Monday, April 23, 2018

ECOT: Now it's criminal. Literally.

Mens Rea.

I believe it was the first (or one of the first) legal terms of art I learned in law school. It means "state of mind." In other words, in order to commit a crime, you have to have the proper state of mind to fit the requirements of the crime.

Why do I bring this up now? Because it now appears that we have a smoking gun indicating that officials at the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow formed the necessary mens rea to be charged with crimes.

According to an Associated Press story today (which ran all over the place, but I'll link to my former employer's version), people at ECOT -- at one point the largest single school in the nation -- were ordered to deliberately inflate enrollment so the school could keep getting paid $100 million plus to "educate" children, even if those children weren't actually at ECOT.

ECOT infamously did a remarkably poor job of educating those who were, by the way. How poor? Only 109 of 3,794 ECOT graduates from 2010 earned a college degree within 6 years of graduating. But I digress.

Back to the school's potential crimes.

According to the whistleblower who made this claim and worked for the software company that handled enrollment for ECOT, "school officials ordered staff to manipulate student data with software obtained following the state’s demand that it return $60 million in overpayments for the 2015-2016 school year."

That's right. ECOT was so arrogant that it ordered people to artificially inflate enrollment ... after the state had fined the school $60 million for inflating enrollment.

That's right. No question what the offenders' states of mind were. They knew it was wrong. They had been fined for doing it the previous year. And they did it anyway. Imagine what they told people to do before they were caught???? (Though, technically, they were caught in their first year of operation and on several other previous occasions, but not for as much money.)

Why the arrogance? Because ECOT's founder, Bill Lager, and other employees had invested $2.8 million in Ohio politicians since they started operations in the 2000-2001 school year.

Current Ohio Secretary of State and Lt. Gov. Candidate Jon Husted receives only known honorary degree from ECOT as Ohio Speaker of the House in 2007. Husted was one of several prominent Ohio Republican politicians who spoke at ECOT's graduation ceremonies, including Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Auditor David Yost, disgraced House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell. 

It wasn't that long ago that people went to prison for inflating enrollment figures at Columbus City Schools. What do you want to bet that the politicians who have taken a bunch of money and kudos from ECOT will do the same thing to that school's officials?

The taxpayer money involved here, if the enrollment overinflation that's been found over the last couple years is extrapolated over the course of ECOT's entire lifespan, is north of $500 million. By way of comparison, the infamous Coingate scandal from 2005-2006 ended up costing taxpayers about $50 million.

So ECOT and Lager's ripoff could be 10 times that of Tom Noe, who spent about 2 years in federal prison.

Now that we have insiders spilling the beans on the real mission of ECOT -- making money by ripping off taxpayers -- ECOT's top bananas certainly seem much closer to taking a trip up the river.

Because we now know their state of mind.

And it sure seems criminal to me.

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