Archives for category: Ohio

Stephen Dyer crunched the numbers and discovered that charter schools in Ohio received more than five times as much federal coronavirus relief money as public schools. Some received more than entire districts.

He wrote:

Included in the $2.3 trillion CARES Act passed in March to cope with the COVID-19 crisis was something called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER. This fund set aside $13.2 billion for K-12 schools to cope with the new normal in preparing education spaces for COVID-19. Things like enhanced cleaning, or preparing online learning material, or maximizing spaces to ensure social distancing for potential return to school were the expenses contemplated for this money.

Every school qualified, including charter schools, for this money, some of which was passed out again last week. The money was and is essential to maintain public education through this crisis.

However, only charter schools would qualify for another program included in the CARES Act – the $669 billion Payroll Protection Program (PPP) — a fund meant to keep small businesses and non-profits afloat during the economic shutdown. Public entities like school districts and local governments did not qualify for the program, which has been essential to keeping businesses from collapsing.

But charter schools, which are organized as 501c3 non-profits, did qualify.

So did their sponsoring organizations.

So did their management companies.

All tolled, a charter school could receive federal money four ways:

Through ESSER, just like every school district in the country
Directly to the school through the PPP
Indirectly through their sponsoring organization through the PPP
Indirectly through their management company (which could be non-profit or for-profit) through the PPP

This resulted in the typical Ohio charter school receiving as much as $817 in total federal CARES Act funding while the typical Ohio public school district only received $150.

The disparities are mind-boggling.

Charter schools got the same aid as public schools. Then many double-dipped and collected federal PPP funds. Then their sponsoring organization picked up PPP money. And their management company collected more.

Dyer reminds us that charter schools are not public schools.

It is unfair that charter schools – which have for years insisted they are “public schools” – be granted more opportunities to access federal funding than the schools that educate 90 percent of our children simply because of their corporate structure.

What an outrage!

Public Education Partners is the leading volunteer advocacy group for public schools in Ohio.

They issued this statement last night.

We are public education experts.

Public Education Partners (PEP) is a statewide, grassroots public education advocacy group whose mission is to preserve, protect, and strengthen Ohio’s public schools. Public Education Partners is an integral part of education policy deliberations through legislative consultation, Statehouse testimony, and community forums, among other actions. Over 90% of Ohio’s children attend public schools, and Ohio’s public-school system is the largest employer in the state.

The PEP Board is an entirely volunteer group comprised of:
active and retired educators and administrators with a collective total of over 350 years of teaching experience in Ohio’s public schools’ urban, suburban and rural districts;
public school board members;
city council members;
parents and grandparents of Ohio Public School students

PEP is a nonprofit organization that does not endorse political candidates. Public Education Partners has no paid members.

We believe district-sourced remote learning is warranted for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year across Ohio.

PEP believes that opening the school year with full-time remote learning, sourced within school districts, is the best approach to keeping children, school staff and their families safe from the public health crisis of coronavirus infection and spread.

As much as we know teachers miss face-to-face teaching and students miss their school communities and activities, PEP urges Ohio to embrace a statewide commitment to remote learning until the pandemic is brought under control. Returning to school buildings for on-site teaching and learning should be reassessed quarterly following science-based evaluations of the containment of the virus.

The recent rise in coronavirus cases in Ohio is cause for extreme caution. Subsequent to the gradual reopening of Ohio’s economy beginning in mid-May, coronavirus cases dropped 40% until mid-June; after June 21 the number of cases in Ohio has more than doubled through Sunday, July 19.

During the past four weeks, Ohio has recorded twelve of the fourteen highest daily case totals of the entire pandemic, including a record 1,679 cases Friday July 17, another 1,542 cases Saturday July 18, the third-highest number reported since March, and an additional 1,110 cases Sunday July 19.

Currently, more than 60% of Ohioans are living in counties declared a Level 3 Public Emergency: very high exposure and spread. Governor DeWine’s state orders for Level 3 counties call for limiting activities outside the home as much as possible and wearing face coverings inside all public buildings.

A full 36% of total cases throughout the four months of the pandemic have come in the past twenty-five days. The total number of confirmed and probable cases as of Sunday July 19 is 74,932. A record 9,555 Ohioans have been hospitalized, and 3,174 Ohioans have died of COVID-19.

