Buried inside today's Columbus Dispatch story about The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow suing the state is a perfect example of why Ohio's become a national joke on charter school oversight.
ECOT is suing the state to prevent it from determining if taxpayers have overpaid tens of millions of dollars to the nation's largest, for-profit school.
According to the Dispatch article, a preliminary check this spring found that "most log-in times from these files did not substantiate 5 hours per day of login time for the students reviewed." So despite the political largess of its founder -- William Lager -- it looked like ODE -- finally emboldened by the wide-ranging charter school reforms of last year's House Bill 2 -- was about to uncover some serious problems.
However, the most amazing thing we learned from the story in the Columbus Dispatch is that ODE and ECOT apparently cut a deal in 2003 after ECOT was found by the State Auditor to have been paid $1.7 million in taxpayer money for kids it wasn't educating.
Here's the deal.
Instead of having to have kids log on to their computers for 920 hours in a school year, ECOT just had to provide them with 920 hours worth of course material. Whether the kid EVER logged on didn't matter. What mattered was whether ECOT made the material available.
Can you believe that? What a sweetheart of a deal for ECOT. They were paid $104 million last year in taxpayer dollars meant for 564 of Ohio's higher performing school districts (more than $900 million since it opened).
And all they had to do to earn nearly $1 billion is provide kids with 920 hours of learning, not make sure they did it??
And, according to documents released by ECOT, ODE was cool with this?
I don't know what's more offensive, that ECOT can do this or that ODE signed off on it.
Once again, I implore my friends in the quality-based charter school community here and around the country to speak out against this outrage committed by both ECOT and ODE. Loudly.
Want to know why Ohio's gained a nationally ridiculed reputation over charters? Look no further than this amazingly horrible oversight.
Can it be said in any other state that simply offering school to kids means you should be paid for educating them, even if they never enter your door?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2003 Ohio Department of Education.