Should some weird, mysterious set of cosmic circumstances arise and John Kasich gets elected president, he would have every reason to nominate one of the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court in light of how they saved his hide from further beatings.
We know that Justice Judy French, who Gov. Kasich first appointed to the state supreme court and who told voters just last year that electing her would backstop all the other GOP candidates voters might elect, would have some big chits to call in from Ohio’s White House wannabee based on her support of Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Mgt., L.L.C.
In a 5-2 decision, the court found that a charter school operator defined as a “Management company that undertakes daily operation of community school has fiduciary relationship with [the] school” and that a “Contract clause requiring schools to buy back equipment purchased by operator when purchase was made with public money is enforceable.”
Justice Lanzinger authored the Tuesday’s opinion, writing “Although … the wisdom of the buy-back term can be questioned, we hold that the term is enforceable and that this case must be returned to the trial court for an inventory of the property and its disposition according to the contracts. We rule narrowly on the issues before us, leaving public-policy matters to the General Assembly.”
The court previously ruled to protect Gov. Kasich from defending the constitutionality of his pet, secret project, JobsOhio from reaching it by deciding the plaintiffs in that case didn’t having standing to bring the case. That decision acted as just-in-time delivery of a judicial intervention that did a great disservice to Ohioans while doing a great service to Gov. Kasich by extending his grace period of not being held accountable for years if it ever arrives while he’s still in office.
Likewise, Tuesday’s decision on charter schools continues to play to Gov. Kasich’s advantage as it further delays any direct damage from culpability for supporting his education debacle despite it’s many failing grades.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the court protected big donor for-profit charter school sponsors, who have bilked billions from Ohio taxpayers over many years to provide an education that is routinely mocked as the worst in the nation. Running a second time for president, Gov. Kasich was again saved from the embarrassment of defending why he’s been such a strong supporter of a system that is wantonly wasteful and notoriously nonfunctional.
The court had two strong dissenters today, one being Democratic Justice Bill O’Neill and the other Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican. Justice Pfeifer isn’t afraid to be the outspoken contrarian among his conservative colleagues on the court. The contracts in question, according to his lone Republican howl, are “plainly and obviously unconscionable.”
In siding with the same for-profit charter school operators that let down tens of thousands of Ohio children, the state’s high court has shown why they are not to be trusted to represent the best interests of Ohio taxpayers and why they don’t understand the principles embedded in the Ohio Constitution.
“Once again, the Ohio taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for the failures of the for-profit charter school industry,” Justice Pfeifer wrote. “Moreover, the contracts in this case are plainly and obviously unconscionable. In effect, the contracts call for the public to give money to a company to buy materials for the company to use on the public’s behalf to operate a public school. The contracts require that after the public pays to buy those materials for a public use, the public must then pay the companies if it wants to retain ownership of the materials. This contract term is not merely unwise as the opinion would have us believe; it is extremely unfair, so unfair, in fact, as to be unconscionable. The contract term is so one-sided that we should refuse to enforce it.”
Justice O’Neill, who recently announced he won’t seek another term, wasn’t far behind his GOP colleague in finding the core of the case.
“This contract does indeed permit an operator who is providing a substandard education to squander public money and then, upon termination for poor performance, reap a bonus, paid for by public money. And that is why this contract is unenforceable as a matter of public policy and contract law.”
It was noted in the slip opinion that The Akron Beacon Journal recently reported that since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million in state tax dollars that have been improperly spent by charter schools, many run by forprofit companies. These same schools have produced academic results “that rival the worst in the nation.”
Dems Weigh-In On Ruling
In related news, the State Board of Education voted to table a resolution calling for an independent investigation into the Chartergate scandal.
“For the second time today, Ohio’s kids lose, and the for-profit charter school industry wins,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “For the second time today, Ohio’s taxpayers lose. We applaud the board members who stood up for Ohio’s kids and accountability today. It’s a shame there weren’t more board members who stood with them. This is not the end of this conversation. We will continue to keep pushing for answers and an independent inquiry into this scandal.”
Chairman Pepper said of the court’s decision, “With today’s ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court has sided with the same for-profit charter school operators that are failing our kids.”
“Once again, the Ohio taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for the failures of the for-profit charter school industry. This industry has behaved with impunity, and the Ohio GOP machine — from Governor Kasich to Attorney General DeWine to Auditor Yost to the legislature — has refused to hold them accountable. That’s why we need an independent investigation — with real autonomy and authority — to look into what was happening at the Ohio Department of Education with the ‘Chartergate’ data scrubbing and cover-up,” Mr. Pepper said.
He added, “The decision comes as tens of millions of public dollars are missing across Ohio in the wake of charter school failures, not to mention thousands of kids caught up in Ohio’s nationally derided charter school industry.”
Justice Pfeifer summed it all up this way: “Methinks the opinion doth protest too much, going out of its way to support the insupportable. To all but those of an unduly legalistic bent, the conclusion reached by the opinion is antithetical to common sense.”