Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The White Hat in the legislative ring

IT DIDN'T TAKE that long for the Kasich Administration and its cupbearers in the Republican House to demonstrate their servitude to people with the deepest pockets. In a shameless reward to the party's financiers the GOP-ruled House of Representatives passed a budget bill that includes a few charter school amendments that were doubtless written by the pale light of the moon. None of this would displease Ohio's charter king, David Brennan, whose for-profit White Hat Management colossus has managed a $230 million return of state dollars for his investment. At this point, it should be further noted that White Hat's record of providing charter-school education has ranked near the bottom in its schoolhouse performance.

About those amendments to the budget bill: They would permit White Hat to operate as sort-of absentee landlords of their charter system without any accountability of how they spend the state money. Brennan's lawyer, Rocky Saxbe, explained that odd arrangement by saying that once public money goes into the private pot, it becomes private money that is beyond accountability.

Nice try - and I'm not a lawyer.

So in the simplest terms, what we are seeing is a one-way street in state expenditures: Give White Hat the money and don't ask what it does with it. The issue is so nettlesome that some local charter school operators have now taken White Hat to court to question what the company is doing with the princely sums from the taxpayers. The Brennans - David and wife Ann - also have their personal PACs and are the sole contributors to them, which serve as additional conduits to provide room and board for their favorite pols.

It's no secret where some of the profits have gone: Brennan has contributed $4 million to his Republican political allies over the past 10 years. Among the recipients of the maximum of $10,000 from each of the Brennans are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, former gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (in case he would win, which is known as planning ahead ) and House
speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina. And, of course, Kasich wasn't overlooked.

Batchelder, who is a seasoned pol on the glide path with his eccentric right-wing leadership in the General Assembly, has raspishly denied to the media that there is one iota of a connection between his gift from Brennan and the upward course of charter schools in the new year. Still, we would feel more comfortable if someone, including Batchelder , could flat us tell us how the anonymous amendments were wedged into the budget bill that moves to the senate. He says he doesn't know, but we can guess.

All the while, Kasich has been been standing by, if needed, to keep the charter money flowing. He's already told the world what a great thing charters are in the lifeblood of education. And he's made sure they will grow exponentially without Big Brother watching over them.

The guv promised that he would make Ohio No. 1, and with the current proposed legislation, he and his buddies will have succeeded in making the state unique in its lack of accountability for these schools. For the average Ohioan who isn't in the loop, it will be no more than an awful spectator sport for business as usual down in Columbus.

1 comment:

David Hess said...

As an old and skeptical reporter who covered Bill Saxbe, Rocky's daddy, in Washington, I couldn't help but wonder if Rocky's old man isn't spinning in his tomb at the strained and strange rationale of the son's endorsement for the lack of accountability in the charter school funding earmark. Bill was a staunch Republican when it came to embracing fiscal responsibility, and that entailed the keeping of a keen eye on how the money was actually spent (it's called "oversight," in legislative parlance). Speaking of oversight, I trust the Ohio press is honoring its sacred duty to tax-paying readers for keeping a keen eye on this situation, particularly on the role that the governor's office apparently played in slipping the earmark into the budget bill as homage to a generous campaign contributor. I'd also recommend that the House Speaker have his eyes examined, since he protests that he can't see what's going on right under his nose.