Archives for category: Ohio

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.

Stephen Dyer said that the for-profit charter school in Cleveland where Donald Trump spoke is a failing school, based on its letter grades. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is an official authorizer of charters in Ohio (though not this one), said that Dyer was wrong. As you may know, the A-F report card idea was invented by Jeb Bush in Florida and has spread to accountability-obsessed states like Ohio. It tends to be an accurate measure of family income. Dyer points out that Fordham was gung-ho to adopt the A-F grades, but doesn’t like them so much now. Ron Packard, the owner of the charter in Cleveland, was previously CEO at the online charter corporation K12, where he was paid $5 million annually. His background is McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. K12 Inc. gets bad reviews for its terrible education record, even from charter advocates.

Dyer responds here:

As you know, Donald Trump came to Cleveland to visit a charter school and announce a massive federal infusion of dollars for school choice programs. Regardless of the wisdom of that plan, I found it curious that he would visit a school with an F grade from the state on student growth — considered the most important metric by many charter school advocates. So I called the grade “failing” in several news accounts.

The Fordham Insitute took me to task for that today. So I felt I needed to respond bceause I actually agree that school performance needs more nuanced measures than the simple test regime we have today. But I found it amazing that Fordham, which pushed for Ohio to go to an A-F report card system because it would give parenhts more transparency about how their schools performed so they could then choose whether a charter would be a better option, is now saying that the F grade at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy doesn’t actually mean it’s failing. Especially given that Fordham said the drop in grades this year (due to PARCC and Common Core) gave Ohioans a more accurate assessment of how kids are “actually doing.”

Here’s my response:

Best Regards,

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Stephen Dyer wonders why Donald Trump chose to visit one of Cleveland’s lowest performing charter schools today.

He finds it odd because Cleveland has some high-performing charter schools.

So why would Trump visit a school with an F in the most important performance metric when he had plenty of much higher performing options? Perhaps it’s because the school he’s visiting is run by a for-profit company called Accel Schools Ohio. Accel is an imprint of Pansophic — a charter school firm started by K12, Inc. founder Ron Packard. Packard has an infamous reputation for political gamesmanship.

Ah! The truth is out! The chairman of the Education Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives said that the reason he supports charter schools in urban districts is because it saves money!

Bill Phillis, former deputy commissioner of education in Ohio, now retired, writes:

Chairman of the Education Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives: “…reducing the cost of educating urban kids is the reason I support charter schools.”

The above statement was made during a workshop session at the State Auditor’s August 11 & 12 Charter School Summit.

So charter schooling is cheaper, says Mr. Legislator. He is saying the investment required to deal with the problems of urban education can be averted by merely promoting charters.

The promoters of the charter private business enterprise promised better educational opportunities and results on less funds. This pledge was appealing to policymakers who were blind to the need for additional resources to educate children in poverty zip codes.

The charter industry is preying on and using the most vulnerable children and parents. Charter school opportunities and results, in general, are grossly inferior to those inherent in the common schools. The higher cost of educating children living in poverty zip codes has been recognized for many decades. Several state and federal compensatory programs have been implemented to help address the poverty issue. But policymakers have adopted choice, a tactic to allow some students to escape the traditional school system, instead of addressing the actual additional cost of educating children of poverty.

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 ||

The State Auditor is supposed to be the independent, disinterested official who guards the public interest. Ohio has what may be the most wasteful, politically influenced, and low-performing charter industry in the nation. And as you will see in the following post by Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity & Adequacy Coalition, no one is protecting the public interest. In a state where hundreds of millions of dollars have been squandered on failed charters, law enforcement should be investigating state officials.

“Day 2 (August 12) of Charter School Summit-State Auditor: “We in the charter movement must speak with one voice”

“The clear message from the State Auditor to the charter school audience on August 12 was that the charter industry must speak with one voice to get more funding for operations and facilities. He noted that traditional public school advocates speak with one voice. Since when?

“While interviewing some high performing charter school students, the Auditor orchestrated a line of questioning which left the impression that charter students are courageous pioneers in a movement that is preferred to the traditional public system. Meanwhile, notwithstanding that state officials have failed to maintain a thorough and efficient system of common schools, traditional schools outperform the charter industry.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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Bill Phillis, onetime state deputy superintendent of instruction in Ohio, now director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, raises an important question: What becomes of the Gulen charter chain of about 150 charters if the U.S. State Department decides to extradite Imam Fethullah Gulen? The Turkish government blames Gulen’s followers for the coup that sought to overturn the government. The Turkish government now blames the U.S. for sheltering Gulen. Turkey has resumed an alliance with Russia because of our refusal to turn Gulen over.

