For nearly 20 years, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow was a darling of Ohio politicians. It’s founder, William Lager, made campaign contributions, mostly to Republicans, and Lager’s multiple companies collected nearly $1 billion for its online services. GOP luminaries we’re graduation speakers—names like Jeb Bush, John Kasich and other state officials.

Then the New York Times published a front-page article saying that ECOT had the lowest graduation rate of any school in the nation, and it described the many related companies that profited from the state’s funding.

The story began:

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school based here, graduated 2,371 students last spring. At the commencement ceremony, a student speaker triumphantly told her classmates that the group was “the single-largest graduating high school class in the nation.”

What she did not say was this: Despite the huge number of graduates — this year, the school is on track to graduate 2,300 — more students drop out of the Electronic Classroom or fail to finish high school within four years than at any other school in the country, according to federal data. For every 100 students who graduate on time, 80 do not.

The state auditor decided to audit ECOT (even though he was a recipient of Lager campaign funding.) The audit determined that large numbers of students didn’t exist and sought repayment of $67 million. Lager decided to declare bankruptcy rather than repay the state. ECOT had an online auction of stuff it had purchased with state funds.

Bill Phillis writes that the state is still trying to recover money from Lager:

Attorney General Yost Seeks a Court Order to Prevent the ECOT Man (William Lager) From Disposing of or Transferring Assets or Property. FREEZE LAGER’S ASSETS!

William Lager, via his operation of ECOT, Altair Learning Management, IQ Innovations, and Third Wave Communications illegally collected hundreds of millions from the state (school districts). The state has been attempting to recover at least part of the stolen revenue via the judiciary. Lager has put portions of his assets beyond the reach of his creditors.

The Ohio Attorney General, on September 27 filed a motion in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to freeze Lager’s assets.

Previously, the Court had identified that Lager had personally benefitted in the amount of $46,614,198.83. The Court had also specified that ECOT illegally paid Lager’s companies $161,602,806.30

It is amazing that Lager was empowered by campaign contributions to steal hundreds of millions of tax dollars over a couple decades before getting caught. A lot of state agencies—Ohio Department of Education, State Board of Education, Governor’s office, Attorney General offices, Auditor offices—were asleep at the switch, while enjoying favors from Lager. AMAZING!

Despite the multiple scandals, Ohio continues to divert more and more money to failing charters and vouchers.