While we all share the goal of returning to school buildings as soon as possible, experimenting with our children’s health and safety does not reflect a society where we put children first.

Given the rise in coronavirus cases, any full-time or “hybrid” plan to reopen school buildings for on-site teaching and learning puts the lives of Ohio’s children, teachers, administration, school staff, and their families at risk.

Our recommendations are rooted in Science.

School districts should reopen according to evidence-based research from scientists, public health experts, and educators. Because children’s welfare relies on schools’ decisions, neither political expediency nor profit motives should be given priority over science.

According to health experts, COVID-19 is a highly contagious, deadly disease and the role of children in the transmission of COVID-19 is currently unknown. Health experts fear it can cause potential lifelong damage in children and emphasize that the long-term consequences of coronavirus in children are unknown.

A troubling trend concerning children and the virus is the recent report that children in Florida are showing a 31.1 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 infections based on state testing data. Children in Florida are testing positive for the virus at a 20 percent higher rate than adults who have about an 11 percent positivity rate.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared that it was not confident that reopening schools in the middle of this public health crisis is the best option for children. This reversal of its earlier statement exemplifies the speed with which schools continue to receive vague and conflicting information from the medical and scientific communities.

This is a novel and evolving virus. There is emerging evidence that airborne transmission is a significant factor in the virus spread. Scientists continue to discover new symptoms, risk factors, and methods of virus transmission. The long-term effects of the disease to Covid-19 survivors are yet unknown.

Ohio is not ready to open schools.

PEP believes that in order for a county to safely reopen its school buildings, the coronavirus transmission rate needs to be scientifically demonstrated to be near zero. Our conviction is consistent with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and ongoing reports from Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) that the United States remains in the first of what will most likely be a series of viral waves.

In Ohio and most of the United States, there has been no flattening of the curve. The data cited above regarding these continuing spikes in infection rates in July is clear evidence the pandemic is not under control.

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Vietnam, and Germany, have responsibly reopened schools but did so only after they flattened the curve and drastically reduced infection rates through rapid case identification, contact tracing, and isolation.

Our recommendations are rooted in our deep commitment to the role of public schools.

Always, our number one priority in public schools is to keep our school communities safe.

The reopening of schools must be primarily about the health and safety of the learning environment, for the sake of students, faculty, support staff, and their families.

Despite exhaustive efforts throughout the state and the country to safeguard a return to school,
there is currently no tenable plan for keeping children infection-free in our schools,
there is currently no tenable plan for keeping adults infection-free in our schools.

The realities of education budgets must be considered in any discussion about this pandemic.

State funding:

Ohio’s K-12 public school budget has been slashed by $330 million as an emergency measure to cope with Ohio’s collapsing economy. Financially strapped taxpayers are not able to make up the school funding shortfall with additional school levies bringing higher property taxes for homeowners. Schools would be challenged without a pandemic to make the reduced budget work—in the midst of this global pandemic, unprecedented help is needed.

Pandemic-related expenses:
Neither the state of Ohio nor the federal government has provided adequate resources for increased health and safety precautions in school buildings.

Similarly, increased technological needs necessitated by the pandemic and increased distance learning, such as internet infrastructure and personal computers for all students, have not been met.

School buildings with aging heating and cooling systems lack the filtration features that reduce viral transmissions, and windows that do not open properly to promote air circulation will further increase the chance of pandemic spread.

Following CDC recommendations of keeping schools clean and maintaining six-foot physical distances between people, even in makeshift fashion or reduced capacity, is unrealistic. However careful teachers are to facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, students are active social beings who are used to learning and playing close together.

Teacher and staff substitution potential:

Consider some basic facts about Ohio’s teaching workforce-

25% of the teacher workforce is over the age of fifty, which by definition puts them at higher risk of suffering serious illness from Covid-19.

Most schools do not have full-time nurses in their buildings.

The anticipated medical exemptions for teachers who are immunocompromised or have high-risk health conditions will be significant in number.

A shortage of both long-term teachers and substitute teachers that pre-dates the pandemic will only make the infection rates and coverage of teacher absences more difficult for students.

