AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A for-profit charter school operator in Ohio that became a pioneer of the school choice movement has gotten out of the business, the Akron Beacon Journal reported .
White Hat Management, founded in 2000 by Akron industrialist David Brennan, has quietly sold off the last of its contracts to run charter schools.
Brennan and White Hat once wielded considerable power and influence in the formation of publicly funded but privately run charter schools. White Hat portrayed its schools as creative and more nimble alternatives to traditional public schools.
White Hat's reputation had lagged since 2014 because of low test scores and soaring high school dropout rates, the newspaper reported.
The White Hat empire was whittled down this year to a single online school — Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy — and 10 "Life Skills" centers that offered computer-based GED courses to academically faltering teens and young adults. According to information made available through filings by school sponsors, contracts for the online school and eight of the Life Skills centers have been transferred.
In Ohio, sponsors oversee charter schools' tax funding, academic standards and compliance with state and federal laws. Public school boards, which are supposed to operate independently, decide whether to hire a management company or go it alone.
The online school has been purchased by Virginia-based Accel Schools, which is amassing a White Hat-style empire of educational institutions.
Utah-based Fusion Education Group is taking over contracts for seven of the Life Skills centers, including the North Akron branch. Life Skills Northeast Ohio in Cleveland has hired Oakmont Education LLC, a company associated with Cambridge Education Group.
White Hat could find no buyer for the remaining two centers, located in Cleveland and Youngstown, which will close.
White Hat did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the newspaper.