David Brennan's Pay-to-Play Charter School Pattern
"I think it's extraordinary what they've done. You get what you pay for.”- David Brennan, founder of White Hat Management, on his White Hat charter schools, Canton Repository (August 25, 2004)
The face of Ohio’s charter school program; the one beneath the white cowboy hat, belongs to that of David Brennan. Over the past two decades, no single person has wielded more political clout when it comes to influencing Ohio’s education policy than has Mr. Brennan.
Brennan’s push to privatize public education resulted in the passage of Ohio’s charter school law, which paved the way for the creation of White Hat Management. Founded by Brennan, White Hat is the largest for-profit operator of charter schools in Ohio.
The political accomplishments of the Akron industrialist are undeniable. Unfortunately, it is hard to see how Brennan’s political influence has benefited anyone but him and those politicians who enjoy his generous financial support.
This is what we know about Brennan’s charter schools:
- Charter schools operated by White Hat Management met just 11.7 percent of academic standards on the most recent report card.
- Only one out of ten students’ graduates from Brennan’s Life Skills Centers.
- The annual tab to taxpayers to graduate a single student from one of these schools is $77,000.
- Twenty of 31 White Hat schools received a “D” or “F” on their most recent report card.
- The two Brennan-run schools that earned a “B” are among the ten White Hat schools that are suing the for-profit management company in an effort to rein in its unchecked authority.
- Brennan’s company collects a minimum of 96 cents of every dollar that is provided by the state of Ohio to White Hat operated charter schools.
- Taxpayers have paid White Hat nearly $1 billion to run Brennan’s charter schools.
- Brennan - and other for-profit operators - pays his teachers an average salary that is about $1,700 less than what is paid to teachers who work for charter schools that are not run by for-profit management companies.
Now, the hypocrisy.
Governor Kasich and the republican-controlled legislature are advancing a legislative agenda that they claim demands greater accountability from public schools and requires a high level of performance from teachers in order for them to receive a pay raise.
At the same time, Kasich and his friends are pushing a budget bill that would give Brennan’s White Hat empire greater power and less accountability.
By what measure of performance is Brennan being judged? His students are failing, his schools are suing him and his teachers are economically exploited just so he can maximize his profits.
Brennan truly is getting what he paid for. He bought the politicians and they continue to reward him for his generous financial contributions. Well played, Mr. Brennan. Keep writing those big checks and don’t worry about your lousy product.
The governor thinks you have done an extraordinary job.