Local state senator pushes back against accusations in political blog

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Local state senator pushes back against accusations in political blog

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Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering

State Sen. Peggy Lehner is pushing back against what she calls “baseless and scurrilous attacks” from “an obscure political blog” that implies that she has a conflict of interest over charter school reforms she supported.

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In a letter to her colleagues and released to media outlets, Lehner, R-Kettering, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, responded to reports published by 3rd Rail Politics and sent the following message: “I have no intention of backing off of my work to improve the quality of Ohio’s schools.”

Lehner copied Troy Judy and Chad Hawley of The Batchelder Company and Neil Clark of Grant Street Consultants, who are the registered lobbyists for Altair Learning Management, also known as Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

“I have reason to believe that they’re behind it and this is about ECOT, pure and simple,” Lehner told this newspaper on Monday.

Judy said the Batchelder Company has no connection to the blog.

ECOT, the state’s largest online charter school, is battling the Ohio Department of Education’s efforts to force the company to pay back more than $60 million in state funding, saying it grossly inflated student attendance numbers. The move comes after the state started requiring documentation from online schools showing that students are getting the required 920 hours of instruction each year.

Lehner has been vocal in the fight, saying the state deserves to know how the money is being spent and whether children are being educated.

Lehner also supported House Bill 2, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law a year ago. The law requires more transparency and accountability for charter schools, which is a $1 billion-a-year industry in Ohio.

3rd Rail Politics, which kicked off in August 2016, promises “through unique story telling and unprecedented access, readers can now see the side of politics other publications ignore.”

Lehner pushed back on posts that claimed her sister, Kate Walsh, is a top employee at Fordham Foundation and that Lehner has secret plans to leave the Ohio Senate and work for Fordham, a leading think tank in the charter school movement. Lehner said that 10 years ago, her sister wrote two reports for as an outside contractor. She works for the National Council on Teacher Quality.

As for Lehner’s future plans: she was just re-elected to a four-year term in the Ohio Senate. “I have never given the slightest bit of thought of going to Fordham. I’m perfectly happy where I am,” Lehner said.

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