However, in a brief filed August 4 before the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education (OCQE) -- the most radically pro-charter advocacy group in the state (whose president, Ron Adler, is actually defending the horrors at Horizon Science Academies) -- argues that considering for-profit and non-profit charter school operators who collect as much as 97% of the taxpayer money sent to charters as "public officials" would irreparably harm kids.
What's more is that Chad Readler -- the chairman of the subcommittee examining education policies in the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission -- wrote this, bringing his objectivity on public school funding into clear question.
Here is their whole argument, just so I can't be accused of taking it out of context (though I will add emphasis to spare you having to read the whole thing):
"4. The public official theory would have damaging consequences forcommunity schools.
Holding management companies to be public officials would also have substantial detrimental effects on the operation of community schools in Ohio. If management companies are considered public officials, they unexpectedly would be subjected to a number of additional rules and regulations, posing additional costs and efficiency problems. Management companies would generally be subject to audit by the State Auditor for all of their revenues and expenses.
See R.C. 117.10. Management companies could be open to public records requests regardless of whether the records requested are related to the operation of a public school. See R.C. 149.43. And officers of the companies may be subject to public employee ethics obligations. See generally R.C. 102.01, et seq.
There are undoubtedly other unforeseen consequences of the trial court's decision as well.
All of these new judicially imposed legal requirements would not only impose new compliance and other regulatory costs on management companies, but they would also change the business model under which management companies have operated in this State (and nationally) for years.
The proposed rule of law would essentially rewrite the management agreements as public contracts. Inevitably, management companies will need to alter the way they structure their agreements and, ultimately, run their businesses, potentially leading to inefficiencies, if not an undermining of the quality of education available at community schools.
Indeed, the Schools' theory threatens not only the quality of community schools, but also the viability of the entire community school program. The additional costs and responsibilities imposed on management companies as public officials may well dissuade them from offering their services to Ohio public schools. Many new charter schools would never get off the ground without the assistance of a management company, and current schools may be forced to close, if their management companies terminate the relationship. At the very least, declaring management companies to be public officials would upset the carefully balanced statutory scheme that establishes the respective roles of community schools, management companies, and others. The end result is a reduction in school choice in Ohio, with Ohio's schoolchildren the ultimate victims."I look at this in utter amazement. I want to know simply this: does anyone other than the for-profit management companies think it's bad policy for companies that receive 96% of the money sent to a charter school to have to be subject to public audit, public records, or public ethics laws? Charter school operators have never been accused of not being brazen, but this is amazing.
I know there are responsible charter school advocates who feel these provisions -- holding operators to the same level of public scrutiny as public schools -- are absolutely essential to improving charter school performance. So I won't attribute OCQE's position to the entire sector, but someone in that sector needs to publicly disagree with this position. Like now.
And the "efficiency" argument? Bunk.
White Hat Management (the subject of the lawsuit) receives more state money per pupil than any other for-profit charter school operator (could it be because its founder, David Brennan, has contributed nearly $4 million to Ohio Republicans since the program began?). In fact, the $7,793 per pupil it receives is more than all but 10 of Ohio's 613 school districts receive from the state -- districts that have to comply with all the provisions White Hat and OCQE claims would be a "detriment" to their success.
Oh, and charter schools spend nearly 24% of their money outside the classroom -- the average district only spends 13% outside the classroom. It seems to me that (using OCQE's logic) having more public scrutiny makes schools more efficient, not less so.
And remember that the Stanford Credo study found that Ohio's charter school kids are, on average, a full marking period behind their public school brethren in Math and a third of one in Reading.
So I ask you, would it be so terrible if charter school operators that caused this failure were forced to change the way they've previously done business in Ohio, and to actually be accountable to the taxpayers, whose money they have been eagerly taking with little consequence for 16 years?