Archives for category: Ohio

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.

Sincerely, 
  

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

Please note new email address:  kevin.lillie@genevaschools.org  

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!

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, one of the nation’s leading advocates for school choice, commissioned a study of Ohio’s voucher program. To what must have been their surprise and disappointment, the study concluded that students in voucher schools perform worse than students in public schools.

I was a founding member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation–now the Fordham Institute–and I will affirm that TBF told unpleasant truths, even to its own disadvantage and the disadvantage of its causes. I left the board in 2009, after I fell away from choice, competition, and accountability as answers to the needs of America’s students.

This is a study that does TBF proud, even though it disproves its foundational belief in school choice.

Here are the key findings:

There are now some 18,000 students receiving publicly funded vouchers in Ohio.

The voucher students are overwhelmingly low-income and minority, but somewhat higher-achieving and less economically disadvantaged than students who were eligible for vouchers but chose not to use them.

The public school students improved their performance, and the study attributes their improvement to the voucher program that they did not enroll in.

The effects: “The students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools. Only voucher students assigned to relatively high-performing EdChoice eligible public schools could be credibly studied.”

The study was led by Dr. David Figlio of Northwestern University.

This study adds to the mountain of evidence that public schools in Ohio outperform the charter sector and the voucher sector. Does anyone think that policymakers and legislators in Ohio will do anything to support their much-maligned public schools?

Today is beat up on ECOT day. It makes an easy target. Its owner William Lager rakes in tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers, which he profits from, and he uses a small portion of the profits to reward his benefactors in the Republican party of Ohio. Meanwhile his school has truly horrible results, but accountability is not for him! He has really good friends who take care of his operation.

But it is even worse than it appears.

Bill Phillis, a former deputy commissioner of education in Ohio (and now in his 80s, fighting to restore integrity to education), posted this newsletter on his Ohio Equity and Adequacy blog:

ECOT: If we can’t rig enrollment data and make staggering profits, we will have to close

In an early year of ECOT’s operation, this money-making machine was required to pay back a million dollars to rectify enrollment/student participation issues. In the context of the return of funds gained illegally, an Ohio Department of Education (ODE) person signed an agreement that ECOT would only be required to offer educational programming in order to receive funds, whether or not enrollees participated.

Now that ODE is in the process of auditing student participation, ECOT is protesting by legal action and engaging in political tactics to stir up their supporters. Their bevy of highly paid lobbyists is on high alert.

Some observations:

ECOT is demonstrating a high level of brazen behavior in protesting an audit of their suspicious enrollment/student participation practices. Possibly they believe their record of huge campaign contributions will give them cover.

The ODE person who signed a contract that has allowed ECOT to collect funds for students not participating should be investigated and prosecuted.

The provision of online programming ECOT-style can’t possibly cost as much as ECOT receives per student. The profit certainly must be really huge.

Personnel in districts losing students to the failed ECOT machine should be outraged and make every attempt to recover those students.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Do you want to know the definition of BRAZEN? Are how about chutzpah?

ECOT is suing the state to prevent it from auditing whether students log in and receive instruction. ECOT thinks it should be paid whether students log in for a minute or not at all.

Accountability is only for the little people, to paraphrase the billionaire Leona Helmsley. (She said “taxes are only for the little people,” but she was wrong. She went to jail.)

Denis Smith worked in the Ohio charter school office, and he saw the combustible mix of deregulation, money, and politics. This is a combination sure to produce scandal. And it has.

Smith reports here on the biggest scandal: the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). It has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, according to the New York Times. It is a for-profit virtual charter. Its owner William Lager is one of the state’s major donors to the Republican Party. His patrons protect him from scrutiny or accountability.

One of the supporters of ECOT is Andrew Brenner, chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee. He despises public schools.

Brenner has said previously that “public education is socialism.” But if we follow the Chairman’s logic (hmm, I thought only well-known socialists and collectivists like Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev were referred to as Chairman), we find illogic, viz., the Chairman of the Education Committee seems very much opposed to public education.

But the illogic gets worse.

Profits generated from the public funds received by charter school operators like Lager and White Hat Management’s David Brennan flow to their favorite Republican politicians in the form of contributions. These profits, snared by privately operated management companies with hand-picked, unelected boards not subject to full public transparency and exempt from 150 sections of state law, ultimately wind their way to committee chairs in the legislature as well as more senior leadership in the House and Senate.

To Chairman Brenner, this is capitalism at work. And capitalism is the very opposite of socialism, right? Yes socialism, as evidenced by the operation of public school districts who raise their revenue from the taxation of local property and who are subject to full legal transparency and accountability, governed by a group of citizens elected by qualified voters in the community where they operate. These are community schools, the real public schools. Contrast that with charter schools, where, unlike public schools, there is no requirement for board members to be qualified voters, viz. citizens.

