Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Charter school critics threaten legal action

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Teachers unions and other education groups suing the state over its charter school law on Monday threatened further legal action over what they say is an online school's illegal contract.

        For example, the agreement between the University of Toledo and Alternative Education Academy would allow students' parents to receive an educational stipend, an occurrence clearly not intended by state law, according to the Coalition for Public Education.

        The coalition also says the school's teachers are employees of the school's for-profit opera tor, Akron-based White Hat Management, and not public employees as the law requires.

        Furthermore, the coalition says, opening the school in the middle of the year violates the law and would potentially disrupt local districts.

        White Hat, operated by Akron industrialist and attorney David Brennan, is the state's largest charter school operator.

        “They ought to have enough experience by now, as the largest operator of charter schools in the state, on how to comply with the law,” said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. “They are instead thumbing their noses at the law.”

        A White Hat spokesman said he was confident the contract met state requirements. “We're enrolling students and moving forward without any expectations of problems,” said Mark Timmig, president of White Hat Ventures, a White Hat subsidiary.

        Allison Perz, a University of Toledo spokeswoman, said Monday that the contract was negotiated in good faith and was not done illegally.

        “We were very attentive to the charter school law,” she said.

        The Coalition for Public Education sued the Education Department in May, alleging that the state's charter school system violates both the Ohio Constitution and state law.

        State officials have allowed for-profit companies to control and operate charter schools and allowed at least three private schools to be illegally converted to charter schools, according to the lawsuit.


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