Ohio: State Auditor Reprimands ECOT for Using Public Money to Lobby Against Penalty of $60 Million

ECOT is the largest virtual charter school in Ohio and among the lowest-performing schools in the state. It has thrived over the years because its founder, William Lager, has given generously to elected officials. The New York Times reported last year that ECOT had the largest graduating class in the nation, but also the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an online charter school based here, graduated 2,371 students last spring. At the commencement ceremony, a student speaker triumphantly told her classmates that the group was “the single-largest graduating high school class in the nation.”

What she did not say was this: Despite the huge number of graduates — this year, the school is on track to graduate 2,300 — more students drop out of the Electronic Classroom or fail to finish high school within four years than at any other school in the country, according to federal data. For every 100 students who graduate on time, 80 do not.

Virtual online charters, said the Times, are the new “dropout factories.”

Having abysmal results was not enough to cause a problem for ECOT. If it were a brick and mortar public school, it would have been closed down.

What caused a problem was that the state audited ECOT’s attendance and found that a substantial number of students were phantom. They either did not exist, never logged on, or logged on for a minute or two.

The state sued ECOT, and won a decision that ECOT owed the state $60 million for inflated attendance numbers. ECOT maintains that the state has no right to audit their numbers. Ha.

Now ECOT is flooding the TV space with heartrending advertisements about how the state is picking on the school. And, here is a true demonstration of chutzpah: ECOT is using taxpayer money to pay for the ads defending its right to avoid auditing.

State Auditor Dave Yost has called out ECOT for its audacity. Yost has ordered ECOT to stop using taxpayer dollars to attack the court’s order to repay the state $60.4 million.

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has ordered ECOT to stop using taxpayers dollars on television ads attacking the state Department of Education’s decision to seek repayment of $60.4 million, saying the commercials are not proper expenditures “and are impermissible.”

In a letter to the giant online charter dated Friday, Yost said he was writing ECOT “to demand that you act without delay to cease and desist the expenditure of public funds” being used for ads.

ECOT has not yet responded, but it is maneuvering in the Legislature to get the debt deferred until it has time for more appeals.

In the latest ad, signed at the end by “Ohio’s children,” a former ECOT student says: “The Ohio Department of Education wants to end school choice and stop parents from deciding what’s best for their children. That’s why I and the over 36,000 students and alumni of ECOT are hoping our elected leaders fix what’s broken and save our school.”

Thank you, Auditor Yost, for upholding the law and requiring accountability even from a big campaign contributor!

As for ECOT, its results speak for themselves: Close it down.

from sarah http://ift.tt/2t0JGDj

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