Virus testing is neither universally reliable and timely, nor universally available in Ohio.

Already during the pandemic, mental health issues have escalated in a significant proportion of the population from anxiety and fear of exposure to the virus. The trauma associated with rapid unexpected change will be exacerbated by every known case of viral spread within schools.

The idea of quarantining entire groups of teachers and students upon the discovery of a confirmed case of Covid-19 is untenable, and such disruption compromises the effectiveness of on-site teaching and learning for everyone.

We categorically reject the idea that schools must reopen on behalf of the struggling economy.

PEP believes that federal mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States is the cause of the extreme economic upset that has ensued. It is neither the schools’ responsibility, nor sound policy, to attempt to remedy the situation by reopening school buildings at high risk to the school communities. The health and safety of Ohio’s students, staff, and families must remain our top priority.

Conclusion:

Ohio’s K-12 public school district communities share in the suffering caused by this coronavirus pandemic. Lives have been turned upside down, and the uncertainty of this evolving global crisis causes loss, disequilibrium, and anxiety. PEP believes that moving into the upcoming school year with calm and resolve is the best way to maximize the effectiveness of Ohio’s system of public education.

Public Education Partners continues to be an educational resource for school districts and local communities across Ohio. PEP proposes pooling our collective community resources to keep our public schools safe. Shared responsibility in creating a risk-free school reopening plan will allow us to emerge stronger together in our commitment to public education and the children and families we serve.

Sources

Home


https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/public-health-advisory-system/
https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200715/watch-pandemic-path-leads-dewine-to-heart-to-heart-talk-with-ohioans

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/507442-almost-one-third-of-florida-children-tested-are
https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/07/10/schoolreentrysafety071020
https://www.educationdive.com/news/more-robust-coronavirus-guidelines-needed-to-protect-high-risk-educators/581711/

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/olive/ODN/ColumbusDispatch/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=TCD%2F2020%2F07%2F19&entity=Ar00303&sk=E4AD08E3&mode=text
http://digital.olivesoftware.com/olive/ODN/ColumbusDispatch/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=TCD%2F2020%2F07%2F19&entity=Ar02301&sk=94FADAE9&mode=text

Click to access summary1_page_.pdf


Click to access samestormdiffboats_final.pdf


https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/07/14/covid-19-online-school-los-angeles

Once again, a state audit has uncovered waste and misspent funding at a charter chain, in this case, the Richard Allen Charter Schools in Ohio. Among other findings, the head of the school leased a Maserati with public funds.

A new state audit of the Richard Allen charter schools includes multiple findings of improperly spent money in 2016-17, and allegations of ethics violations and conflicts of interest that have triggered an ongoing special investigation.

The audit comes 15 months after the Dayton Daily News published an investigation into lack of oversight at Richard Allen, which operated four schools in 2016-17 and now has buildings on Salem Avenue in Dayton and Shuler Avenue in Hamilton.

Last year, the state attorney general’s office did not know that Michelle Thomas — whom the state sued, alleging $2.2 million in misspending — was still running the schools.Thomas, who is still the Richard Allen superintendent, on Tuesday called the audit process “a complete farce.”

School leadership “strongly objected” to the state auditor’s findings in their official response.

Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office said Tuesday that it stands by its work.

The documents released Tuesday cover the 2016-17 school year, as multiple years of Richard Allen audits have been delayed.

The audit’s findings include:

• The schools overpaid their former management company (the Institute of Management and Resources, which was also run by Thomas) by $852,618 in 2016-17 — $139,277 for Richard Allen Academy, $613,870 for Richard Allen II, $15,686 for Richard Allen III in Hamilton and $83,785 for Richard Allen Prep.

A finding for recovery seeking repayment of those funds was issued against IMR, which filed for bankruptcy protection more than two years ago, and against former treasurer Brian Adams and eight school board members: Alphonse Allen, Michael Brown, Gerald Cooper, Laquetta Cortner, Wanda Mills, Lonnie Norwood, Rhonda Ragland and Kelli Vaughn.

• The school also overpaid those eight board members by $1,110 to $1,375 each for attending meetings. The state filed findings for recovery against those eight and Adams for a total of $10,725 on that charge.

• Thomas improperly served as the superintendent of Richard Allen schools while serving as director of IMR, the school’s management company.As the Dayton Daily News reported last year, the audit shows IMR leased a 2015 Maserati for Thomas, while claiming that Thomas made the lease payments. But elsewhere in the audit, the state makes clear that IMR “failed to provide a detailed accounting” of the services it provided to the school, bringing into question how its management fees were spent.

Steven Dyer writes here of a seeming paradox:

Enrollment in Ohio’s private schools has dropped by 14% since 2008 but its funding has increased by 135% over the same period.

No paradox but a demonstration of the power of the lobbyists for private schools, who have drained money away from the state’s public schools.

He begins:

If you ever wondered what power looks like, I give you Ohio’s private school lobby. Why do I say that?

Because on what other planet, in what other universe, in what other industry would increasing investment by 135 percent over 11 years in a service that lost 14 percent of their customers over the same time be tolerated?

Because that’s exactly what’s happened here in Ohio with your money.

Here’s the data: In October 2008, the Ohio Department of Education counted about 171,319 students in Ohio’s non-public schools. Meanwhile, in October 2019, ODE reported 146,054.

That’s a 14.7 percent enrollment drop.

Meanwhile, in the 2008-2009 school year, Ohio taxpayers sent $291,530,743 to private schools through busing, administrative cost reimbursements, auxiliary services and vouchers (SEE note below on what these are). This year, that number will balloon to $685,853,844.

Stephen Dyer was in the Ohio legislature when the state’s Edchoice voucher program started as a small initiative. Since then, it has grown, despite research showing that it provides no education benefit to students while taking money away from public schools.

In this post, he announces the launch of a program to educate the public about how vouchers harm their public schools. Every dollar allotted to a voucher school is a dollar less for public schools.

As districts face huge budget cuts in the coming school years, it behooves them to defend every dollar they can so their students have all they need to succeed. That’s why the folks at Real Choice Ohio, which fought for years to help districts cope with charter school losses to great success, have started a series of workshops to help districts educate and inform parents nd their communities about the dangers of the EdChoice vouchers to their kids and other kids’ futures.

The first pillar of these conferences deals with the overall problem facing districts and the kids theiy serve. I am helping to lead this pillar, complete with Power Point presentations and I will be moderating an all-star panel on the EdChoice and voucher problem next week.

Open the post to learn how to sign up.

Stephen Dyer, who served in the Ohio legislature and is an expert in school finance, writes here that vouchers hurt poor kids and explains why. It is important to bear in mind that no state offers vouchers large enough to pay for a high-quality private school. Most voucher students attend low-quality religious schools. When anyone claims that vouchers enable poor kids to have the same choices as rich kids, they are lying.

He begins:

As has been recently reported in the Columbus Dispatch and other places, a group of public education advocates is looking to sue the state over the EdChoice voucher system — an argument I’ve been making for years.

But in the article, pro-voucher forces make a curious argument — that those seeking to undo the harm voucher do to primarily poor and special need kids are actually trying to hurt those kids.

“It’s an all-time low for government school activists to try to rip low-income and special-needs students out of their schools right now,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values.

“It’s clear that this special-interest group cares less about what’s best for kids, and more about their own narrow social agenda. Ohio’s EdChoice program is a lifeline to tens of thousands of families. It allows underprivileged and underserved children the opportunity to find an education that best meets their needs.”

First of all, it’s not “government school”; it’s “public school”, which means our school. None other than Thomas Jefferson described it this way in the Land Ordiannce of 1785. “Public school” were Jefferson’s words.

But I digress.

Here’s the problem. Yes. It’s true that poor and special needs students get vouchers and attend private schools using them. However, in order for that to happen, poor and special needs students in the public schools who don’t take the voucher are left with fewer resources for their educations because the vouchers exist.

This is why, for example, as a state legislator I always voted against the special needs voucher that eventually became the Jon Peterson Voucher program. Because it set aside 1/3 of the money the state spent on special needs students to serve 3 percent of the special needs kids. So the voucher program would leave 97 percent of special needs students with only 2/3 of the money they needed.

Let’s look at Parma with its 47% economically disadvanatged and nearly 2/3 minority populations.

