Charter Schoools, Dayton Public Schools, Vouchers & the Battle Over Who Pays… | August 10, 2007

As the parent of present and past Dayton Public School students I have watched with dismay as the Charter School movement has grown and, in the process, has helped decimate the Public School system. The way our schools are currently funded has been declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Courts but the Republican led legislature has totally dragged its feet on solving the problem. School Board elections in the DaytonDistrict this fall make this discussion all the more relevant.

The article I have reprinted below is a very insightful and devastating critique of how our kid’s education and future has been sacrificed on the Neo-con/republican altar of “privatization”.

SHADOWS ON HIGH: Are Our Kids For Sale?

Bill Todd and Bob Shaffer live far away from each other but share the same goal: Putting a price tag on every child’s head.

They are both politicians running for office. Each has ties to the big-money school choice movement. Each has ties to Dave Brennan and White Hat Management.

The ultimate goal of the Ohio and Colorado voucher crowd is to put a dollar on the head of every student wherever they may go. They think of it as an educational free market. But the market has more to do with money in the pocket than education in the classroom.

Vouchers were born in an emergency caucus during the Voinovich years. David Brennan in his big, white cowboy hat held court in a recently renovated Statehouse Rotunda. A balking and then moderate State Senate (even under Dick “Cement Head’’) got a rare personal visit from an impassioned Gov. Voinovich. Brennan’s largess to GOP coffers is legendary and oft written. And White Hat schools became the McD’s of for-profit Ohio educatin’ – with Dave Brennan in the role of Ray Kroc – or to many of his foes, just a crock.

And so sayeth the White-Hatted man’s wallet that vouchers became the law. More lucrative charters followed shortly after. And television stations grinned with glee as they discovered endless taxpayer stories of voucher and charter misadventures. Missing money. Kids who tested poorly. Books the auditor couldn’t peek inside.

Colorado recently got a taste of politics Ohio style. Colorado Senate candidate Bob Schaffer was the deciding vote at the Colorado Board of Education on rewarding Brennan’s White Hat Management with a contract to provide programs for charter schools. The vote came after his Senate campaign accepted $3,600 in contributions from Brennan.

ProgressOhio’s sister organization, ProgressNowAction, called for Shaffer to disclose his ties. Given our Ohio experience, $3,600 is either being bought cheap by Brennan or the largess down the line will be much greater than expected.

Why do we say cheap. Well Shadows research discovered a hidden $870,000 slush fund under investigation in Ohio that was created for the twisted “every-child-counts-for-profit” crowd to what else – influence politicians. What Shadows discovered was a well-funded non-profit organization whose goal is to profit from kids by siphoning even more money away from public schools and into vouchers.

This group has ties to a candidate for Columbus Mayor who, guess what – wants to take over Columbus schools.

The non-profit is called “All Children Matter.” A quick Google search for “All Children Matter’’ provides a link to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch and with a few clicks, readers can read all about it.

Its purpose is to recruit, train and fund candidates who support school vouchers.

“With its base of wealthy funders and ability to stealthily intervene in local, state and federal political races, the ACM network is an effective tool for the movement to privatize public education,’’ PFAW contends.

Its stealth efforts in Ohio aren’t so invisible any more, thanks to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Last February, her office notified the Ohio lawyer for All Children Matter that it failed to file a complete and accurate campaign finance report and violated Ohio’s campaign limits by accepting a whopping $870,000 from All Children Matter’s Virginia state PAC. The Virginia PAC “is not permitted to make contributions in Ohio, as it has not registered with or otherwise become established as a PAC in Ohio,’’ Brunner’s office wrote.

Then the letter goes on to state that the Ohio group “expended over $800,000 of contributions to influence the 2006 Ohio Primary and General elections.’’ That’s no chump change.

While the shenanigans of this group are new, the Ohio players and tactics aligned with it are old. Once again, the lawyer for the group is Bill “Transparent’’ Todd, who is running for Columbus mayor.

He incorporated ACM’s Ohio affiliate and is representing the group in a pending case before the Ohio Elections Commission that challenges AMC’s ability to move the money from Virginia to Ohio. (This is the same Bill Todd whose other client, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, was found guilty of operating an illegal PAC when it savaged Justice Alice Robie Resnick in the infamous Lady Justice TV campaign.)

The commission has scheduled a hearing on the case August 24.

Don’t get too excited. This is the same nearly toothless elections panel with a history of looking the other way. Still, the case is pending and while Todd is haranguing Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman and Democrats on city council for noodling over things in private, he’s working for yet another non-profit that attempts to influence elections and public policy in the dark.

