Archives for category: Fraud

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General conducted an in-depth audit of the federal Charter Schools Program, which was initiated in 1994 with a few million dollars by the Clinton administration. Thanks to astute lobbying by the charter industry, the modest program grew to $440 million a year with little or no accountability. Betsy DeVos pushed it aggressively to large charter chains, including for-profit chains.

You will be interested in this account of the audit, written by Valerie Strauss on her blog “The Answer Sheet” in the Washington Post, introducing an analysis by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education.

This audit demonstrates the power and persistence of the Network for Public Education, a small but smart advocate for public schools. NPE operates with one full-time employee and a small number of part-time employees. Our work is motivated not by greed but by idealism and a passionate commitment to the common good. We believe in well-funded schools with experienced teachers for all children.

The introduction by by Strauss and the analysis by Burris has many links, but none transferred when I copied it. I copied some, but not all of them. I urge you to open the original and find the links.

Strauss begins:

The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Inspector General has released a new audit of the federal Charter School Program that found some alarming results about how charter school networks have used millions of dollars in funding. Among other things, the audit found that charter school networks and for-profit charter management organizations did not open anywhere near the number of charters they promised to open with federal funding. This piece looks at the new audit and what it tells us.


The reason this is not surprising is that investigations into the Charter School Programs by the Network for Public Education, an advocacy group that opposes the growth of charter schools, found that same problem, as well as others and reported it a few years ago. You can read my stories about their “Asleep at the Wheel” here and here. (The second report noted that the state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to former education secretary Betsy DeVos, who has pushed to expand charter schools for decades.)


Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed. The federal charter program, which began in 1994 with the aim of expanding high-quality charters, had bipartisan support for years, but many Democrats have pulled back from the movement, citing the fiscal impact on school districts and repeated scandals in the sector. The Biden administration is making some changes to the program in an effort to stop waste and fraud and provide more transparency to the operation of charters.


This piece was written by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning principal in New York. She has been chronicling the charter school movement and the standardized-test-based accountability movement on this blog for years. The Network for Public Education is an alliance of organizations that advocates for the improvement of public education and sees charter schools as part of a movement to privatize public education.


By Carol Burris


A new report issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) entitled “The Effectiveness of Charter School Programs in Increasing the Number of Charter Schools” documents how states, charter management organizations, and charter developers often make wildly exaggerated claims regarding the number of charter schools they will open or expand to secure large grants.

The OIG, an independent watchdog of the U.S. Department of Education (the Department), found that for grants issued between 2013 and 2016, only 51 percent of the schools promised by Charter School Programs (CSP) recipients opened or expanded.


The OIG audit also exposed the sloppy record keeping and weak oversight that characterize CSP operations. Since 2006, the department has paid a private corporation, WestEd, millions of dollars to compile, check and update CSP records. WestEd’s present CSP contract exceeds $12 million. In total, WestEd has active contracts with the U.S. Department of Education worth more than $27.6 million. Yet an alarming number of grant records could not be found when requested by the OIG auditors. And while the Biden administration is attempting to clean up and reform the CSP, according to the independent OIG, more work needs to be done.


What did the Office of the Inspector General audit?
The audit had three goals. The first was to describe how the department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education tracked and reported the number of charter schools that opened and expanded using Charter School Program funds. A second goal was to determine whether CSP grant recipients actually delivered the number of charter schools they promised when they applied for their often multimillion dollar awards. Finally, the audit sought to determine how many schools were still open two years after CSP funding ended.


As its title stated, the audit was an attempt to measure the program’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission. To conduct the audit, the OIG examined 2013 through 2016 CSP grant records. During that period, the department awarded 103 CSP grants to states, charter management organizations, or individual charter developers. Ninety-four were closely investigated by the OIG. The likely reason these years were chosen was that most grants are for five years. The auditors also found that the department often extends them further when grantees have not spent all of their money. Therefore, more recent grants were excluded because records were likely to be incomplete.

Incomplete and inaccurate records

The auditors noted that while the department, through WestEd, tracked spending and schools while grants were open, the tracking stopped as soon as the grant was complete. Therefore, the department had no way of knowing whether schools remained open beyond the years federal funds propped them up. This speaks to the purpose of the program — to open and expand high-quality charter schools.


When auditors asked the department to define the term high-quality, the department responded that the “CSP office does not determine whether a charter school is high-quality because state rules for determining high quality vary.”


“Additionally,” it said, “the determination of whether a charter school is a high quality is often the responsibility of charter school authorizers.” The department also told auditors that tracking a school’s existence after all money was doled out was not its job.


