Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's time for DeWine to show us the money

AKRON'S DAVID BRENNAN, the for-profit charter schools baron, once invited me (many years ago) to a private breakfast to hear his special guest who had cutting-edge ideas on remedying the ills of formal education. "I think you'll find it very interesting," he confidently told me.

Brennan is a fellow who has never had an idea that wouldn't impress a listener. Or so he believed. The speaker at his breakfast offered the small group a single thesis: Within a few years - five, I seem to remember - universities would be out of business. No kidding. Indeed, nobody believed that more than our man in the audacious white cowboy hat. It was all part of his overarching plan to privatize education as a profitable business.

Part blustery showman and part political insider, Brennan has commanded attention for his schemes to save society from itself. Of late, his handiwork is surfacing again in the papers. An earlier charge of money-laundering through All Children Matter, a school choice operation in Washington, has tracked Brennan money back to the Ohio chapter of the national group's PAC. From here it went in large quantities to Ohio's Republican politicians who could grease the skids for the growth of charter schools.

So convinced of foul play, the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008 fined All Children Matter $5.2 million for the illegal conduit. So far, the fine has never been paid, and chances are that it never will be. All of the guardians of the public trust in this matter have received generous political contributions from Brennan. Among them are Gov Kasich, whose proposed budget includes an item doubling the state's school choice voucher support and lifting the lid on charter schools in Ohio; Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted.

It would be DeWine's task to pursue those millions that have been in limbo since the fine was levied. It was DeWine, after all, who righteously campaigned last year on clean government under the aggressive protection of the AG's office. The only word so far on this quick-change operation is from DeWine's spokeswoman, Lisa Hackley. She would only tell the Associated Press that the office was, um... working on it.

The odds are against any quick resolution of the problem. There was saying back in my old neighborhood in the Pennsylvania hills that went,

"Them that has is them that get."

I haven't seen any evidence that it's not still true today.

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