Thursday, March 29, 2007

Charter Schools Suing for Right to Fire White Hat

I'm trying to follow up on a truly extraordinary story in today's Beacon. It seems that a number of charter schools that contract with White Hat management are suing to invalidate a state law that, among other things, allows an education management organization (EMO) to appeal a decision by a charter board of directors to either terminate or not renew a contract with the EMO. If the charter board loses the appeal, they face an automatic death penalty:

    Under one provision, Education Management Organizations (EMOs) such as White Hat -- which receives a fee from charter schools for managing their operations -- are allowed to appeal a charter school board's decision to terminate or not renew a management contract.

    The appeal can be made to the school's sponsor or directly to the State Board of Education if the sponsor has been involved for less than six months.

    If the sponsor rules in favor of the EMO or charter school operator and against the board or governing authority, then the sponsor is required by law to fire the board. The law then requires the EMO to appoint a new board.

The new law was part of H.B. 79, a lame duck bill that was amended to carry all sorts of interesting things past the Governor's desk. I confess to missing the death penalty bit when the law was passed.

The lawsuit also challenges a provision limiting the number of boards of start-up schools on board member can sit on. It's unclear why the people discussed in the story are upset since they sit on boards of extant schools. For that matter, its unclear how one guy can sit on the boards of 19 different schools and believe that he is giving his position the time and attention it deserves.

The White Hat flak interviewed for the story may win some award for Most Disingenuous Spin of the Year:
    Bob Tenenbaum, a White Hat spokesman, said he is not sure why the company is part of the lawsuit. ``The core question needs to be asked of the General Assembly. It was their decision to change the law,'' Tenenbaum said.

By reports David Brennan is the most generous Republican contributor in the state, but neither he nor his company have any idea why the Republican General Assembly would pass a law that so obviously tilt the market in his company's favor.

One thing that's not unclear: This is a bad law. I suspect that part of the Governor's strategy in proposing to eliminate EdChoice and ban for-profit EMO's is bidding high to get the most out of subsequent negotiations. Hopefully with the help light shone by this lawsuit, Strickland will be able to win an end to the EMO appeal provision.


Jill said...

Hey Pho - thought I left a comment but I guess not - just wanted to say thanks for posting this info.