Monday, May 15, 2017

ECOT Circling the Drain

When the usually very charter school friendly Columbus Dispatch editorial page says your charter school is fleecing Ohio taxpayers, you're in trouble.

That's exactly what happened this morning to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- the nation's largest K-12 school that fails to graduate more students than any high school in the country.

Here's a sampling of the Dispatch's language used to describe ECOT's plan: "attempted plundering of the treasury ... for sheer audacity there is no precedent ... raiding the state treasury ..."

Shall I go on?

At issue is whether the online behemoth is, actually, a behemoth after all. See, the state cannot verify that the school has all 15,000 or so students it claims to have. In fact, the school has about 40 percent of that number, as far as the Ohio Department of Education can tell. And a hearing officer agreed last week, ordering ECOT to repay $64 million of the more than $100 million it received from Ohio taxpayers last year because it didn't have as many kids.

ECOT supporters have long said that the way the state calculates attendance at online schools is unfair to ECOT. Yet, somehow, no other online schools (which are not the best performing in the state, by a long shot) are doing this to this degree.

Obviously, ECOT officials will try their bullying tactics to keep, as the Dispatch called it, "raiding the treasury." They held a modest rally at the statehouse last week, which was notable for two things -- competing mascots, and the fact that no major politicians showed up, a stark contrast to several years ago when Gov. John Kasich spoke at ECOT's graduation and spoke effusively of the school.

As ECOT's power wanes, it appears that not even the school's once strong advocates, who were willing to take millions of founder Bill Lager's money to fund their campaigns will stop by to say, "Hi." Quite a turn of events.

And quite a step forward for Ohio's quality-based school choice movement.


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