Thursday, May 19, 2016

New York Times: ECOT causes more dropouts than any school in nation

When I was Education subcommittee chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee in 2009, I held a series of hearings around the state about Gov. Ted Strickland's sweeping education policy and finance reform bill. One of those hearings was set in Southeast Ohio -- the heart of Appalachia.

During the course of the hearings, George Wood -- a principal in the Federal Hocking school district -- was asked a pertinent question by my ranking member at the time Seth Morgan. Morgan asked Wood if he knew there would be no additional money, would he take back the kids from failing charter schools.

Wood (who is now Federal Hocking's superintendent) said, without a second of hesitation, "Yes. Let me save the kids." Wood was so concerned about the education kids in his district weren't getting in charters that he would take them back without any funding. There was only one school he called out by name that evening -- ECOT.

I admit, at the time, I didn't know much about ECOT. But the whole world knows about it now. That's because the country's newspaper of record -- the New York Times -- has revealed that ECOT causes more dropouts than any other school in the country. And the guy running it -- William Lager -- is making a ton of money doing it.

Is it shocking that Lager is one of the largest political contributors in the state? Of course not.

My issues with ECOT are no secret. I repeat them in the Times story.

I won't re-hash Ohio's sordid affair with Mr. Lager's cash cow. However, I will say this: It's time for ECOT to close. This school -- the nation's largest run by a for-profit entity -- is a national embarrassment. Their excuse for failing to graduate even 40% of their kids -- that they receive tough kids to educate -- is the exact argument urban districts made 20 years ago at the charter school movement's birth. And it was that argument that drove many into the warm embrace of the "no excuses" movement.

ECOT takes kids from nearly every district in the state, yet it wants to only be compared with urban districts, whose far greater challenges would crush Lager's feeble operation.

The bottom line for me is this: it is a crime that what Lager is doing isn't illegal.

I was beyond encouraged by state Sen. Peggy Lehner's response to the Times. Lehner is the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
".. 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." 
Exactly, Madam Chair.



  1. Glad to see a light being shined on ECOT and its terrible record. They spend all their time focusing on the minority of students who complete the courses and are involved in exciting things like music or athletics, while ignoring that the majority of students barely log in, let alone complete the classes.

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  3. Lehner states "perhaps"........what a waste. Why not stand up and just say ENOUGH, NO MORE? Because of political contributions and back room deals. What a crime? Public schools are threatened daily with takeover and defending while this crook continues to profit off of taxpayer money.

  4. How pathetic that you state that you didn't know much about ECOT at the time, even though ECOT had been in existence since 2000. 9 years of being blissfully ignorant of the largest online school in the state. Really? It seems to me that you took an interest in Ecot only when it became politically expedient. There is a reason that 5% of the entire state's graduates come from Ecot, and it's not because they were getting the quality education from their home schools.

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