It surprises no-one, not even the racist and religious Republican base that the GOP exists first and foremost to advance the interests of the rich and corporations at the expense of the American people; including the Republican racist and religious base. Over the past decade Americans have learned that there is no program or agency Republicans will not steal funding from to enrich their corporate masters. Although Republicans have not had as much success transferring taxpayer funding for public education to corporations at the federal level, Republican governors have made raiding public education a bonanza for corporate charter and private religious schools.
It is true that Republican governors such as Sam Brownback, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker were giddy appropriating public school money for tax breaks for corporations and the rich, but their robbery pales in comparison to Republicans like Piyush ‘Bobby’ Jindal and John Kasich. Now, it appears that presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John “corporate” Kasich’s lust for corporate-run charter schools is not only the nation’s leading privatization failure, its “beyond belief” corruption prompted mass evacuations of Ohio education officials fleeing Kasich’s corporate education corruption.
In the four years that corporate advocate Kasich has been in office, funding for traditional public schools has been slashed as far too costly and a burden on the rich and corporations. All while corporate charter schools have seen a very significant funding increase as a result of the public school funding cuts. In what has to be an epic understatement, many education advocates in Ohio and nationally have remarked that the public school funding being transferred to corporate charter schools in Ohio not only “appears to have been misspent,” it is a scam to enrich a corporation loyal to Kasich and Ohio Republicans. It is also a plot to make predominately poor minority students uneducated because nothing on Earth guarantees Republican electoral success than an uneducated populace.
This corporate corruption sweeping through Republican states’ education sectors is happening all across America, but particularly so in Ohio. Kasich has been heavily promoting the primary components of corporate school reform that include primarily increasing the number of vouchers that use public money to pay for private religious schools, and heavily expanding corporate “managed” charter schools. Kasich is so enamored with, and driven to expand, charter schools that he has protected a blatantly corrupt corporate privatization scheme that produce the greatest charter school system failure in America. Instead of scrapping the school corporatization agenda, Kasich’s devotion to his corporate cohort drooling to take over all education has driven him to pledge more funding and support for corporate-controlled charter schools at the expense of impoverished minority students and public education.
The level of corruption in Kasich’s corporate charter school scam became exposed nationally this winter after a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes revealed that achievement in Ohio’s charter schools was significantly below Ohio’s regular public schools. Anyone familiar with Republicans’ and President Obama’s love affair with charter schools would not be surprised that yet another study found one of the largest and “most successful” charter schools in America underperformed even underperforming public schools. However, in Ohio’s case besides achieving performance grades of “F” across the board, Kasich’s corporate charters are robbing the state blind and Kasich’s “education experts” are rigging performance results and attendance reports to steal more Ohio taxpayer money. In fact, the corporate corruption is so abominable and achievement scores are so bad that an education policy analyst rightly noted that, “Our charter schools have become a national joke.” They have also become a money laundering enterprise for the corporation running Kasich’s charter school program.
When a Kasich education appointee, Leon Sinoff was asked to sign off on a building lease for Imagine Columbus Primary Academy, he was unaware that the corporate-run school received an F grade for achievement on the 2013-14 state report card, only three teachers returned after summer break, and two principals and one vice principal had stepped down. Sinoff then discovered that the school served a predominately high-poverty, low-income community and lacked arts, music, and foreign language classes. When he inquired about the poor performance and lack of adequate teachers and classes, the corporation running the charters, Imagine Schools, complained there was not enough funding due to the high expense of the building lease agreement. Sinoff soon discovered that the $58,000-a-month lease negotiated and entered into by Imagine Schools consumed half the school’s operating budget for a building that was owned by Imagine Schools Finance LLC.
To understand the corruption of a corporate charter school renting a building from itself, the national standard for school building leases is between 8 and 15 percent of operational budgets, not 50 percent. The corporate rigging is just one reason an epic failure like Imagine Schools is one of the largest for-profit charter school management corporations in America. After finding the corruption, Sinofff promptly resigned, along with other stunned board members, and announced, “This is self-dealing. That’s why we are massively overpaying for the lease. Imagine is perfectly happy cranking out low-quality schools and profiting off them. They don’t care about the quality of the kids’ education.”
That was only a small part of the corporate Kasich’s corruption. When Ohio State Auditor, David Yost, made unannounced visits to 30 charter schools around the state, he found that the real attendance was drastically lower than what the schools reported to the Department of Education. Inflating classroom numbers meant extra taxpayer dollars for the corporate charter schools because states dispense education funds based on the number of students enrolled. It still gets worse.
After one of Imagine’s corporate charters was forced to close due to being caught paying Imagine enormous sums for rent while languishing on the state’s “academic emergency” list reserved for F-rated schools, Kasich appointed one of its failed corporate board members, David Hansen, as “executive director” of the entire state’s Office of Quality School Choice and Charter Funding.
Kasich assigned Hansen to oversee the expansion of Imagine’s failed charter and virtual schools; virtual schools are online charters used by homeschoolers to produce uneducated citizens as crucial to Republicans’ electoral survival as racists and religious fanatics. In July Kasich’s hand-picked corporate education executive resigned after admitting he regularly rigged evaluations of charter school sponsors that authorize and oversee the schools in exchange for a handsome taxpayer-provided fee. Hansen also admitted he deliberately concealed the failing grades of F-rated schools operated by for-profit corporations because they are owned by major Republican donors in the state. Kasich’s response to the deception and corporate fraud is expanding corporate-run charters with more money appropriated from the state’s public schools.
One would like to say that what is happening to education in Ohio under Republicans is a cautionary tale, or a portent of the coming disaster for education if Republicans are allowed to fulfill the Koch brothers’ dream of corporate control of the education system in America. Sadly, not only is it not a cautionary tale, the disaster is unfolding in every Republican state across the nation to the detriment of students, public education, and taxpayers who are seeing even more of their tax dollars funneled directly into corporate coffers under the guise of school choice.
Most Americans are completely unaware, including President Obama, that charter schools typically underperform public schools, and they are not beholden to report to any agency how they spend money stolen from public education. They are also not required to teach students anything, or follow national or state standards, and they regularly insert religion as science and prayer as part of the corporate charter school day. It is precisely that lack of oversight and accountability that allowed Kasich’s charter schools to successfully misspend taxpayer dollars, rig attendance reports, and conceal drastically underperforming corporate charters.
This country owes its children a decent education; something President Obama has advocated since his tenure in the White House began. However, charter schools, particularly corporate-run charters, are not providing even a basic education and there are myriad studies revealing that they typically underperform even underfunded public schools. In Ohio’s case, instead of scrapping the corporate charter catastrophe and restoring funding to public schools, John “corporate” Kasich is promising more charters and running for president; like every Republican he wants to impart his corporate corruption on the entire nation and he will not stop at education.