Todd maintains that the Secretary of State has it all wrong – or in lawyer lingo “the transfers you reference clearly fall with the ambit of R.C. 3517.102(B)(2)(a)(vi),’’ Todd wrote in a January 11 letter to Brunner’s office. Uh huh.

What he’s saying is Ohio law allows unlimited transfers between “affiliated PACS’’ and the Virginia and Ohio PAC are clearly affiliated.

Then he goes on to say that his client can’t comply with the order to “refund’’ the $870,000 “because it does not have the resources available to make a refund of that magnitude.’’ (Keep in mind PFAW’s characterization that it has “a base of wealthy funders.’’

All this is even more interesting in light of a recent Columbus Dispatch article that included these nuggets:

“Democrats pointed out that Todd’s biggest individual donor — at $20,000 — was David L. Brennan, president of Akron-based White Hat Management, a for-profit operator of charter schools in Ohio and six other states.

Todd has called for a mayoral takeover of Columbus Public Schools and the creation of city-sponsored charter schools as a way to improve the district’s performance.

In February, he helped incorporate a nonprofit called School Choice Ohio, which shares a lobbyist and Downtown address with White Hat.

Todd said yesterday that Brennan’s support came because of his proposals for Columbus schools, not the other way around.’’

Word that Todd has close ties to Brennan – and another shady non-profit, School Choice Ohio – were news to a lot of people. But why, when Transparent Todd called for the mayoral takeover of the Columbus Public Schools did he fail to even mention that he’s tied to two groups created to shift money away from public schools? Didn’t he at least have an obligation to get that out in the open?

Both Bill Todd and Bob Shaffer seem to be following the same political script – and their nexus appears to be David Brennan’s political donations and White Hats’ for-profit expansion.

And if rumors are true, these money games are only a part of the shadowy future of Ohio taxpayer funded education.

Advocates of public education hope to go to the ballot next year and ask voters to support a new, hopefully constitutional, system of paying for public schools. Opponents of public education want to fight it – and make money for their friends who help them fight it.

While advocates for school districts — “Getting It Right” — are trying to determine and fund the Constitutional requirement for a thorough and efficient level of education funding, Brennan and the “every child counts for profit crowd” see a rather twisted opportunity.

Rather than put a dollar figure on each student and send it through your local school district, they would like to mandate that the money flow with your child wherever they go. The result – our Ohio kid’s education becomes more about packing the classroom to make a profit from your property tax dollars, than a thorough and efficient education.

Are the two remaining GOP leaders Bill Harris and Jon Husted part of the effort? After all, we know that Husted and his joined-at-the-hip GOP attack-dog and Crown Prince Kevin DeWine are constantly trying to butter up attacks on Governor Ted Strickland to “solve” the school funding problem. Harris, ever the true-believer, and Husted – lover of charters — would be keys to raising the support level for such an effort.

It’s doubtful that Brennan could succeed without the involvement of these legislative leaders, and given Brennan’s track record of donations and politicians, he’s probably already promised money to defeat the pro-public school effort. But if rumors are true, he may be finding a way to make even more profit for his White Hat schools by linking dollars to each child’s body.

It is a sad reality in modern politics, that some businessmen seem more interested in finding out ways to use our tax dollars to make a business profit – and education funding is a big, fat, juicy pot of relatively untapped money.

Whether it’s the questionable $870,000 siphoned to influence Ohio election campaigns, or just using a position of power to help along the White Hat’s of the world as Todd and Shaffer appear to have done– the purity of an ideological debate of alternative education models clearly has given way to a money grab for a large untapped pocket of tax dollars.

But there will be no subtlety of campaign finance games and influence peddling if rumors are true and leaders like Harris and Husted push a tax dollar bounty to be placed on every child’s head. Ohio kids will represent dollars per classroom desk – and profit pressures will dictate educational pressures more than Ohio’s job starved need for an education outcome focus.

So just remember, beneath the ever growing shadows of a big white cowboy hat, rumor has it – your kids may be for sale soon.

And no matter how you slice it someone else will be getting the benefits.


  1. as far as i can tell, the dayton school system was already “decimated” before the charters showed up. if we got rid of them today, who would we blame then, the kids?

    Comment by g-rant — August 22, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  2. For insight into the real world of public education in America read the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education. This intriguing, socially relevant,and enlightening story possesses many of the elements commonly found in public school systems throughout the United States. It is must reading for every parent and grandlparent of school aged children. You may obtain copies of this fascinating story online via http://www.Xlibris.com, http://www.bn.com, http://www.borders.com, or http://www.amazon.com bookstores. Check it out for yourself. Discuss it with your friends. See if you can identify with the characters and situations presented. What do you think of the proposed solutions?

    Comment by edbooked — October 22, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

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