seven applications to run online schools in recent months, and the three winners were among the nation’s largest for-profit education companies: Georgia-based Mosaica Education, Tennessee-based Edison Learning and Virginia-based K12 Inc. Together, the three private, for-profit companies enroll hundreds of thousands of students worldwide….

Audit Finds More Problems at City’s Largest Charter School / School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars
Source: German Lopez, City Beat, Staff Blogs, July 11th, 2013

A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. The audit reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede….