GovWatch: Was Ohio’s charter school award a $71M mistake?


Call the tipline

The I-Team looks out for government fraud, waste and abuse on the state, national and local levels. If you have a tip for our I-Team, email Brian Kollars at Brian.Kollars@coxinc.com, or call our I-Team tipline at (937) 328-0374.

Ohio's receipt of $71 million in federal funds based on a questionable grant application is "a scandal I think is only going to get bigger," said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in an exclusive interview with the I-Team last week.

The “scandal” is basically this: The federal government awarded Ohio up to $71 million to help fund charter schools this month, based on an application by the state’s former charter school chief touting the awesomeness of Ohio’s charter school rating system.

Except that rating system was suspended days after the application was submitted and that administrator, David Hansen, resigned after he admitted to leaving out certain numbers to make some charters look better.

“Unfortunately, high-up people close to the admininistration in the Ohio Department of Education have fudged the numbers, or worse, falsified them,” Brown said. “If all that’s true and that effected the federal dollars, it’s particularly shameful.”

Ohio lawmakers recently passed a far-reaching charter school oversight law in response to years of scandal that left charter school administrators here and elsewhere in the state stewing in prison, or ordered to pay back tens of millions of dollars in allegedly misspent funds.

Brown said he is trying to pass a measure to increase oversight on the federal level. He sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education demanding to know how Ohio scored so much federal dough despite a history of charter school problems.

“We remember people going to prison in Dayton for some of this, we now see it going to the top levels of state government,” Brown said.

Households rack up food stamp awards

Some food stamp recipients in Ohio have banked tens of thousands of dollars in state benefits they can continue to use even after they don't qualify for the program, an investigation by a Columbus television station found.

Acting on a tip from a grocery story employee, 10TV in Columbus pulled state numbers and found 55 households across the state with food stamp balances of more than $7,000, including 14 with balances between $10,000 and $21,000.

This included a household in Montgomery County with $11,328 saved up and one in Butler County that had amassed $9,691.

This happens when people get monthly awards of money, but they don’t spend it all so the balance grows. They can then access that money for up to a year after they leave the program, meaning they can use it even if they no longer qualify for food stamps, the station noted.

Starbucks, Fiat owe European Union

By cracking down on Starbucks and Fiat, the European Union sent a message this month warning multinationals not to skirt taxes with complicated tax schemes.

The EU fined the coffee chain and carmaker up to $34 million each.

Said EU commissioner of competition policy Margrethe Vestager: "Tax rulings that artificially reduce a company's tax burden are not in line with EU state aid rules. They are illegal. I hope that, with today's decisions, this message will be heard by Member State governments and companies alike.

“All companies, big or small, multinational or not, should pay their fair share of tax.”

About the Author

ajc.com