PROPUBLICA– Since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain and reports that it has about 20,000 students across the country. But now 10 of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing, and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.
The dispute between White Hat and Ohio, which is unfolding in state court in Franklin County, provides a glimpse at a larger trend: the growing role of private management companies in publicly funded charter schools.
Contrary to the idea of charters as small, locally run schools, approximately a third of them now rely on management companies — which can be either for-profit or non-profit — to perform many of the most fundamental school services, such as hiring and firing staff, developing curricula and disciplining students. But while the shortcomings of traditional public schools have received much attention in recent years, a look at the private sector’s efforts to run schools in Ohio, Florida and New York shows that turning things over to a company has created its own set of problems for public schools.
Government data suggest that schools with for-profit managers have somewhat worse academic results than charters without management companies, and a number of boards have clashed with managers over a lack of transparency in how they are using public funds.
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