Ohio’s charter school scandal finally has the potential to hurt Gov. John Kasich – just as his run for President banks on winning Ohio’s March 15th primary.
Given the scandal’s potential to hurt Kasich and his fellow Republicans, why is Franklin County Democrat Paula Brooks suddenly BFFs with Bill Lager – the man at the center of the charter pay-to-play scandal? And why is Brooks’ re-election campaign paying money to a company aligned with Lager lobbyist Neil Clark? For more than three decades Clark has helped Republicans maintain their majority in the Ohio Senate.
As the Columbus Dispatch reported on Friday, “Brooks … raised nearly $67,000, including a $25,000 donation from William Lager, founder and operator of online charter school’’ the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
In other words, ECOT’s Lager gave Brooks nearly 40 percent of the total she raised this reporting period.
How did it happen? Did Brooks call Lager and ask for the money? If so, has she no shame? Or did Lager call and volunteer the money? If so, did Brooks know with whom she’d crawled into bed? If not, does she follow the news with the same inattention to detail as Sara Palin?
But it gets worse.
Brooks has a new TV ad and local stations show that the company paid to purchase the TV time is Midwest Communications, a business interest of ECOT lobbyist and spokesman Neil Clark.
Brooks faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Kevin Boyce, and Boyce is endorsed by the Franklin County Democratic Party. It is uncommon for county parties to not endorse incumbents but Brooks is on the team of malcontents using unsavory methods to try and take over the Franklin County Democratic Party. The same group peddled false rumors during last year’s mayoral race and insisted that indictments against Andy Ginther and other local Democrats were imminent.
Despite the rumors, Ginther captured 59 percent of the vote, defeating rival Sheriff Zach Scott.
Scott is among Brooks’ main allies and his re-election campaign showed a $5000 donation from Lager.
The Lager money comes after Brooks stunned Democrats by saying she could support an all-appointed state school board. She made those comments as a member of the Constitutional Modernizations Commission, a panel that is examining whether the Ohio Constitution needs to be updated.
Reaction to Brooks’ call for an all-appointed school board has been swift and severe and prompted a new move to boot her from the Commission.
In a letter dated Friday, Rep. Teresa Fedor, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, ask House and Senate Democratic Party leaders to “explore the removal of Paula Brooks from the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC) Committee on Education, Public Institutions, and Local Government. Brooks has worked consistently for the past year to subvert the Democratic agenda to strengthen public education, using her place on the committee instead to promote the agenda of online charter school magnate William Lager.
We cannot enable a public official, under the guise of representing Democratic values, to push an agenda that is contrary to our party’s principles and destructive to our public education system. Doing so would betray our teachers who nurture and guide our children each day in public schools across Ohio, and the working families who rightfully expect the state to provide their children with an excellent education that prepares them for future success.
Today, the state school board includes members appointed by Gov. Kasich and elected by voters. The elected members are in the minority but have led efforts to reform charters and continue to demand an independent investigation into data manipulation designed to cover up poor scores at ECOT and other consistently failing online charters.
As Brooks aligns herself with Lager, Lager faces new scrutiny.
A Feb. 10 Washington Post article details “The education mess in Ohio under Gov. John Kasich.”
And Ohio’s Inspector General is now taking a look at a strange deal in which Ohio State paid over $2 million to upgrade IQ Innovations – a distance learning platform owned by Lager.
As Plunderbund reported:
Gov. Kasich’s first state budget gave the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents authority to pick the vendor for the distance learning clearinghouse. The Chancellor picked IQ.
Former Lager consultant John Conley, appointed by the Kasich administration as Vice Chancellor of Educational Technology for the Board of Regents, was tasked with overseeing the project. Based on its research, including public records … Conley helped keep public money flowing to IQ Innovations and he helped sideline whistleblowers who tried to hold IQ accountable.”