Even if the department wanted to do a quality check of schools as they were funding and expanding, the OIG found that there was no accurate base of information that they could rely on to determine whether they should continue what was often a multimillion-dollar grant. From the audit:


Although the CSP office created processes for tracking and reporting on charter schools that opened and expanded and charter schools that remained open through the grant performance period end date, those processes did not result in CSP grant recipients reporting precise, reliable, and timely information in their FPRs [final performance reports], APRs [annual performance reports], and data collection forms. The processes also did not result in the CSP office receiving all the necessary information to assess grant recipients’ performance or evaluate the overall effectiveness of the CSP.


Specifically, the department could not produce 13 percent of the required final reports from grantees and 43 percent of the required final data collection sheets. Auditors noted that grantees would report different numbers of schools opened or expanded among required collection forms and final reports. The accuracy of the final documents prepared by WestEd for the department was beyond the scope of the audit.

During our research for our second “Asleep at the Wheel” report, we found that the data collection sheets produced by WestEd and published in 2019 by then Education Secretary Betsy De Vos were replete with errors. Schools that had closed or never opened were reported as open or future. We also noted inaccuracies in recently submitted sheets we received from a Freedom of Information Act request, especially relating to the for-profit management status of the awardee.


But the OIG discovered a far worse problem yet. More than half of the schools that grantees committed to opening or expanding did not open or expand at all.

CSP grantees failed to meet commitments
Grant applicants asked for and received millions of dollars based on their promises to open and expand charter schools. However, when the auditors examined 94 grantee applications, they found that many grantees fell far short of their commitments.

The OIG determined that based on the commitments made in the 94 applications, state education agencies, CMOs, and developers promised to open or expand 1,570 charter schools using CSP funds.


As of July 2021, approximately 75 percent of the grant funding had been spent, yet grantees had only opened or expanded 51 percent of the charters they had promised.


This begs the question, where did millions of tax dollars go? I identified grantees by matching applications on the department website along with numbers in the data set with grant codes in the OIG report.


In its 2016 CSP application, the Florida Department of Education put forth what it called a “bold and ambitious plan to … develop a high-impact system to dramatically improve the opportunities of educationally disadvantaged students. The department said that it would use the grant to “support the creation of 200 new high-quality charter schools over the next five years.”

Florida received $70.7 million to achieve its “bold and ambitious” plan. According to the OIG report, it had only opened 33 percent — or 66 — of the schools it promised to open as of July 2021, although it had spent over 51 percent of the CSP funds.


Colorado’s 2015 application promised that it would open 72 charter schools with its over 24.2 million dollar grant. In the end, it opened fewer than half — just 33 — and expanded three schools. Nevertheless, it spent 87.5 percent of its funds.

Tennessee ambitiously promised to open 114 charter schools. It opened just 16, though it managed to spend 63 percent of its grant. These states are not outliers. The report shows a pattern.

And CMOs also failed to deliver. The KIPP charter network promised 65 schools for its jumbo $48,750,000 grant, one that well exceeded most states. It delivered 34 schools and expanded one.

Finally, there are grants to developers that the department directly provides. The Innovation Development Corporation received a $405,730 CSP grant to open The Delaware Met. It was open for just a few months before it was shut down. It also received and spent $72,000 to open DE Stem. That school was shut down before it even opened. Willow Public School, a Washington charter school, took and spent a $602,875 grant, opened, ran into trouble, changed its name, and then shut down.


The department and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools attribute the problem to authorizer reluctance and state caps on the number of schools that can open. Really? Every state that got a grant has a state board that can override local rejections of applications. State applicants and the department are also well aware of caps. Take the case of the 2018 $78,888,888 CSP grant to the New York State Department of Education, which was outside the scope of the OIG audit.

In the New York State application review, which you can find here, raters acknowledge that New York State had not even used up its previous grant which was open beyond its terms and that charter expansion would be limited by the state cap on the number of charters. Yet they gave the application high scores, and it was approved. Where did that 2018 money go? Over $10 million went to provide staff development in technology for charter schools.

Jumbo grants

Why do states and charter management organizations ask for jumbo grants knowing they cannot deliver? Because they want the money to fund their charter school operations.


States and charter management organizations get to keep 10 percent of the cut for grant administration and technical assistance to charter schools. The bigger the grant, the bigger the cut.

