Recent news that White Hat, the big,
Ohio-based, profit-seeking charter school operator, faces financial problems
was surely received as an early Christmas present by many long-time charter
opponents, particularly within the Buckeye State. The company’s founder and
leader, Akron industrialist David Brennan, has been a larger-than-life-target
for school choice foes since Governor George Voinovich appointed him in 1992 to
head a commission intended to advance choice in Ohio k-12 education.
That commission’s work led to the Cleveland Scholarship Program – the nation’s
first publicly- funded voucher program. Its constitutionality would be debated
and litigated until being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002, a decision
that has reverberated across the country.
David Brennan’s vision, doggedness and
political connectedness in the education-policy sector have not been limited to
vouchers. Without him, Ohio’s charter-school program might have been
still-born, or strangled in its crib, by the outraged forces of the
public-school establishment. From day one, the teacher unions teamed up with
the League of Women Voters, the PTA, the Ohio School Boards Association, the
Ohio AFL-CIO and others to savage charters at the statehouse, to challenge them
in the courthouse—all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court—and to denounce them in
every sort of public forum.
The vitriol of these attacks was illustrated in 2003 by then Cleveland Teachers
Union president Richard DeColibus, who announced his union’s $70,000 “truth”