ECOT, Now the Largest and Costliest Scandal in Ohio History, Diverted More than $31.1 Million Taxpayer Dollars from Hamilton County School Districts
Outside of Hughes High School, education advocates discussed the local impact of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) scandal, and blasted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for his failure to hold the online charter school accountable. The press conference was the first in a statewide tour organized by For Ohio’s Future and Innovation Ohio.
The scandal involving the now-shuttered ECOT is the largest and costliest scandal in Ohio history, and a report by Innovation Ohio is shedding light on the local impact of the statewide scandal. According to the report, more than $31.1 million taxpayer dollars were diverted to ECOT from local school districts in Hamilton County. The Cincinnati City School District, the hardest hit district in Hamilton County, lost more than $14.6 million to ECOT. School districts in Butler, Warren, and Clermont Counties also lost millions of dollars to ECOT.
Joined by Eddy the Eagle, ECOT’s former mascot, Innovation Ohio Education Policy Fellow Stephen Dyer said, “Without question, the ECOT scandal is the greatest theft of taxpayer money that’s ever been perpetrated on the taxpayers of Ohio. It makes Coingate look like stealing a Snickers bar. This is repugnant and should be reviled by anyone who cares about kids and education.”
Julie Sellers, President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said that Ohio Republicans including Attorney General Mike DeWine “failed to hold these corrupt e-charter schools accountable. To put it bluntly, they sold out our kids, our schools to the highest bidder.”
The chart below shows how much money Hamilton County school districts lost to ECOT since 2012. In total, ECOT took money from almost all of Ohio’s 613 school districts, diverting nearly $600 million of taxpayer money away from local school districts.
Source: Innovation Ohio
Earlier this year, a whistleblower revealed that ECOT, formerly Ohio’s largest online charter school, intentionally inflated attendance data and overcharged the state millions of dollars. 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.
Lee Black, a Cincinnati public school teacher, said Mike DeWine “has proved that he cannot be trusted by the teachers. So regardless of your political affiliation, our children’s education and our taxpayers deserve better.”
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.
Mike DeWine is hardly the only Republican who failed to protect Ohio taxpayers, schools, and students. Ohio Auditor Dave Yost praised the school for its “excellent record keeping.” Yost and several of his Republican colleagues keynoted at ECOT graduation ceremonies.
To watch the press conference, click here.