On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown voiced his strong support for special accountability and transparency conditions placed on a $71 million charter school grant awarded to Ohio by the U.S. Department of Education.

Senator Brown, in his second term representing Ohio in Washington but looking ahead two years to another reelection cycle, offered ample reasons why Ohio’s expensive system of for-profit “pubic” schools rightfully qualifies for scandal status. He said it’s a disgrace that has defrauded taxpayers so much that its national reputation earned it the ignominious title, “the wild west” of charter school systems across the states.

Is that the “Ohio Model” Gov. Kasich took credit for during his long, losing battle on the GOP presidential campaign trail? Donald Trump, the man Kasich said would never get the nomination [he did] and who he won’t vote for, has moved ahead of Hillary Clinton in Ohio, based on new Bloomberg polling that shows Trump leading by five points. What’s a popular [+59%] governor to do, now that those polling breezes shift the Donald’s way?

Sen. Brown said various measurements will be used in oversight by DOE to monitor how the money is spent. If Ohio doe not satisfactorily comply with the conditions, he said federal officials can suspend or terminate the grant. “They [DOE] know a lot more now than before,” he said, adding, “The days of the federal government throwing money around is over.”

Sen. Brown declined to comment on a question about why Gov. Kasich has clean hands on the charter school scandal in general, given his advocacy for for-profit schools, and the grant in particular, since the husband of Gov. Kasich’s campaign manager and former chief of staff, David Hansen, was the state official who data rigged the findings and added them to the state’s grant request to DOE in Washington. Mr. Hansen came under pressure and later resigned his position.

Brown, along with Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), led members of the Ohio delegation in a letter calling on ED to take many of the same steps the agency announced today in order to ensure taxpayer funds are being used to provide quality education for Ohio students, the senator’s office said.

“Too many Ohio charter schools have a record of waste, fraud, and abuse – they take in taxpayer money and shortchange our students,” Brown said in prepared remarks. “The safeguards the U.S. Department of Education has put in place to monitor how Ohio spends this grant will greatly increase oversight, accountability, and transparency, so students receive the education they deserve.”

Now designated as a ‘high risk’ grant, Sen. Brown said the new, added conditions will add more stringent oversight to make sure these funds are used appropriately. “Our children are tomorrow’s doctors, entrepreneurs, builders, leaders here in Ohio, and it is our duty to give them the resources and education they deserve.”

Of paramount concern for Sen. Brown, is that no one should be “lining their pockets with the money that should be going to our children’s futures,” he said.

In a letter with the Ohio delegation, Sen. Brown and Congressman Ryan urged ED to place restriction on Ohio’s grant funds to ensure that funds are only provided to charter school operators with a proven record of high performance; and, in a June 2016 letter to ED Secretary John King, Brown called on ED to appoint a special monitor to ensure accountability. ED has adopted both of these proposals. The increased oversight will also ensure no federal taxpayer dollars go to for-profit charter school operators and boost transparency regarding relationships between third party management companies.

ED will require the Ohio Department of Education to:

  • Hire an ED-approved independent monitor to oversee the Ohio Department of Education’s implementation of the special conditions ED has placed on its grant;
  • Create a database that indicates public charter schools’ academic, operation, and financial performance;
  • Submit expenditure documentation to ED for review and receive approval for all withdrawals from the grant account;
  • Submit semi-annual budgets to ED for review and approval;
  • Submit to ED and post publicly semi-annual financial reports related to the use of the grant; and
  • Form a Grant Implementation Advisory committee of parents, teachers, and community members to create transparency.

Sen. Brown noted that “high-risk” means the imposed restrictions are the most stringent ED has ever placed on a charter school grant recipient. 

In July 2015, Brown introduced the Charter School Accountability Act in the U.S. Senate and in in October of 2015, Ryan introduced the Charter School Accountability Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Parts of the bill were included in the Every Child Achieves Act – legislation signed into law by the President to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Reauthorization Act. The bill would strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, prevent fraud, and increase community involvement.

 

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