Prior to losing voucher money and students, kids in Parma were slated to receive $13,663 per pupil in state and local funding for their educations. However, once all the vouchers were removed from the district, along with the students, kids in Parma only got $13,426. That’s a $236 per pupil loss in total aid, which means there wasn’t enough locally raised revenue to make up for the revenue these kids lost to the state’s voucher programs.

So while some poor and special needs students certainly got vouchers, far more poor and special needs students in Parma got $236 less than they needed because of the vouchers.

In fact, in nearly 3 of 4 Ohio school districts, every poor and special needs student got less overall funding because of the voucher…

So vouchers either directly harm poor and special needs students by cutting their overall education fudning, or force poorer communities to tax themselves at higher rates to make up for the loss of state aid from the state’s voucher programs — in clear violation of the Ohio Supreme Court’s four rulings.

Oh yeah, and in 8 of 10 Ohio school districts where private voucher providers reside, the school district outperforms the private option by an average of 27 percentage points. When privates outperform districts, it’s in 2 of 10 cases and by only 9 percentage points.

Denis Smith, former official in the Ohio State Education Departnent, describes here the commitment of the Founding Fathers of the nation and Ohio to “common schools” or public schools.

In our own day, however, radical libertarians—anarchists, in fact—have opposed the Founders’ vision and sought to replace the common schools with consumer choice. In place of the goal of equality of educational opportunity, these anarchists—such as Jeb Bush and Betsy DeVos—have promoted individual choice through privately managed charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

The anarchists are repudiating our history and traditions in their efforts to eliminate any sense of social responsibility and they do so cynically, claiming that they are doing it “for the kids” who will be abandoned as the rich get richer and the poor get vouchers are low-quality schools.

This is the incredible but true story of the improbable rise and precipitate collapse of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which sucked nearly $1 billion out of public schools in Ohio over nearly 20 years. It was written by James Pogue and published by Mother Jones in 2018.

Read this article in full.

Pogue describes ECOT’s founder William Lager as a “washed-up lobbbyisr” with big dreams, scribbling on napkins in a Waffle House in Columbus, Ohio. He succeeded in creating a virtual charter school that soon became the largest charter school in Ohio. He created related businesses to supply the goods and services for his growing business. He gave generous sums to politicians. Governor John Kasich loved ECOT. He was a commencement speaker.

So was Jeb Bush, who saw ECOT as the future of American education. He was a commencement speaker too. The state auditor gave ECOT an award for the quality of its audits.

However, as ECOT’s enrollment grew, so did its problems. Its attrition rate was staggering. Only 40% of its students graduated. Parents complained to state officials that their kids weren’t learning anything. But state officials, most of whom received donations from Lager, didn’t listen.

Classes began in September 2000, and by the end of the school year ECOT had 3,000 students and had become the state’s largest charter, bigger than many of Ohio’s public school districts, according to Lager. “We were given five months from the day that our charter was approved to the first day of school,” he wrote. “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t plan a wedding in that period of time (and given my track record with marriages, probably shouldn’t!).”

It soon became obvious there were problems. Jim Petro, then the state auditor, issued a brutal assessment of the school’s first year, finding that “ECOT did not have any written policies or procedures for enrolling students,” that it exhibited an “inability to provide computers to students at the beginning of the school year,” and that in two months there were “106 instances in which the reported student was either less than 5 years old or greater than 21 years old, contrary to legislated age requirements.” It also found that the school received almost $1 million in the month of September 2000 as payment for the students it claimed to be educating, although that month “only 7 students logged-in to one of the available computer-based instruction systems.” In other words, during the first month of operations, only about 1 of every 300 ECOT students managed to access Lager’s revolutionary new online education program.

Astonishingly, and despite the auditor’s conclusion that the school was paid an additional $1 million the following month for students it couldn’t account for, ECOT was allowed to carry on…

By 2006, ECOT was growing into a behemoth, and Lager was growing rich. His private companies eventually billed ECOT for at least $153 million, most of it taxpayer dollars. These companies were largely insulated from state oversight. In 2002, a law put forth by Republican legislators had given oversight authority of certain charter schools to chartering agencies, like Lucas County ESC, which were left largely responsible for monitoring the schools that paid them. Charter management companies like Altair weren’t—and still aren’t—required to report what percentage of the state funds they received was paid out in individual salaries. But two early state audits show that at least in the first two years of ECOT’s operation, more than $1 million in fees paid to Altair went to Lager personally.

