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Allegations About Horizon Schools Polarize Charter School Supporters, Opponents

Opponents of charter schools made serious allegations during a Statehouse rally earlier today. Supporters refute those claims. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports. 

There have been a lot of questions lately about the way Horizon Science Academies in Ohio are operated.  In fact, the federal government is looking into some of the complaints being made.  Kellie Kochensparger, a former teacher at the Horizon Science Academy in Dayton, has been outspoken about a possible sexual assault involving students.  She says when she felt school administrators were not dealing with it, she brought it to the attention of the state’s education department.  Kochensparger says there were problems with the way women in her school were treated in general, especially when it came to pay and promotions.

Kochensparger – Women were certainly treated as second and third class citizens. And there was a lot of racial and discrimination that I think hasn’t fully been addressed or investigated yet.

Kochensparger is one of four teachers who are regarded as whistleblowers in state and federal investigations into Horizon.  Another former teacher at the Horizon Academy in Cleveland who has been working with federal prosecutors backs up those claims.  Mary Addi says the schools have an agreement to bring over unqualified teachers from Turkey who will work for much less than local teachers.  And Addi says she knows this because her husband, also a former teacher there, was taken advantage of by school management because he had agreed to a religious based policy for Gulanists. Under that agreement, Addi says her husband had to take out cash equal to 40% of each paycheck and give it back to the school right after payday.  And that’s not all.

Addi – In addition to up to 40% of their salaries, depending on their marital status and how many children they have, they are also required to turn over their state teacher’s retirement fund when they leave.  They are also required to turn over their yearly tax refunds which they all gather together at tax time so the Gulanist administrators know how much they are making.

But a spokesman for the Horizon Schools, Mark Weaver, says there’s no truth to Addi’s complaints.

Weaver – No these things are not true and the woman who worked at the schools and no longer does was let go because she was doing a second job on school time. No parent wants to see that and the administrators didn’t want to see that.  So she’s just a disgruntled employee.
Weaver says the Horizon Schools have good results and are managed in a responsible way.

Weaver – The schools welcome any investigations because all of their audits so far have been clean.  They won the blue ribbon award from the U.S. Dept of Education, the one here in Columbus, making that one of the best schools in America.  Their scores are better than lots of public schools here in Ohio and the management company that manages them is not for profit.

The Columbus Horizon School was recently honored by the Ohio legislature for its high performance. And the sponsor of that resolution, Democrat Jon Carney, is running for state auditor.  If he wins, he will be in the position of conducting future audits for charter and public schools alike.

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