Therefore, KIPP was allowed to keep nearly $5 million for its charter management organization, even though it fell way short of its commitment. The Florida Department of Education secured over $7 million for administrative services on its grant.
Second, there are no guidelines about how much an individual charter school can get. We have seen grants as low as $250,000 and grants to schools of $1.5 million. When a state realizes it cannot or will not meet its commitment, it just doles out larger amounts.


Third, until President Biden, no prior administration did anything about it over the Charter School Program’s existence. Therefore, states, CMOs, and individual schools realized pretty quickly that they could create grandiose applications, sometimes including falsehoods, and there would be no real consequences if commitments were never met.

The present department has taken a terrible beating for creating modest CSP reform regulations which are still being fought by the charter trade organizations and their proxies, including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a charter school authorizer. Challenges include both a lawsuit and a Republican-sponsored bill to overturn the new rules.

But as the OIG audit shows, reforms are desperately needed.

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We recently learned that Josh Shapiro, Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennnsylvania, has endorsed vouchers.

One of our readers supplied an email for this “Democrat” who has embraced the Republican agenda for education. Josh Shapiro is a hypocrite. Real Democrats support public goods. Real Democrats care about the common good. Real Democrats fight privatization of what belongs to the public.

Here’s his email: contact@joshshapiro.org, As a union public school teacher and a member of the democratic party I am absolutely outraged by your decision to endorse charter schools.

If you don’t know why you should not be supporting the same education policies as Donald Trump and Betsy Devos, then you have no business holding public office for the democratic party.

Polymath Bob Shepherd, a frequent contributor to this blog, lives in Florida. He recently received a survey from his member of Congress. He shows how deeply deceptive such a survey can be.

He writes:

I received in my email yesterday yet another transparently biased “survey” from my Flor-uh-duh Congressman Scott Franklin. It read as follows:

Do you support a Parents’ Bill of Rights to increase transparency on what children are being taught in school and how tax dollars are being spent? (yes/no)

Note that the survey DOES NOT ask,

Do you support allowing a handful of backward, provincial, undemocratic, authoritarian, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, white supremacist, Christian nationalist, fundamentalist wackjobs from among the parents in your community to decide what will be taught in your kids’ schools, what books can be in their library, who can teach, and what teachers can and cannot say? (yes/no)

These two questions are in fact equivalent.

Kevin Ward, a leader at the KIPP network of charter schools in D.C. killed himself after it was revealed that he stole $2.2 million from the schools’ account, allegedly to buy technology. He was also mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland. ,

A Maryland mayor who died by suicide this year had been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from one of the largest charter networks in the District, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors.

During his tenure as senior director of technology for KIPP DC, Kevin Ward used $2.2 million of school funds to purchase cars, a camper, sports memorabilia and property in West Virginia, prosecutors alleged in a civil forfeiture complaint filed Monday. Ward worked for the charter network from 2017 until at least July 2021, according to court records, two months after he was elected mayor of Hyattsville.

The payments, approved and arranged by Ward, were supposed to go toward laptops, tablets and other technology for children, prosecutors say. However, none of the products or services for which the school system paid were ever delivered, according to court records.

Officials at KIPP DC, which enrolls about 7,000 students across eight campuses in the District, said they found irregularities with certain technology purchases during a routine internal review in December. Leaders suspected fraud and contacted the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which launched an investigation, the school said in a statement.

The school system also conducted its own review, led by outside counsel and a team of forensics accountants, which found “this was an isolated incident conducted by a single individual who took advantage of extraordinary circumstances during the pandemic and the individual’s role as head of technology.”

The lack of transparency and oversight in charter schools enables crimes.

Carol Burris is a retired high school principal and executive director of the Network for Public Education.

It has been a bad year for the charter school industry’s trade association, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS). Their bitter campaign last spring to fight regulatory reform of the federal Charter Schools Program used the slogan “Back Off” to intimidate the President and Secretary Cardona. In the end, it was ineffective in stopping the regulations. While they claimed to achieve a few concessions, most of those related to issues that never existed in the first place. I estimate NAPCS spent upwards of one million dollars on the campaign, which included television ads.

As Republicans embrace school choice with the transparent motive of destroying community-governed public schools, Democrats have “backed off,” but not in the way NAPCS wanted. The latest poll by Ed Next, a pro-charter organization, found that only 10% of Democrats strongly support charters. Over twice as many Dems strongly oppose them. And overall support, even lukewarm support, for charters is only 38%.

And so, in desperation, NAPCS recently published a report entitled “Never Going Back” based on a poll they conducted. Its transparent purpose is to convince Democrats that not giving full-throated support to charters will cost them re-election in November.

