Archives for category: Ohio

One of the biggest scams in the charter industry is the virtual charter. Every study shows that they have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. A study by CREDO concluded that going to a virtual charter was almost like not going to school at all. The virtual charter gives the students a computer; the students logs on (or doesn’t); and a teacher monitors a large number of screens. For that service, the company providing the computer and the teacher is paid full state tuition. It is a very lucrative business.

In Ohio, where charter fraud is rife, the biggest charter of all is ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. The owner, William Lager, gives generously to elected officials. Until now, they have treated him kindly, enabling his school to be unaccountable. This year, however, in response to the general stench around the Ohio charter industry, the state audited ECOT and discovered that many students never logged on. They asked for a refund of $65 million. ECOT went to court to block the state action. It insisted it had no obligation to ensure that students actually attended the classes it made available. The court ruled against ECOT

ECOT appealed the lower court judgment. The appeals court rejected ECOT’s appeal. 

ECOT, Ohio’s largest online school, has lost a court appeal that would have blocked the state from trying to “claw back” as much as $65 million the school received last year, while e-schools across Ohio are asking state legislators to protect their funding.

The schools are asking state legislators to add a “hold harmless” provision to another bill in the next few weeks to stop the state from using attendance reviews of the schools to take millions of dollars of state funding away from them.

Nine other online charter schools could also have to return portions of their state funding after they could not meet new state expectations for documenting how many students they have taking classes.

House Education Committee Chairman Andrew Brenner said schools have asked to be excused from penalties while legislators debate a better way to fund online schools next year.

“There’s been a couple of discussions, but nothing is concrete,” said Brenner, a Powell Republican..

“This is an issue that’s more widespread than just ECOT,” he added. “This impacts a ton of schools. It something we’ve got to have a good conversation on.”

Sounds like Mr. Brenner is looking for a way to enable ECOT to evade accountability.

A. J. Wagner formally resigned as a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, due to family circumstances.


He wrote  this letter of advice to his colleagues.


He said that he “joined the Board with a hope of moving the needle on programming for children in poverty from ages zero to three. I leave the Board having accomplished nothing in that regard. So, I leave with one more articulation of recommendations for what can be done to improve education in Ohio.” He has a list of recommendations that are based on research and commonsense. Every state and local school board member should read his recommendations.


I hope his colleagues take his letter and proposals to heart. Ohio has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on low-performing charters and disastrous cyber charters, allowing their public schools to be negatively impacted and underfunded. Mr. Wagner has sound ideas about how to improve education in Ohio.

William Lager owns the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which according to the New York Times, has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. ECOT is a virtual charter school, where students take instruction online. The state recently reacted to public criticism and decided to audit ECOT. It found that the school’s enrollment was vastly overstated, which meant that ECOT was receiving millions of dollars each year for nothing. ECOT went to court and argued that the state had no right to audit participation rates (attendance), but the court did not agree. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, Lager will have to refund $60 million to the state.

Since 2000, ECOT has given $2.1 million in campaign contributions. Since 2010, 99% of Lager’s contributions have gone to Republican legislators. In the brief period when Democrats controlled the House, Lager gave them nearly $200,000. Since 2000, ECOT has received nearly $1 billion in state funds for its perennially failing school.

Think of it: an investment of only $2.1 million in campaign contributions generates nearly $1 billion in state funding for a low-performing school. What a bargain!

The state’s grades for school districts in Ohio were released, and they were mostly awful. The idea for giving letter grades originated with Jeb Bush, and no one has ever produced an iota of evidence that they lead to school improvement although they surely produce teaching to the test and misplaced goals.

Charter school grades were even worse than public schools. 75% of charter schools ranked D or F. Two-thirds of charters ranked F, compared to 25% of public school districts. I don’t think this is what Jeb Bush had in mind. More than half of public school districts rated A, B, or C.

Two experienced superintendents decried the farce of school grades,  which are a holy grail to those on the right who are intent on defaming public schools and pushing privatization. 
But, not surprisingly, the spokesman for the right wing Thomas B. Fordham Institute (Where I was a founding member many years ago) defended the grades and said they probably show how bad the public schools are. The spokesman has a career in the privatization movement, but no experience as a teacher,  principal, superintendent. 

Why is a proponent of school choice on the reporter’s speed dial? Whom should the public believe about the validity of school grades? Working educators or lobbyists for privatization?

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said to be a progressive worked out a deal where his state will get $71 million in federal funds, with oversight by the charter-loving US Department of Education. As readers of this blog know, Ohio has large numbers of low-performing charters and some of the worst for-profit charters in the nation.

“Sen. Brown said various measurements will be used in oversight by DOE to monitor how the money is spent. If Ohio doe not satisfactorily comply with the conditions, he said federal officials can suspend or terminate the grant. “They [DOE] know a lot more now than before,” he said, adding, “The days of the federal government throwing money around is over.”

And here is the oversight entrusted to John King:

ED will require the Ohio Department of Education to:

Hire an ED-approved independent monitor to oversee the Ohio Department of Education’s implementation of the special conditions ED has placed on its grant;

Create a database that indicates public charter schools’ academic, operation, and financial performance;

Submit expenditure documentation to ED for review and receive approval for all withdrawals from the grant account;

Submit semi-annual budgets to ED for review and approval;

Submit to ED and post publicly semi-annual financial reports related to the use of the grant; and

Form a Grant Implementation Advisory committee of parents, teachers, and community members to create transparency.

The Columbus Dispatch reported the judge’s ruling against ECOT, which is fighting to block accountability and transparency for use of public funds.

“A judge today denied a request by the state’s largest online charter school to stop the state from requiring that it produce attendance records to justify the $106 million it got last year in state funding.

“Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French ruled in favor of the Ohio Department of Education, rejecting a preliminary injunction request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow that would have immediately blocked the state from using log-in records and other data to determine how many full-time students actually attend the school

“The department has already completed its attendance audit on ECOT for last school year. The ruling means ECOT could be forced to repay tens of millions of dollars based on recent state calculations that its enrollment numbers last year were heavily inflated.

“French wrote that ECOT does not have a substantial likelihood of success on any of its claims in the lawsuit. A 2003 funding agreement at the heart of ECOT’s argument against the state was only meant to apply for the 2002 and 2003 funding reviews, French said.

“Enforcing an outdated 2003 agreement would be in violation of public policy,” French wrote. “The Court finds that if the funding agreement were interpreted in the manner that ECOT suggests, to require the state to continue paying hundreds of millions of dollars per year, without any ability to determine whether students are in fact participating in any curriculum at ECOT at all” would violate public policy.

“The ruling comes four days after the Department of Education informed ECOT that, based on its attendance audit, the district’s reported enrollment last year was inflated by 143 percent. Instead of the 15,322 full-time students that ECOT was paid for, the department said that based on log-in durations and other data provided by the school, the actual number is 6,313.”

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) lost in court today! This is an e-charter owned and run for profit by William Lager, who is a big donor to the Ohio GOP. The school has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation but has never been held accountable for its poor performance.

Here is the story from Stephen Dyer of Ohio Innovation.

“Word came out a few minutes ago that ECOT’s lawsuit has failed. The school, which claimed to be the nation’s largest, now may have to repay Ohio taxpayers more than $60 million of the $109 million it received last year because the state determined ECOT could only verify it had 40 percent of the 15,000 plus kids it claimed. The state still pays ECOT so much per pupil that even with this cut(and including all of its revenue streams), ECOT can still clear as much as 22 percent profit after paying all of its staff.

“Now I know ECOT will use every maneuver to overturn this ruling from Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French. There will be appeals.

“But what a day this is for Ohio’s kids and taxpayers.

“Since Lager opened ECOT in 2001, Ohio’s taxpayers have sent the school $903 million. If the state’s recent determination that ECOT was overpaid by 60 percent last year were applied over the last 15 years, Ohio taxpayers have sent about $540 million for kids that ECOT never really had. That’s a staggering figure. And it’s not outrageous to make that assumption because ECOT was nailed by State Auditor Jim Petro during its first year of operation for the exact same thing.

“And what have we received for that? Certainly not high-quality education. ECOT earned only Fs on the new state report card — something it also achieved two years ago under the less difficult state report card regime.”

Denis Smith used to work in the Ohio Department of Education charter office, and he knows lots about where various skeletons are hidden.

Did you know that charter authorizers are paid 3% of the proceeds for every charter school they authorize to open? That can amount to quite a lot of money, and it also creates an incentive for the authorizer to overlook problems. Why would he want to disturb the goose that is laying golden eggs for his company?

Denis describes a recent legislative hearing where these issues were discussed. Charter allies in the legislature made it clear that they don’t want to micromanage their friends, or for that matter, give them any responsibility, like dotting i’s and crossing t’s.

Legislators want charters to collect public money without oversight. Charter authorizers don’t want oversight. Charters don’t want oversight.

You can call that close to a consensus that public money should be handed over to the charters without any further delay or questions.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is one of the most profitable charter schools in the nation. Its owner, William Lager, is one of the biggest donors to the Republican party in Ohio. ECOT offers K-12 instruction online and is paid full state tuition for every student. Most of this money is deducted from the funding of the local school district where each student lives. ECOT has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. According to the New York Times, in the 2014 fiscal year, the last year for which federal tax filings were available, the school paid the companies associated with Mr. Lager nearly $23 million, or about one-fifth of the nearly $115 million in government funds it took in.

The state recently asked ECOT to demonstrate that its students are actually logging on and participating in instruction. The issue is in court because ECOT says that the state is overstepping its bounds and the company has no obligation to demonstrate that its students participate even for a minute a day.

Here is the story.

The state’s fight over whether the giant ECOT online school deserves the $106 million in state money it receives hit the courtroom today, with ECOT lawyers saying the state is using rules that are “unenforceable” and the state saying the school’s objections are “absurd.”

The school and Ohio Department of Education are expected to be before Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer French for the next three days to present their differing views on a crucial issue: Whether online schools have to show that students actually participate in their online classes, or just that the schools provide classes.

In opening arguments this morning, lawyer Marion Little said state rules and a 2003 contract with ODE only require the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow to prove that students are enrolled, not that they are engaged in their lessons.

Little said that e-school funding is set by enrollment but the state this year has tried to “merge” the “distinct” and separate ideas of participation with enrollment to audit the school and put its funding at risk.

The original idea of charter schools, as espoused not by Albert Shanker but by people like Chester Finn Jr., was a deal: Autonomy in exchange for accountability.

ECOT offers a different deal: Autonomy without accountability. Just give us the money and trust us.

Valerie Strauss found many ironies in Donald Trump’s decision about where to give his big education policy speech.

To begin with, he parroted Jeb Bush’s line about public schools as a government monopoly. He mocked him in the debates, now he steals his lines.

Next, he made his speech in Ohio, which has been celebrated for the public exposure of numerous charter school scandals. The biggest charter operators have the worst schools and donate the most money to Republican politicians.

And amazingly, he chose a for-profit charter as his venue, which recently was given an F by the state for poor student growth.

Another irony: the absurd idea of rating schools with a humiliating letter grade was devised by none other than “low energy” Jeb Bush, who has not endorsed Trump.