Ohio: Land of Charter School Scandals

There is no end of charter school scandals in Ohio. Blogger Plunderbund follows these stories and reports the details. Here is the latest:

“Columbus Dispatch readers were shocked, shocked to learn last week that members of Imagine Columbus Primary School’s charter board, protesting that they had no say in negotiating the terms of an operational contract, resigned “en masse” over a lease imposed by the management company that had the school paying $58,000 per month in rent for space to house 150 students, as well as other issues related to the viability of the school.

“The board’s action, which did get some attention from the usually somnolent “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” was so dramatic that the Casablanca Prefect of Police might have exclaimed it was time to “round up the usual suspects.”

“But Captain Renault and the rest of us don’t have to look too far. In this case, the usual suspect is Imagine Schools, a national for-profit charter school chain founded by Dennis Bakke, a well-known Christian evangelical, and his wife, Eileen.

“The Bakkes have found great success with Imagine and its subsidiary, SchoolHouse Finance. But as is the case with many charter school enterprises, success is one thing, and ethics is quite another.”

But is Imagine a charter chain or a real estate empire? A breathless world awaits the answer.

“Conflict of interest? When the friend of a governor is appointed to a commission to study the feasibility of charter schools and, using his insider knowledge, forms a charter school management company to coincide with the enactment of the legislation, when one of the sponsors of the original charter school legislation works to have it designed so that a political friend and a family member profit from its enactment, and when a private foundation affiliated with a school management company offers free international travel to members of the legislature as a vehicle for influencing favorable charter school legislation, could these be examples of possible conflicts of interest?”

Plunderbund adds:

“Unfortunately, the terms charter school and conflict of interest are becoming synonymous. And redundant. ”

Who owns the charter schools in Ohio? Like many states, Tthe charters are called “public.” But the owners of the for-profit Imagine chain believe they “own” the charters. The boards are a necessary encumbrance. The public has no role, other than to supply money to the corporation.

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