Their poll data, however, is so profoundly flawed that it cannot be taken seriously. Frankly, it is an embarrassment for an organization that used to serve as the “go-to place” for information about charter schools.

Here is why.

First, NAPCS does not give full access to its survey questions and the possible responses from which respondents could choose.

We have no idea what the full array of survey questions was and what choices respondents had to pick from. This is critically important to allow the full expression of opinion. To illustrate, I provide a link to the full 2022 poll results presented by school choice advocacy organization, Ed Next.

While that survey has its own bias problems, it uses a full Likert scale to allow respondents to provide a nuanced response. Did NAPCS do the same? We don’t know. But given their outlier results, which I will discuss in greater detail later, it is doubtful.

Second, they oversampled parents of students in charter schools.

According to their report, 13% of respondents were charter school parents. But using their own figures from their 2021 report, Voting with Their Feet, only 7.7% of all students in either a public or charter school were charter school students. And that percentage excludes the number of students in private or homeschool settings, which means the percentage of all charter school students is likely lower than 7% of all American K-12 students. Although the percentage of families with a child in a charter school may be higher or lower than the number of students, a six percentage point difference is not credible. Such inflation, however, would undoubtedly skew responses in a pro-charter way.

It should also be noted that during this past year, public school enrollment increased from last year (although it is still down from pre-pandemic levels), and as we showed in this report, charter enrollment 2021-2022 is down; thus, the oversampling is worse than I described above.

Third, an examination of other polling data proves the fix is in.

Reliable polling results will differ by a few percentage points. For example, Ed Next’s recent poll reported that 52% of respondents give their community’s public schools a grade of A or B, while the recently released poll by PDK says that 54% give the two top grades–a record high. Results are aligned. Dramatic differences in polls taken closely in time raise alarms regarding the poll’s veracity.

Now let’s examine the NAPCS and Ed Next’s results on the question of school choice.

NAPCS reports that between 58% and 65% of parents strongly agree that parents should have school choice. Ed Next asks a nearly identical question—“Do you support or oppose school choice?” However, their percentage of parents who strongly agree is only 21%, a dramatic difference of about 40 percentage points.

Much like the school choice question, the NAPCS’ questions regarding support for charter schools are wildly out of sync with the Ed Next poll.

According to Ed Next, 51% of all parents somewhat or strongly support charter schools.

Yet NAPCS incredibly claims that 84% of parents (not interested in sending their own child to a charter school) support charter schools, and 77% of parents want more charter schools in their area. These results, in light of Ed Next’s data, defy logic.

 Much like NAPCS’s underreporting of charter schools run for profit, which we demonstrated in this report, NAPCS cherry-picks data to present charters in a favorable light. I guess one might argue that as a trade organization they are doing their job. Even so, their latest report is beyond the pale and does not deserve the attention of either the press or candidates this fall. And it further damages NAPCS’s already tarnished brand.

Former Speaker of the House in the Tennessee legislature, Glen Casada, was arrested on multiple charges of corruption. Casada was one of the leaders of the state Republican Party. His singular achievement as leader was pushing through a hotly-contested voucher bill by one vote.

FormerTennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his one-time top aide Cade Cothren have been indicted on federal charges following a months-long corruption investigation.

Both face charges ranging from money laundering to bribery and were arrested Tuesday morning, according to a Department of Justice spokesperson.

Casada and Cothren were brought into federal court in handcuffs for their initial appearance on Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty during the hearing shortly before noon….

The charges mark a new low in a stunning fall for Casada, once one of the General Assembly’s most powerful Republicans. He resigned the short-lived speakership in 2019 amid a texting scandal over sexually explicit and racist conversations with his former chief of staff, Cothren.

A grand jury officially indicted the pair on Monday, the Department of Justice said, on charges that could carry up to 20 years in prison.

Both men are charged with:

  • theft from programs receiving federal funds;
  • bribery and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds;
  • honest services wire fraud;
  • conspiracy to commit money laundering
  • using a fictitious name to carry out a fraud;
  • eight counts of money laundering.

During his time as speaker, Casada’s most notable achievement was pushing through Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher plan.

More:GOP chairman regrets voting for voucher bill, says program won’t be implemented in 2020

The bill only passed after Casada made a deal with a House member to remove his county from the legislation. The move broke a deadlock, which would have seen the bill fail.

Kathryn Joyce writes in Salon about a new “patriotic” social studies curriculum that celebrates rightwing ideology and deletes social justice from American history. The goal of the new curriculum is to fight “critical race theory” and “wokeness,” which are allegedly trying to “overthrow America.”

