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.