He began to pour that money into politics, donating $1.9 million over the course of 18 years, mostly to Republican candidates. Some high-level ECOT or Altair employees also frequently donated to pro-charter candidates, according to one former ECOT administrator and state records. “I was bothered by it, to a degree, but I stayed out of the politics and just did my job,” he said. “That was what I was getting paid for, and I didn’t care about getting involved with Mr. Lager or any of that other stuff.”

In one instance reported by the Akron Beacon Journal in 2006, Lager gave $10,000 over a four-day period to the gubernatorial campaign of the former auditor, Jim Petro, who had since been elected as the state’s attorney general. Four ECOT or Altair employees, along with their spouses, each donated $5,000 to Petro during the same four-day span—totaling at least $50,000 from ECOT and Altair staff during a primary campaign. One couple that contributed $24,500 had never donated to a state or federal campaign until that year. Petro lost but remained the attorney general. And soon, despite his lacerating assessment of ECOT’s first year, he gave the commencement address at the school’s 2006 graduation ceremony…

Across the country, many state legislatures were increasingly permissive of charter schools, and their enrollments were skyrocketing. From 2006 to 2016, they would nearly triple their enrollments nationwide, from 1.2 million students to 3.1 million. In Ohio, the system had grown from almost nothing to 70,000 students in just 10 years, and the charter lobby was becoming one of the most influential in the state. “There were a lot of powerful lobbies in Columbus,” Stephen Dyer, who was elected to the Ohio House in 2006, told me. “You had coal, you had general energy companies, you had nursing homes. I never saw any sector get everything they wanted except charters.”

Amid the national wave that overturned the GOP majority in 2006, Ted Strickland, a Democrat who wanted to get a handle on charters, was elected as Ohio’s first Democratic governor in 25 years. But a sudden flood of almost $900,000 in campaign cash from a group headed by Betsy DeVos, who long before becoming Trump’s education secretary was active in pushing the most radical approaches to school deregulation, helped to keep Ohio’s House of Representatives in Republican hands. Over the four years of Strickland’s tenure, charter industry allies in the Legislature blocked many of the governor’s attempts. “I don’t think all political contributions are efforts to do something nefarious,” Strickland told me. “But in this case, I think it was so obvious that these schools were so bad and were failing and had such lax oversight. I cannot give the Republican Legislature the benefit of the doubt and say that they did not know.”

“When you have a situation where public moneys are used to enrich individuals,” he added, “who then in turn support the politicians that support the policies that enrich them—it may not be illegal, but I think that fits the definition of corruption…”

In June 2010, Jeb Bush flew to Columbus to give the commencement speech at ECOT’s graduation. It was just one among several efforts to boost Lager’s business. The next year, Bush would push for increased funds for e-schooling in Ohio—never mind that ECOT’s test scores were some of the worst in the state, worse than those in all but 14 of 609 Ohio school districts. And in the months following his commencement address, Bush would convene a Digital Learning Council with support from major tech companies including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The council—which Lager sat on—contributed to laws in Florida, Utah, and Wisconsin that helped steer public money to online education companies. Nationwide, online charters would soon educate an estimated 200,000 students a year, even as one study of their performance compared the educational shortfalls they produced to a student losing “72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math” out of a normal school year. “The US education system currently operates as an eight-track tape in an iPod world,” Bush said, after Gov. John Kasich signed a 2011 bill encouraging e-learning in the state. “Ohio is on a path to transform education for the 21st century…”

“You will have had no other speaker more committed to the ECOT idea than Governor Kasich,” Lager told the crowd as he introduced the governor in 2011. “With his help, we see nothing but clear sailing.”

ECOT was a huge financial success but an educational failure. Students were counted as enrolled if they logged in for only one minute in a day.

