I am amazed and saddened at the condition of public education in Ohio. I moved here from South Carolina where public education was low quality and corrupt. I was eager to be in a state where I naively thought things would be better. WOW!! Was I wrong!! In some ways conditions are worse here in Ohio.
Case in point: Ohio authorizes on-line charter schools to educate more students than most any other states. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is charged with auditing the performance of these e-schools every 5 years since they receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. That is typically done first by a high level preliminary analysis. If significant issues are found then an in-depth audit is initiated.
In its preliminary analysis of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s (ECOT) student log-in records, the Department could not verify that students were actually receiving 920 hours of education in a school year. That is the state requirement for full-time students and the basis for funding such charter schools. Therefore discrepancies in the preliminary analysis prompted the need for an in-depth audit.
As the Ohio Department of Education prepared for the audit ECOT administrators filed a lawsuit against ODE seeking to prevent that audit. They asked a Franklin County judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the audit until the lawsuit was settled. Republican politicians “friendly” with ECOT administrators also pressured ODE to delay the audit. In their lawsuit ECOT claimed that the audit of student log-in records was not appropriate. They claim they are not required to actually PROVIDE 920 hours of education per year to students, only to MAKE THAT AMOUNT OF EDUCATION AVAILABLE!!!
The judge refused to issue a restraining order. So in accordance with its legal responsibility the Ohio Department of Education prepared to conduct an in-depth audit of ECOT beginning this past Monday. However when auditors arrived ECOT refused to allow the ODE access to its records.
A couple of other data points:
ECOT is Ohio’s largest e-school. It was founded in 2000 by William Lager, a large financial donor to the Republican Party.
At a dropout rate of more than 60% ECOT has the highest rate of any charter e-school in the United States. Only 39% actually graduate in the prescribed timeframe.
Regardless ECOT is making Willian Lager a wealthy man. For-profit companies he owns siphon off through non-competitive contracts about 20% of the government funds ECOT receives to educate students.
In light of the arrogance and intransigence ECOT administrators have displayed as well as other evidence I feel reasonable confident that ECOT has defrauded Ohio taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years as well as leaving students without an adequate education.
If I were suspected of bilking taxpayers out of a $100 million and refused to surrender records that would help prove my innocence or guilt I would likely go to jail until I had my attitude adjusted. Can’t the State of Ohio bring criminal charges (like obstruction of justice) against ECOT administrators, William Lager, and the Ohio politicians who are enabling them? Where is the Ohio Attorney General in this case? Or is he part of the problem??