In the budget: for-profit charters cash in on expanded dropout program

I commented on fiscalyearzero’s post about the various goodies and giveaways in the budget for Charter Schools, but decided that the subject of just one of those amendments might merit its own post.

The House budget included a provision to expand the state’s dropout recovery program, increasing the age for enrollment from 21 to 29. Here’s the LSC description:

Permits a person age 22 to 29, who does not have a high diploma or a certificate of high school equivalence, to enroll free of tuition for two additional years of instruction at a community school in the school’s dropout prevention and recovery program

What this means is that a charter school can sign up adults by promising a high school diploma, collecting money from taxpayer-funded public school districts for two years. This has the effect that someone who dropped out of school at age 14 can now come back and cost the district money FIFTEEN YEARS LATER.

And how is that money spent? According to this 2005 press release from OFT, Life Skills centers, a chain of eight schools around the state targeting high school dropouts run by Akron charter school empire White Hat Management, are notorious for their inability to keep track of their students. They were literally unable to calculate student achievement measures, which only requires test scores from TEN students in their schools (whose enrollments ranged from 257 to nearly 700).

All eight of the Life Skills centers that existed at the time were in Academic Emergency. Some Life Skills centers are now accused of keeping poor records, spending only a small portion of its funding in the classroom.

Do we know if the students ever showed up after having been enrolled? No, but we certainly know that the local school district was on the hook to pay for it. And White Hat Management collects 97% of the money the state pays to operate the schools. Not a bad payday if you’re David Brennan and looking at the size of your program balloon thanks to the help of House Republicans.

It couldn’t have anything to do with all of Brennan’s contributions to the Governor and legislative leadership, could it?  We suspect that somewhere tonight, David Brennan is drinking a toast to the Ohio House of Representatives and feeling pretty good about the $431,000 in campaign contributions he made in the last cycle.

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