Political gamesmanship.

And, of course, the almighty fundraising dollar.

The Ohio Senate Education Committee worked “overtime” after the passing of the state budget bill to try and pass House Bill 2 at the end of June (which they had been sitting on for nearly three months).  Nevertheless, the committee made huge progress in a short amount of time and combined House Bill 2 with the Senate’s version of charter school accountability, Senate Bill 148, which had been sitting in a Senate subcommittee since late April.  The actions to pass the bill through the Senate and get it to the House before the summer recess was lauded by both charter school opponents and supporters alike.  The 31-0 passage by the full Senate was remarkable in itself.

Afterward, however, the progress seemed to hit a snag.  Despite allowing the vote to occur in the first place – and voting in favor of it – Senate President Keith Faber backed off of the legislation, instead saying he wished for it to end up in a conference committee where details could be worked out.

The speaker of the House, Cliff Rosenberger, subsequently refused to allow the bill a floor hearing by the lower chamber when it became apparent that the newly-amended bill would actually pass on a floor vote and charter schools would be held to unprecedented levels of accountability in Ohio.  The decision by the leaders of the House has been soundly criticized around the state and as far as the Washington Post.

So why would leaders of both chambers want to stymie the passage of a widely-supported bill that would pass with bipartisan support?

The most likely scenario is that the leaders are too close with Ohio’s Charter School magnates — Bill Lager (of ECOT fame) and David Brennan (White Hat).

A look at the campaign donations from these two influential charter school operators turns up thousands of dollars going directly to the election campaigns of the very House leaders who impeded the progress of the bill.

Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger:

  • $12,155.52 from David Brennan in 2014
  • $24,311.04 from Bill Lager in 2013-14 (2nd-most by any of Rosenberger’s donors)

Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz:

  • $67,500 from David Brennan (and his wife, Ann) between 1998-2012 (most money by any of Amstutz’s individual donors)
  • $30,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-12

Majority Floor Leader Barbara Sears:

  • $10,000 from David Brennan in 2012
  • $40,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-13 (2nd-most by any of Sears’s individual donors)

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jim Buchy:

  • $31,543.70 from Bill Lager in 2012-13

Majority Whip Mike Dovilla (a co-sponsor of the original HB2, but not a supporter of the more comprehensive Senate changes):

  • $12,155.52 from Bill Lager in 2013 (2nd-most by any of Dovilla’s individual donors)

Assistant Majority Whip Dorothy Pelanda:

  • $5,000 from Bill Lager in 2014 (2nd-most by any of Pelanda’s individual donors)

The grand total of these campaign contributions to the House Leadership is $230,165.78, with the vast majority of that money – $214,665.78 – coming in just the past four years.  These two Ohio charter school operators are essential donors for the House leadership’s elections — donors these Representatives can’t afford to alienate.

Senate President Keith Faber is also a key recipient of campaign donations from these individuals:

  • $32,156 from the Brennans in 2012-14
  • $25,500 from Bill Lager in 2010-13


Why is it so hard to pass new charter school accountability laws in Ohio?

Hard to know.  Perhaps you should contact these individuals to find out…