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Judge Says For Profit Charter School Operator Must Open Books

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The state’s largest for-profit charter school operator, White Hat management, is being asked by a judge to open its financial books. This decision follows more than a year and a half of court battles, but as StateImpact: Ohio’s Ida Lieszkovszky reports the case is not over yet.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

In October of 2010, the school boards of ten White Hat managed charters sued the for-profit company. The schools have to turn over to White Hat 96 percent of the state funds they receive , and they wanted to see how the company was spending the money.

After a lengthy legal battle, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge John Bender decided White Hat needs to disclose that information. Keeping in line with an earlier decision of his, Judge Bender says charter schools operate on public dollars, and so they are “public officials” who are responsible for public funds.

Attorney Karen Hockstad represents the school boards. She says the ruling is good news, but one of the biggest questions now is who owns the buildings these schools are in. She says White Hat and the school boards are likely to part ways when their current contract extension is up in June.

“We anticipate that White Hat is applying for new charters to run different schools in the same locations where the plaintiff schools currently operate. We have some critical timing issues with regard to getting some decisions from the court on the rights of the parties.”

Critical timing because the school boards must notify White Hat by March if they don’t want to negotiate another contract.

The school boards have until January 6th to submit a revised list of exactly what information they want. White Hat then has until January 13th to file any objections.

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