Students, in fact, weren’t required to participate in online classroom learning at all, according to another ECOT official’s testimony regarding the 2015-16 school year. (Educational requirements could be satisfied through field trips or homework.)…

Only in recent months [2018] have Ohio politicians begun to distance themselves from the school. Last August, the state Republican Party returned $38,000 in donations from Lager and another $38,000 from his lieutenant at Altair, Melissa Vasil. Yost put Lager on warning in January by publicly suggesting that the ECOT founder, who over the years has purchased a $3.7 million home in Key West, Florida, along with a lakeside retreat and properties around Columbus, could be expected to personally repay some of the tens of millions of dollars ECOT owes the state. A few days later, a framed photo of Yost was reportedly removed without explanation from the lobby at ECOT’s headquarters.

“I don’t think there’s any conscionable reason why Lager should make the profits that he makes off of educating kids in public schools,” a former ECOT administrator told me. He defended his accomplishments at ECOT and said that for many children he worked with, online schooling really was the best option—safer for kids who had been bullied or threatened by gangs, and more flexible for students whose families might be transient.

But those successes came at the cost of more than $1 billion in public funding, much of it diverted from better performing Ohio schools, and at least 15 percent of that money—about $150 million—was paid to Lager’s private companies, subject to almost zero oversight or transparency. In 2017, Columbus’ public schools posted a four-year graduation rate of 74 percent. ECOT’s was 40 percent. Nevertheless, that year Columbus schools sacrificed $11 million in funding—about 3 percent of their total state allocation—to ECOT.

In January 2018, ECOT collapsed, owing the state $80 million.

Betsy DeVos is still promoting virtual charters like ECOT, where students learn nothing.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic, virtual charters are promoting their inferior product to gullible parents.

Perhaps you recall that Republicans used to favor local control of public schools by elected boards. That time is now gone, since Republicans bought into the idea of privatization of public funds. Now they support state takeovers, even though there is no evidence that state takeovers have ever been successful, and a good deal of evidence (see the Michigan “Education Achievement Authority” and the Tennessee “Achievement School District”) that they have failed.

In Ohio, as Bill Phillis reports here, the state Supreme Court just approved a state takeover of school districts where test scores are low.

Ohio Supreme Court strikes a major blow to local community control of school districts and the rule of law

On May 13 the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the egregious HB 70 of the 131st General Assembly. HB 70 removes the control of certain school district from the elected board of education to an appointed entity. HB 70 was enacted in a short timeframe in violation of Article II section 15(c) which requires, “Every bill shall be considered by each house on three different days, unless two-thirds of the members elected to the house in which it is pending suspend this requirement, and every individual consideration of a bill or action suspending the requirement shall be recorded in the journal of the respective house.” Additionally, the enactment of HB 70 violated Article II section 15(d) which requires that “No bill shall contain more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.”

HB 70, as introduced, provided for wraparound services as a means to help low-performing districts to improve student outcomes. The amendment, which was void of public input and the opportunity for public input, is totally antithetical to the purpose of the original bill.

Justice Donnelly, in a dissent, clearly shows how the legislature violated the Constitution. The dissent provided a chronology of events that led to the unlawful enactment of HB 70.

Laura Chapman reports on budget cuts to schools in Ohio, which hurt public schools but protect charters and vouchers.

She writes:

Bad news from Ohio again. Not quite Lord of the Flies (fiction or non-fiction truth)

This week, Governor DeWine is proposing $355 million in K-12 education cuts with $300 million coming out of foundation aid to local school districts from the current state budget that expires in July.

While public education accounts for about 42% of state expenditures, it will absorb about 45.8% of the loss.

He has not asked private schools that take public funds to sacrifice anything. This proposed cut will exacerbate the underfunding of public schools in favor of EdChoice vouchers that raid public school dollars for private schools.

In addition public school funds should not be supporting charter schools that are the pet project of billionaires who think they are entitled to raid public dollars for their preferred undemocratic system of education.

This proposed cut will shift a large portion of public school funding from the state to local districts. I have not looked at all of DeWine’s proposed budget cuts but these sure look like they are designed to hit public schools and favor private schools as well as charters schools that have declared they are eligible for small business loans, these likely to be foregiven.

If you are in Ohio, please open the link below and follow-up with emails to the people who are planning for this cut to be passed well before school starts. Start with this link:

https://mailchi.mp/ac594ace4a33/action-alert-355-million-in-education-cuts-in-ohio?e=ba8653e702