This article in the Columbus Dispatch gave me a disquiet pause and caused me to think, maybe it would be a good idea to educate a little bit about who David Brennan is and how he is diametrically opposed to who we are.

House cozy with charter school lobby


What's with the hat?

Ok, some background first.  I just completed my 8th year in education and every one of those years has been working for The Graham Family of Schools, public, non-profit, community schools (a.k.a. charter schools).  My first four years were with The Graham School and my last four with The Charles School.

Second, charter school law in the state of Ohio is actually quite simple, but we operate differently from the district schools.  We are bound by most of the same laws that regular comprehensive schools have to comply with (i.e., testing, reporting, servicing students, etc.).  We do not have many of the same administrative oversight laws (i.e., unions, tenure, etc.), we cannot levy taxes, and the oversight of the schools is slightly different (we have to have a sponsor who acts as our fiscal agent and also helps to keep us in compliance).  The BIGGEST difference between us and another public school is the money.  Since we cannot levy taxes we only get the foundational money from the state.  This is also called the per pupil money.  In the state of Ohio, there is a sort of dollar sign that follows each student around and no matter where they go to get educated in the state (talking public here; the vouchers are a whole different story) that dollar sign follows them to that school.  Let me sum it up with we are educating our students around $5700 per child whereas Columbus City Schools is somewhere closer to $10,000, and the suburban schools are even higher.  We can talk results later, but for now, I’m just laying the groundwork.

Now on to this article.  David Brennan is the founder of White Hat Management Group which is a company who runs some charters.  His group is for profit (first big distinction between the folks that I work for and him) and he has never opened up his books to the public.  His schools get terrible results for their students.  He pays his teachers very poorly and there is a tremendously high turnover rate.  A few of his schools have even sued him to open up the financial books and a few others have actually split from him and sought another sponsor because his oversight was so dictatorial.  David Brennan is earning A LOT of money on the backs of Ohio’s taxpayers.  How much?  Nobody can say because his books are closed.  Enough that he could give nearly $400,000 of his personal money as political contributions to Republicans.  The saddest part to this whole story, it has never been alleged that he has broken a law, probably because he has not done so in the running of his schools.  While he obfuscates, he is running his business completely above board.

I believe that I work with an honorable and worthy group of schools.  We are open and transparent.  We have one of the best sponsors in the state.  We get great results for our students.  And we treat our teachers well.  For anybody who would use the morally reprehensible approaches of David Brennan and his group, please know that we are VERY different.  If they are the Empire, we are the rebel force; if they are Agent Smith, we are Neo; if they are evil, we would be good, basically.

Ok, maybe I’ve gone too far, but anything that I can do to distance our schools and lots of other well meaning and high achieving charters is totally worth the effort.  He and his group give charters a bad name in the state and the laws protecting him need to change.  We need more accountability and more transparency.  I don’t know how much longer Ohio lawmakers are going to protect him, but it won’t be soon enough if they wrote new laws starting tomorrow.  We need accountability for our tax dollars so that people don’t get wealthy on the backs of our students.