COLUMBUS – Today, Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni condemned a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT) to block the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) from doing a full audit of the school’s attendance records. ECOT argues in the lawsuit that they are not required to “provide” education to their students. They assert that they are only required to “offer,” or place, the courses online.
“This lawsuit is ECOT’s Hail Mary. It is a desperate attempt to cover up the fraud they are perpetrating on the students and taxpayers of our state,” said Senator Schiavoni. “ECOT is required by law to provide a proper education to their students. With this lawsuit, ECOT is admitting that they have something to hide.”
ECOT is Ohio’s largest online charter school. It receives about $107 million from the state per year to educate over 15,000 students. According to a recent national report, ECOT currently has one of the worst graduation rates in the country. Last year, writes the New York Times, “the school’s graduation rate did not even reach 39 percent.”
“ECOT is actually asserting in their lawsuit that they are not required to teach any student anything. But they still demand the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars taken each year from our public schools,” said Senator Schiavoni. “They have now added high-priced lawyers to their army of high-priced lobbyists.”
Senator Schiavoni’s Senate Bill 298 would require e-schools to accurately track and report student attendance in order to ensure that students were logged on and learning. The bill has received four hearings in the Senate Finance Committee, but has yet to receive a vote.
Below is a screen capture of a spreadsheet from the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. (I typed in “Lager” into the search field and changed the dates to 01/01/2015 to 12/31/2015.) I removed the columns that had irrelevant info, like addresses and such, so you could better view the important information. And it fits on the screen better.
In 2016, ECOT’s owner gave away $210,085 in political donations.
MUST. BE. NICE.
Actually he didn’t give it away. I’m sure he’s expecting something in return, like maybe stalling SB 298, to prevent him from being held accountable?
There has got to be an ethics violation in here somewhere. William Lager gave $210,000 this year in donations, is given millions in tax dollars, and runs the school with the lowest graduation rate in the country, and the politicians he supports celebrate his successes?
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.
Education expert Diane Ravitch picks up on the corrupt ethics of Ohio’s legislative leaders and ECOT’s owner.
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.
Despite ECOT having the worst graduation rate in the country, Ohio’s devious leaders celebrate the school and the low percentage of students who do graduate.
Why is this? Follow the money…
From 2000-2013, William Lager, ECOT’s owner, has donated $1.4 million to Republican politicians in Ohio. Of course, he has given more since then.
What screams UNETHICAL more than this?
WOW! This commentary by Toledo Blade Colomnist Marilou Johanek covers just about everything that’s wrong with ECOT and their “political powerhouse” owner, William Lager. The political payoffs, the David Hansen grade card scandal, the watered-down accountability, the students getting left behind; it’s all here…
It doesn’t matter how egregiously ECOT has been failing K-12 students who take classes from home on a computer. It doesn’t matter if ECOT students are even logged in let alone learning. It doesn’t matter if the online charter giant gets F grades in most state assessment categories.
The political will to right what’s wrong with electronic schools is nonexistent. When Ohio Republicans boarded Mr. Lager’s gravy train they left the educational welfare of thousands of students behind.
The plan to enrich for-profit businesses — if not students — can be summed up in two words: dilute and delay. Mr. Lager and friends got a legislative delay until after the November election to twist arms and derail charter school quality efforts — again.
The following is a excerpt from the New York Times article published 5/18/2016 and points out William Lager’s words don’t match his actions.
In a self-published book in 2002, “The Kids That ECOT Taught,” Mr. Lager wrote that “the dropout rate is the most critical issue facing our public education system but it is only the first of many problems that can be solved by e-learning.”
Through the Electronic Classroom, he wrote, he planned to make public education more efficient and effective.
He added, “No business could suffer results that any school in Columbus Public delivers and not be driven out of business.”
Peggy Lehner, a Republican state senator who sponsored a charter school reform bill that passed the legislature last fall, said the problem was the school, not the students.
“When you take on a difficult student, you’re basically saying, ‘We feel that our model can help this child be successful,’ ” she said. “And if you can’t help them be successful, at some point you have to say your model isn’t working, and if your model is not working, perhaps public dollars shouldn’t be going to pay for it.”
Rich, Motoko. The New York Times. May 18, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/19/us/online-charter-schools-electronic-classroom-of-tomorrow.html?_r=0
The New York Times highlights ECOT, in a scathing article, about their graduation rate being the lowest in the United States, which include Ohio cities like Cleveland and Youngtown. ECOT’s very rich owner, William Lager, declined to comment for the article.
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.
Even as the national on-time graduation rate has hit a record high of 82 percent, publicly funded online schools like the Electronic Classroom have become the new dropout factories.
When students enroll in the Electronic Classroom or in other online charters, a proportion of the state money allotted for each pupil is redirected from traditional school districts to the cyberschools. At the Electronic Classroom, which Mr. Lager founded in 2000, the money has been used to help enrich for-profit companies that he leads. Those companies provide school services, including instructional materials and public relations.
For example, 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.
Critics say the companies associated with Mr. Lager have not delivered much value. “I don’t begrudge people making money if they really can build a better mousetrap,” said Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state legislator and the education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, a Columbus think tank that is sharply critical of online charter schools.
Siegel, Jim. Columbus Dispatch. May 19, 2016. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/05/19/state-questions-attendance-at-ecot-states-largest-online-school.html
The Dispatch reports that ECOT students may not be meeting the required 920 hours of learning time per year as required by law and also points out that ECOT’s owner, William Lager, is one of the GOP’s largest donors.
The initial review also flagged that student attendance records did not match the amount of time reported in Ohio’s statewide education data collection system.
ECOT, which enrolls nearly 15,000 students, is set to get about $106 million a year in state funding over the current two-year budget.
Millions of those dollars go to IQ Innovations and Altair Learning Management, companies closely associated with William Lager, founder of ECOT and one of the largest individual campaign contributors to legislative Republicans in the last decade.
Candisky, Catherine & Siegel, Jim. “Ohio to review charter school attendance after over payments to at least two schools.” Columbus Dispatch. March 8, 2016. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/03/07/ohio-to-review-charter-school-attendance-after-over-payments-to-at-least-two-schools.html
Certain charter schools have been charging the state (taxpayers) for students they didn’t have. ECOT is one of the schools that will be audited.
ECOT canceled its initial review with the state in February. The review has been rescheduled for this month, Rausch said.
School officials from ECOT reportedly crafted a softened attendance-tracking amendment — floated recently in the Ohio House — which would require online schools only to offer the statewide minimum920 hours of instruction per school year but not require students to actually participate in those hours.
Bush, Bill and Smith Richards, Jennifer. “Popular ECOT Poor Performer.” Columbus Dispatch. January 4, 2015. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/01/04/popular-ecot-poor-performer.html#
The article discusses ECOT’s failures as a school and also shines light on the owner’s vast profits and political donations.
The Newark schools superintendent accused it of committing fraud by “failing to meet even minimum standards of operation.”
…it’s astonishing that ECOT continues to escape the scrutiny of lawmakers despite meeting only three of the 24 possible state testing and graduation standards, receiving F grades in all but one category.
And growth came for ECOT despite its consistently low state report-card results: It ranks among the worst-performing schools in the state.
ECOT also spent another almost $11 million on communications last year. ECOT spokesman Ryan Crawford said he couldn’t immediately say why the communications budget was so large but said it might include advertising.
And ECOT’s founder, Lager, has spent at least $1.13 million on Ohio campaigns in the past five years alone. Lager could not be reached for comment, and his spokesman said he couldn’t reach him, either.