I wonder why Republicans aren’t in favor of requiring proof of citizenship for charter school board members, as they are for some voters. Hmmm.

Public money for private purposes.

I am sending a contribution to Meryl Johnson, an experienced educator who is running for the Ohio State Board of Education.

I met Meryl when I was in Cleveland. She is an active member of the Network for Public Education. She is not in the pocket of the corporate elites.

She is dedicated to children and public schools. Having worked in Cleveland, where almost every child is classified by the government as living in poverty, she has a keen sense of what children need: Not charter schools, not vouchers, not testing, but love and care and dedicated teachers.

This is how you can help her too:

Meryl’s friends are holding a fundraiser for her on July 16 in Cleveland Heights:

SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2016

4:00 p.m.—7:00 p.m.

AT THE HOME OF

Dr. Mary E. Rice
3362 Monticello Blvd. Cleveland Heights

Contribution Levels: ______$35 _____$50 ______$100 ______$250 $_____other

___Yes, I can attend! Enclosed is my check for $_________.

___Unfortunately, I cannot attend. Please accept my contribution of $_________ in support of Meryl.

PLEASE MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO:
MERYL JOHNSON FOR STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, P.O. BOX 20095, CLEVELAND, OH 44120 (No Corporate Checks, Please.)

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is a Democrat, and he is known as a progressive. He has also been known in the past as a supporter of charter schools.

However, even Senator Brown had a wake-up call as charter scandals multiplied in his home state. He could not help but notice the multiple editorials appearing in newspapers across the state, as well as news stories in national media about the charter owners who were becoming multimillionaires by donating to Republican politicians and getting more funding and less scrutiny of their charter schools.

He wrote a letter to Secretary of Education John King expressing his concern with the U.S. Department of Education’s award of $71 million to Ohio to open more charter schools (a grant put on hold because of outrage from Ohioans), as well as the embarrassing performance of the state’s charter sector. If Senator Brown has had his eyes opened, at last, that is a big step forward.

The letter can be read here.

The New York Times wrote a front-page expose of ECOT only weeks ago. The online charter school has an on-time graduation rate of 20%. Students get credit for “participation” if they log in for only one minute. It is very profitable for its owner, William Lager. Despite its dismal results, the Republican speaker of the House was its graduation spoke at its graduation ceremonies. William Lager is the state’s biggest donor to Republican politicians. They have been good to him in return. He has been awarded nearly $900 million in public funds for his low-performing e-school since 2002. Pending in the legislature is a bill to regulate ECOT and similar institutions just a little bit. The chances of its passage are slim to none. Lager is a very generous man.

From 2000-2013, Lager has donated $1.4 million to Republican politicians in Ohio. Of course, he has given more since then.

This is what ECOT–the state’s lowest performing school–has received from the legislature (data supplied by Bill Phillis, former deputy state commissioner of education and now retired and relentless watchdog of education spending):

2004
$28,768,914.97

2005
$38,139,918.73

2006
$39,762,863.11

2007
$44,540,366.08

2008
$50,475,630.27

2009
$57,233,338.72

2010
$59,990,773.55

2011
$67,510,732.17

2012
$78,850,259.14

2013
$88,358,002.78

2014
$99,180,328.91

2015
$104,380,709.86

2016
$107,517,808.16

total
$864,709,646.45

How cool is that? He gives $1.4 million to politicians, and he gets $864 million to run a school with a graduation rate of 20%, with no accountability or transparency. Now that is what you call a terrific “return on investment”!

Here is the latest from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition:


A post on the Facebook page of the chairman of the House Education Committee, Andrew Brenner

“I attended the ECOT graduation today. Cliff Rosenberger was the keynote speaker. It was impressive.”

Bill Lager, the ECOT man, certainly knows how to gain the favor of state officials. The June 5 ECOT graduation speaker was Cliff Rosenberger, the Speaker of the House. Senator Coley introduced the speaker. Senator Coley is on the Senate Finance Committee where SB 298 was blocked from passage this spring. This bill requires online charters to verify they are serving the students for which they receive funding.

The ECOT graduation ceremony VIP lineup probably sealed the doom of SB 298 [the bill to require charter school transparency].

Former governors, even Jeb Bush, state superintendents and other state officials have graced the stage of previous ECOT graduation ceremonies.

The Plunderbund article of June 6 provides some startling insights into the ECOT industry. This article should create a sense of urgency in the public education community.

Is there no no in the Ohio legislature who can stop this waste of taxpayer dollars?

Does anyone care?

William Phillis

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