A shocking new report by Innovation Ohio reveals just how much the now-shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has cost Ohio taxpayers and local school districts. According to the report, nearly $600 million of taxpayer money was diverted to ECOT from local school districts — taking money from almost all of Ohio’s 613 school districts. The report also includes a district-by-district breakdown of ECOT’s cost to individual school districts, shedding light on the local impact of a statewide scandal.
The scandal involving ECOT — once Ohio’s largest online charter school — is revealing itself to be the largest and costliest scandal in Ohio history. Despite obvious warning signs that something was amiss with ECOT’s enrollment and attendance data, Ohio Republicans including Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine looked the other way as the online charter school scammed Ohio taxpayers and schools out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“As Ohio’s top cop, Mike DeWine has a responsibility to protect Ohioans’ hard-earned tax dollars from scams like the one cooked up by ECOT,” said For Ohio’s Future spokesperson Daniel van Hoogstraten. “Through either total negligence or out of allegiance to Republican Party donor and ECOT founder Bill Lager, Mike DeWine did nothing to stop ECOT from bilking Ohio taxpayers and our local schools.”
The ECOT scandal is not the first instance of Mike DeWine failing to hold unscrupulous charter schools and other bad actors accountable. A 2014 investigation by NBC4 in Columbus found that, of the $31 million owed to the state by operators of failed charter schools and that had been referred for collection to Mike DeWine’s office, $30.5 million remained uncollected. Similarly, Mike DeWine has failed to collect the $5.3 million owed to Ohio taxpayers by a group headed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that violated Ohio election laws.
Mike DeWine is hardly the only Republican who failed to protect Ohio taxpayers, schools, and students. Ohio Republican Auditor Dave Yost praised the school for its “excellent record keeping.” Yost and several of his Republican colleagues keynoted at ECOT graduation ceremonies.
Meanwhile, ECOT founder Bill Lager — who, along with his associates, has pumped millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Republicans — has caught the attention of the FBI for an alleged illegal campaign donation scheme.