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Legislators Question Who Is Paying For Pro-Charter School Statehouse Rally

More than 400 people are expected to rally at the Statehouse Tuesday in support of an embattled charter school management company and its chain of academies. Some legislators have questions regarding who is funding the rally.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

In July—four teachers appeared before the state board of education and ignited controversy with allegations of racism, teacher intimidation and questionable testing policies at the Horizon Science Academy High School in Dayton. 

That moved the board to launch an investigation into the school, which is managed by the Chicago-based company—Concept Schools. 

The company manages about 20 charter schools in Ohio. 

Now the Blue Ribbons Friends coalition—a group of parents and supporters of these charter schools—plans to appear before the next state school board meeting to tell their side of the story. Spokesperson Matt Dole says the group wants to dispel what he calls “myths” surrounding the Horizon academies. 

Dole: “I think we’ve heard a lot of criticism about these schools if you heard only the criticism you’d think that they’re pretty bad places but these parents are proud of their schools they’re happy to have their kids educated at these schools and they’re seeing real value from their participation with these schools.” 

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have renewed their call for more transparency at charters following the claims raised this summer. Representatives Bob Hagan of Youngstown and Mike Foley of Cleveland are questioning where the money came from to pay for the rally. Foley says Concept Schools should not be allowed to fund such an event because it’s using taxpayer money. 

Foley: “They’ve got a permit for 500 people for a lunch at the Statehouse tomorrow that they’ve hired the Statehouse caterers for and rented out the room for the Statehouse all for the purposes of lobbying the state school board that in and of itself is problematic.” 

Dole says Concept Schools is happily footing the bill for the event because it gives parents and opportunity to share their stories. He also strikes down the notion that the money is taxpayer money. 

Dole: “This is an interesting concept—they’re saying that money that was provided to somebody who provided a service is still taxpayer money. We equate that to a teacher getting a paycheck and going out and getting a haircut. That teacher’s provided a service—they’ve been paid for it—they’ve gone out and bought another service—that service was not bought with taxpayer money.” 

Dole also made the argument that a portion of a teacher’s paycheck goes toward union fees which then translates into lobbying efforts. 

Foley counters by saying there’s a big difference between a public school teacher’s paycheck and charter school funding. 

Foley: “The money going into a teacher’s salary is for that person’s salary and for their use for what they’re going to do with it—it’s not there to educate or to operate charter schools or public schools—it’s there for the teacher.” 

Foley and Hagan plan to introduce a bill that would ban charter schools from funding these types of events and lobbying efforts in the future. 

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