Sunday, March 8, 2015

Turd Polishing 101: ECOT spends $2.7 million on advertising

The Dispatch reported this weekend that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- the nation's largest for-profit charter school run by huge political donor William Lager that received all Fs and one D on the latest report card -- spent $2.7 million last year on advertising. That bill equates to $155 per student. That's about 2% of their budget.

Let's have some fun with numbers, shall we?

  • If every district in this state spent 2% of its overall expenditures on advertising, that would be $381 million -- or about the amount that was sent from higher performing districts to lower performing charters in the 2012-2013 school year
  • That $381 million is more than was budgeted in the state funding formula to pay for all the state's poverty aid for this school year
  • If every district in this state spent $155 per pupil on advertising, that would be $246 million
  • That $246 million is more than the state was budgeted to spend in its funding formula for the third-grade reading guarantee, gifted education and career-technical education ... COMBINED
Look, I get that charters have to advertise. They don't have a built-in client base. But ECOT has all Fs and one D on the state report card. Shouldn't they have to say that during all their ads? Kind of like how those pharmaceutical ads have to state all the potentially dangerous side effects of their drugs?

Instead, ECOT gets to have Jack Hanna talk about how great their school is and flood the airwaves about its "tuition free" (taxpayer subsidized) existence. 

Perhaps it is the ads that convinced Gov. John Kasich that he should speak at ECOT's 2011 graduation ceremony -- even though the school only graduates 35% of its kids -- or then-State Superintendent Stan Heffner the following year, or House Speaker William Batchelder last year, rather than the millions Lager has contributed to his and other Republican campaigns over the years.

Maybe Kasich was thinking of all that advertising when he mentioned in last week's state of the state that 
"...just because a charter school is not producing great results in grades, it doesn't mean they're failing."
He, of course, didn't grant local public schools the same leeway. 

State report card grades are supposed to mean everything in this high-stakes accountability era, which is why we devise punishments for districts and schools that score poorly on them. I'm not saying that it's good policy -- not at all. But it is the policy. This is why we changed to an A-F report card, after all, isn't it?

I am making this comment partly in jest. Truth be told, I would prefer Don Draper's influence to the charter school oligarchs that have make this state's charter school sector a national joke.

We must reform this sector. Now.