Just to be clear, the goal of the new curriculum is to delete the accurate and tragic facts about racism, past and present. They want teachers to stuff children’s heads with fake history. They assume that if students learn the truth about slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, segregation, redlining, and the unfinished struggle for equal rights for all, they will not have faith in America. If they learn the truth, they think, they will want to “overthrow” the government. This is almost too insane to write or repeat, but it’s happening. Crazy people want teachers of social studies and history to teach lies.

We used to teach children that it was wrong to tell lies. But these extremists want the entire education system to embrace lies. The danger is that students will watch documentaries on television and discover that everything they learned in social studies was a pack of lies. What then? Who will they want to overthrow?

Joyce writes:

In late June, a conservative education coalition called the Civics Alliance released a new set of social studies standards for K-12 schools, with the intention of promoting it as a model for states nationwide. These standards, entitled “American Birthright,” are framed as yet another corrective to supposedly “woke” public schools, where, according to Republicans, theoretical frameworks like critical race theory are only one part of a larger attack on the foundations of American democracy. 

“Too many Americans have emerged from our schools ignorant of America’s history, indifferent to liberty, filled with animus against their ancestors and their fellow Americans, and estranged from their country,” reads the introduction to “American Birthright.” (The “birthright” here refers to “freedom.”) And the fields of history and civics, it suggests, exemplify the worst of that trend. “The warping of American social studies instruction has created a corps of activists dedicated to the overthrow of America and its freedoms, larger numbers of Americans indifferent to the steady whittling away of American liberty, and many more who are so ignorant of the past they cannot use our heritage of freedom to judge contemporary debates.” 

While it claims to represent an ideologically neutral, apolitical history, the document holds that most instruction that references “diversity, equity and inclusion” or “social justice” amounts to “vocational training in progressive activism” and “actively promote[s] disaffection from our country.” It heralds Ronald Reagan as a “hero of liberty” alongside Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Its proposed lessons in contemporary U.S. history include Reagan’s revitalization of the conservative movement, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, “Executive amnesties for illegal aliens” and the “George Floyd Riots.”  

American Birthright is just one of numerous recent right-wing efforts to overhaul public K-12 curricula to align with the dictates of current conservative ideology. 

Last week, the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s Department of Education has begun holding three-day training sessions for public school teachers around the state to prepare them to implement the state’s new Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ flagship effort to create a more “patriotic” civics curriculum. The new Florida standards were created in consultation with Hillsdale College, a small Christian college that has become a guiding force on the right, and the Charles Koch-founded Bill of Rights Institute. 


These new rightwing curriculum writers want to impose the evangelical Christian worldview on America’s children. They want to force their fundamentalists ideology on everyone. Once they have gained control of the Governor’s office, they want to gain control of the schools and use them as centers of indoctrination. You may believe, with some evidence, that public schools have always taught American history with the atrocities edited out. But not even the bowdlerized textbooks were as audacious as the outright lies that the fundies are pushing now.

Mainstream textbook editors might balk at portraying Ronald Reagan as the equal of Abraham Lincoln. If so, the states that want anti-woke (i.e., unconscious) accounts of history can always purchase the texts produced by the publishers that supply Christian fundamentalist schools and Bob Jones University. The Abeka curriculum, written for homeschoolers and Christian schools, might become the official textbooks of Florida and other red states.

Who needs an educated citizenry? Apparently the educated are a threat to the indoctrinated.

Ron DeSantis is either very crazy or very mad. At a press conference, he claimed that elementary school teachers are “instructed” to encourage children to switch genders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is never one to let the facts get in the way of his latest bit of fear-mongering. The governor and possible presidential candidate tossed out another bit of rancid, Republican red meat, telling a crowd at a recent press conference that school teachers are “instructed to tell kids” to switch genders.

Governor DeSantis has insulted every teacher in the state of Florida. He hates teachers, except when he wants to arm them.

This attack must be part of his plan to turn parents against their local public schools and to create demand for vouchers. With vouchers, students can attend religious schools that openly indoctrinate their students.

Governor Kevin Stitt played fast and loose with federal COVID relief funds. He tried to convert them to vouchers, which was not their purpose. Although the federal government was slipshod in handing out Payroll Protection Program (PPP) billions, it paid attention to misuse of state relief funds.

U.S. Department of Education auditors recommended clawing back more than $650,000 in misspent federal coronavirus relief funds from Gov. Kevin Stitt and reviewing an additional $5.5 million in purchases, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.

