From the Columbus Dispatch
by Maurren Reedy, Ohio teacher of the Year, 2002
In the wake of the flurry of amendments being written regarding the proposed state budget, House Bill 153, I offer an idea to the legislators for an amendment on behalf of all the children of the state of Ohio.
“Let it be declared illegal to use Ohio’s children for profiteering purposes; all state education dollars should go to educational institutions required to be run as nonprofit schools, whose only bottom line should be the quality of education for its students provided by licensed, certified superintendents, principals and educators in the classrooms.”
As a parent, 29-year veteran teacher, tax-paying resident of Ohio and graduate of the Columbus City Schools, I have to ask, what is really going today in our Statehouse with the current state-budget proposal?
I am appalled at the direct pipeline funneling vital state dollars for our children’s education directly into the pockets of millionaires like David L. Brennan, chief executive officer of White Hat Management ($6 million yearly salary) and William Lager, CEO of the state’s ninth-largest school district, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow ($3 million yearly salary).
Let’s follow the money trail of political contributions by these two for-profit charter-school CEOs to high-ranking GOP legislators. In the past decade, Brennan and Lager have donated a combined $5 million to high-ranking GOP legislators, including Gov. John Kasich, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, House Speaker William G. Batchelder and Sen. Kevin Bacon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Insurance, Commerce and Labor.
It is no wonder, given these vast sums of contributions, that the Ohio House of Representatives addressed nine of 11 proposals labeled “most important” by Brennan in House Bill 153. In fact, House GOP caucus policy director Chad Hawley welcomed provisions written for the state budget by Brennan’s charter-school’s lobbyist with the comment that these proposals “look like great ideas and exactly the kind of things we are hoping to do” (“House cozy with charter school lobby,” Dispatch article, Sunday).
In our classrooms, we teach our students to research the facts when presenting projects and proposals. Here are some facts that legislators seem to have missed when voting to quadruple vouchers and drastically reduce oversight of Ohio’s charter schools:
Charter schools are a poor investment of Ohio’s education dollars and have a worse track record than public schools in our state; there are twice as many failing charter schools as successful ones, and one in two charter schools is either in academic emergency or academic watch, compared with only one in 11 traditional public-school buildings. Five of seven of Ohio’s largest electronic-charter-school districts’ graduation rates are lower than the state’s worst public-school system’s graduation rate, and six of seven of the electronic charter schools districts are rated less than effective.
And finally, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow has failed in every identified state category for eight years, a worse track record than the Cleveland City School system, which is under threat of being shut down by the state. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is run by unlicensed administrators. Lager, in addition to his $3 million salary, earned an additional $12 million funneled through his software company, which sells products to his charter-school corporation. Just how much does the average teacher in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow earn you may ask? Approximately $34,000 per year.
Taxpayers and voters numbering in the millions will be watching, waiting and accounting for the provisions in this state budget that cater to businesspeople building their corporate enterprises under the guise of educational choice for Ohio’s children.
When will enough be enough? When will our governor and the majority of our state’s legislators restore transparency and honesty to the process of creating legislation that benefits a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” – all people – they were elected to serve?