Policy Matters Ohio charges White Hat Management avoids state law on closing charter schools

Plain Dealer - July 7, 2013

Articles in the Plain Dealer about the legal battles engulfing White Hat Management, the for-profit charter school operator, included a sidebar about a Policy Matters report on Ohio’s charter school closure law.

Edith Starzyk’s article summarized our findings as they relate to White Hat — that the company managed to avoid closing schools by changing names and/or merging (and then un-merging) some  of its schools. Our report also highlights schools run by other management companies.

The way the state’s closure law is written leaves “management firms free of blame and, even worse, free to manage new schools despite their failures,” the Policy Matters report said.

Thomas Barrett, CEO of White Hat Management, responded to the report by saying that Policy Matters has been opposed to charter schools for years. White Hat has complied with all laws and regulations from state legislators and the Ohio Department of Education, he told The Plain Dealer.

Barrett’s response misses the point — the problem is with state law and the fact that it allows management companies to get away with running shoddy schools, and then avoid accountability by changing names and shifting school charters to keep state money flowing. Starzyk checked in with the state, and found that concerns raised by our report were, apparently, easily assuaged.

Joni Hoffman, who heads the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office,  said she and her staff looked at the report and didn’t entirely agree with all the characterizations. But there were concerns, and in at least one case “we weren’t real happy – it looked like they were just reopening the same school.”

However, the sponsor provided evidence that the board, staff and academic program would be different, she said.

“We have worked with sponsors in some of these situations to get an assurance the schools are not the same, it’s not going to be a replication of failure,” Hoffman said. “There has to be something different, with a chance of success.”

Policy Matters Ohio charges White Hat Management avoids state law on closing charter schools

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