To: Richard Ross, Ohio's Superintendent of Public Instruction and Debe Terhar, Ohio State Board of Education President

Protect Ohio Taxpayers and Students from Charter School Operator Raided by the FBI

The FBI recently raided Concept Schools Inc., which operates 19 schools in Ohio. The FBI is investigating Concept Schools for “white-collar crime,” self-dealing and misusing federal money meant for the neediest students. After the raids, additional allegations of wrongdoing surfaced. Former teachers at Ohio’s Dayton-area Concept Schools testified before the state board of education, alleging sexual harassment, attendance inflation, test tampering and racism.

Concept schools also have a history of being insensitive to African-American students. One school’s dress code banned “Afro puffs.” A former teacher testified that a principal took no action against another teacher who referred to African-American students as “monkeys” and “dogs.”

Given these serious allegations, it seems likely that the 19 Concept charter schools could be shut down, possibly in the middle of this school year. Such school closures not only disrupt children’s lives, but also leave taxpayers on the hook for the schools’ liabilities and debts. Fortunately, Ohio law provides you with the means to protect taxpayers.

We request that the Ohio Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education take the following steps, provided for in Ohio law, to protect taxpayers’ and students’ interests against further wrongdoing on the part of Concept Schools:

First, we request that the board immediately begin the process of revoking the current sponsors’ authority and then direct the Department of Education’s Office of School Sponsorship to assume sponsorship of the Concept schools. We then request that the Department of Education require each of the Concept schools in Ohio to post a bond of at least $250,000 to cover costs associated with closure and the transition of students to other schools.

There are other steps that should be taken or should have been taken earlier, but this is something you can do right now to make sure tax money intended to go to students doesn’t end up in the hands of those seeking to profit from loose regulations and lax oversight.

Why is this important?

When Ohio charter schools are closed, taxpayers often have to cover costs. The attorney general’s office recouped only $422,000 of $30 million from failed charter schools. As a spokesperson for the state’s attorney general has said, “The charter school book of business is a very difficult book of business to collect on.”

The petition asks state officials to take two steps permitted under Ohio law. First, Section 3314.015 Oversight of sponsors allows the State Board of Education to determine that the Concept sponsors are not complying with the requirement to oversee the schools. The board can then revoke the sponsors’ authority and transfer sponsorship to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of School Sponsorship. Second, once the Office of School Sponsorship has become the schools’ sponsor, Section 3314.029 Ohio school sponsorship program empowers the Department of Education to require each of the 19 Ohio Concept schools to post a “bond payable to the state or to file with the state superintendent a guarantee, which shall be used to pay the state any moneys owed by the community school in the event the school closes.”

Further background information can be found at:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/education/2014/07/30/fbi-raid-horizon-charter-school-cincinnati/13364593/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/07/charges_of_cheating_and_sexual.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/21/1217868/-Ohio-School-Bans-African-American-Hairstyles-For-Girls

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/07/15/19-charter-schools-to-be-investigated.html

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3314.015

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3314.029

http://www.nbc4i.com/story/24778722/nbc4-investigates-taxpayers-left-holding-bill-for-charter-schools

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