The decision the White House makes on the request of the Turkish government to extradite Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen (the U.S. charter school magnate) will likely affect the future of the 150 Gulen, tax-funded charter schools, 19 of which are in Ohio
The August 3 New York Times article-Turks can agree on one thing: U. S. was behind failed coup- indicates that pressure is mounting for the U.S. to send Gulen home to Turkey. Since the U.S. government has denied the extradition request multiple times, the Turks opine that the U.S. is supporting the coup attempt by the Gulenists in Turkey.

Disentanglement of the international politics associated with the recent coup attempt is beyond the scope of this post. But it is appropriate to ask a fundamental question to state officials and the sponsors of Gulen charters: Should a chain of charters, spawned and operated by members of the Gulen movement, continue to be supported by tax funds?

In dealing with this sensitive issue, the White House could send a clear message to Turkey by forbidding public funding of Gulen charters. Inasmuch as it has been substantiated that some of the funds paid to Gulen charters gravitates to the Gulen movement, state and federal officials should arrange for a complete investigation of the connection between the Gulen movement and the Gulen charters.

The question remains: Why are taxpayers allowing foreign nationals to take control of their neighborhood public schools?

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition writes about the results of an investigation conducted by the Ohio Department of Education.

ECOT is the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It is a for-profit online virtual school. It has one of the lowest graduation rates of any school in the nation. Its owner, William Lager, is one of the biggest campaign contributors to Republicans in Ohio.

ECOT’s waste felt at the school district level

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has determined that a sample of ECOT students participate, on the average, one hour per day-one fifth of the time required. If that holds true of ECOT’s enrollment, of the $108 million ECOT extracted from school districts in FY 2016, a total of more than $80 million was collected for time students were not participating in instruction.

589 districts are suffering funding deductions flowing to ECOT. On the average, the deduction is $183,175 per district. Columbus Public Schools lost $11,618,822 to ECOT at the high end and Indian Creek lost $177 last school year.

The ECOT scheme drains scarce resources from school districts–and for what? Student participation, an average for 20% of the time required. Hence, for a district like Northridge Local in Licking County, over $100,000 of its $154,000 flows to ECOT for time students are not participating.

The district-by-district deduction data should be of concern to school officials and their constituents.

Our friend Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition posted the following news:

On June 29 Geneva Area City Schools adopted a resolution to invoice the state for charter school deductions

School Treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message and the Board’s resolution were forwarded to over 30 public officials and media persons. The spreadsheet should be of particular interest.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

This is treasurer Kevin Lillie’s message:

At the regular meeting of the Geneva Area City Board of Education on June 29, 2016, the Board unanimously approved a Resolution to invoice the State of Ohio through the Ohio Department of Education for past charter school deductions consisting of state and local funding.  Please see the attached Resolution and invoice.  Over the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.  What originally started as a five-year experiment, which was never completed or never evaluated for effectiveness, has turned into a monster at a tremendous waste of taxpayer funds and irreparable harm to Ohio’s school children.  Many of these charter schools are for-profit ventures, draining money from Ohio to outside individuals and greedy corporations whose only motive is to line their pockets with easy cash.  These charter schools lack oversight and regulation and are wrought with fraud and corruption.  How does one explain away the NCAA not accepting transcripts form a particular online charter school, or FBI raids on a chain of charters operated by a Turkish Islamic cleric which imports teachers from Turkey instead of hiring Ohio citizens (only a small part of the problems with these particular charters), or a Dayton-area charter school spending $4,167 per pupil to rent the building it uses from a sister company?  It is for these reasons that the Geneva Area City Board of Education has chosen to invoice the State of Ohio and ODE for the full amount of the charter school deductions.

These charter school deductions have drained needed funds from our District and districts all over Ohio.  These deductions along with state funding reductions over the past seven years have forced many districts like ours to cut teachers and support staff, increase class sizes, reduce course offerings, cut some student activity groups and sports, and institute pay to participate fees to keep other sports.  Meanwhile, much of the taxpayers’ money taken from our District and sent to charter schools is being used for fraudulent advertising, high administration salaries, and campaign contributions.  It is time to clean up the fraud and corruption in charters and stop wasting taxpayer funds.

Also attached are spreadsheets comparing the performance Geneva Area City Schools to the charter schools receiving our resident students.  I hope you will take the time to read the resolution and invoice and view the charter school comparisons.


Kevin Lillie, Treasurer/CFO
Geneva Area City Schools
135 S. Eagle St.
Geneva, OH 44041
Ph:  440-415-9304
Fax:  440-466-0908

Please note new email address:  

Here is the Board’s resolution.

I can’t copy and paste the Board’s resolution. Please read it. It is powerful.

It makes clear that Ohio’s charters have made the state the “laughing stock of the nation” and that the state’s charters perform below public schools and are rife with corruption and fraud.

This is one impressive school board!