Mother Jones Looks at Ohio's Deplorable Track Record With Charter Schools

About all you need to know about the funding, performance and oversight of Ohio's charter schools, largely championed by Hot Rod driver and current presidential candidate John Kasich, can be found in the tale of David Hansen. Hansen was a board member at charter school in Columbus run by Imagine Schools, one of the bigger for-profit hucksters/companies that are stockpiling taxpayer dough in the Buckeye state to run schools that routinely receive failing grades.

The board voted to shut down the school, which had received an F and had been placed on the state's academic emergency list, but that didn't stop Hansen from landing on his feet. Kasich created a new position for him, executive director of Ohio's Office of Quality School Choice and Funding. (It probably didn't hurt that Hansen's wife was then Kasich's chief of staff; she now runs his presidential campaign.) Hansen, you'll remember, recently resigned after copping to rigging evaluations for charter school sponsors, which ran entirely counter to what he was supposed to do. But when the numbers are bad but your bank account is good, and your pals are filling the coffers of politicians with donations, what else can you do but make the numbers look good?

It was just the latest in a series of devastating reports detailing the state's abysmal record with charter schools — those run by White Hat being far and away the worst. Republicans have thwarted calls for an independent investigation into what happened with Hansen and the most recent shitpile foisted upon Ohio, but plenty of reporters are still digging into the subject (and, as the ABJ points out in an editorial this week, the state seems to be delaying release of public records to stymie that effort as well.)


That brings us to a piece in Mother Jones yesterday which dug into Imagine Schools and Kasich and the whole mess. A little taste below, but do read the whole thing for yourself. We start with the Imagine school that replaced the shuttered Imagine school Hansen had been part of.

When Leon Sinoff was asked to sign off on a building lease for Imagine Columbus Primary Academy in Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2013, he had little reason to be skeptical. Before Imagine Schools, one of the nation's largest for-profit charter management companies, asked him to join the new charter school's board, Sinoff, a public defender, had no education background or experience. "I relied on their expertise and thought to myself, 'Well, who am I to say no to this proposal?'" Sinoff says.

But by the start of the second school year, he was having doubts. The school received an F grade for achievement on the 2013-14 state report card. Only three teachers had returned after the first summer break; within two years, two principals and one vice principal stepped down. The school—which serves a high-poverty, low-income community—lacked arts, music, and foreign language classes, and whenever the board inquired about adding them, Imagine said there wasn't enough money. Then Sinoff discovered that the $58,000-a-month lease—consuming nearly half the school's operating budget, compared with the national standard of 8 to 15 percent—was for a building owned by a subsidiary of Imagine, Schoolhouse Finance LLC.

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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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