The questioned spending came from Stitt’s Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program, which gave $1,500 grants to low-income families for educational purchases like computers and school supplies during the pandemic.

Auditors pinpointed questionable expenditures like arcade games, Christmas trees, smart watches, sofas, televisions and refrigerators totaling $652,720. The extraneous items made up more than 10% of all purchases. The $5.5 million is the total of purchases the auditors did not analyze and could contain unauthorized items.

The tally of noneducational items families purchased with program funds was higher than previously reported in a joint investigation The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch published in May.

The auditors also found poor record keeping for another relief program managed by ClassWallet called Stay in School. The program distributed tuition grants for up to $6,500 to students already attending private schools during the pandemic.

Auditors also found Oklahoma failed to follow federal guidelines for four of Stitt’s five educational relief programs, the report shows.

State officials gave the Florida-based company ClassWallet a no-bid contract to administer the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program and distribute grants to families.

Oklahoma could not provide supporting documentation that students who received grants were actually enrolled and registered at private schools, according to the audit.

Keep reading for more details.

For years, reformers celebrated the grand success of Ohio’s Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. Politicians lauded it and poured money in. ECOT’s owner reciprocated by giving generously to politicians. Governor John Kasich gave the commencement address one year; Jeb Bush did another year.

But the state auditor (who was also a commencement speaker in 2015) checked the books and the whole ECOT edifice came crashing down. Ghost students, payments to companies owned by the founder, numerous ways to profit from the state’s generosity.

ECOT still owes Ohio more than $100 million.

Theodore Decker wrote in the Columbus Dispatch:

If there is such a thing as justice in this imperfect world, investigators in a federal building somewhere in Columbus are nudging ever close to it while digging into the billion-dollar boondoggle once known as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

ECOT, at one time the state’s largest online charter school, collapsed four years ago amid claims that it had taken millions in undeserved state aid.

Allegations of wrongdoing were traded by the school and state education department. Lawsuits were filed. And about 12,000 students were left in the lurch when the school imploded.

Then ECOT fell out of the public view, overtaken by a thick layer of general dirtiness at a time when political scandal was the norm from the White House to the Statehouse.

An audit just released this week, though, found that ECOT still owes the state more than $117 million.

Ohio Auditor Keith Faber on Tuesday said the shuttered school owes $106.6 million to the state Department of Education and another $10.6 million to the state Attorney General’s office.

As others have before them, Faber’s auditors found that ECOT wasn’t entitled to all the state money it received, including some in 2016 and 2017 and none in 2018.

ECOT as an entity may be gone, but for the sake of all taxpaying Ohioans, it had better not be forgotten.

Looking at the broad sweep of the ECOT swindle, it seems unfathomable that not a single indictment has been lodged against anyone in connection with its shady operations.

The main man behind ECOT was William Lager, a man with a host of Statehouse connections who founded the school in 2000. He also operated Altair Learning Management Inc and IQ Innovations LLC, which had lucrative contracts with ECOT to provide support services. After ECOT fell apart, Attorney General Dave Yost called Lager “the principal wrongdoer“ in the case.

The series of lethal blows to Lager’s empire began in 2016, when the Department of Education demanded repayment of $80 million.

But ECOT’s attendance numbers had been disputed by the state long before that, as far back as 2006. Going back even further, to 2001 and 2002, an audit determined that the state had been overpaying the school by millions.

That ECOT’s attendance numbers were disputed so early on in its existence – and how that problem regardless went unaddressed for so long by a string of governors, legislators and state officials – are looming questions that must be the stuff of any civic-minded federal prosecutor’s dreams.

And maybe, we can hope, they still are.

Yost, while still the state auditor, excoriated ECOT in 2018 and referred his findings to both county and federal prosecutors.

The feds are a secretive lot who have a habit of neither confirming nor denying the existence of any pending investigation, but there have been a few dropped clues through the years that a probe of ECOT is afoot.

One of the biggest came in 2019, when the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed nearly 20 years of ECOT’s campaign contribution records.

More than three years have passed since that development, but the feds also don’t have a habit of rushing their investigations.

Maybe they will wrap things up without uncovering a single instance of criminal behavior.

If you possess a lick of common sense, given what we know already, that outcome would boggle the mind.

But even if that is how an investigation concludes, prosecutors at the very least should know many more details about how ECOT and its principals were permitted to run amok for so long.

Considering Ohio’s taxpayers footed the bill, we have the right to know each and every one of them.