Pay-to-Play in the Classroom: While ECOT Wins Tax Dollars, Students Lose
Parents and children deserve to make educated choices against failing schools
COLUMBUS - Ohio's charter school association (the Ohio Association of Quality Education) hosted a luncheon today in the Ohio Statehouse that featured remarks by representatives of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). Member-volunteers of the Ohio Friends of Public Education (OFPE) and Moving Ohio Forward (MOF) attended the luncheon as uninvited guests ---and treated attendees to a serving of the truth about ECOT.
MOF and OFPE provided luncheon guests with a "fact sheet" that highlights both ECOT's record of failure in educating Ohio students ---and its record of success in obtaining millions of dollars in funding from Ohio taxpayers. The fact sheet also summarizes the campaign contributions ECOT founder Willliam Lager has lavished on Ohio public officials.
Lager, who founded ECOT over a decade ago has received an eye-popping $691 million in taxpayer money for his failing charter school empire, which is 10% of all the money the state of Ohio has ever spent on charters. $270 million of that has been received in the past three years.
Since Gov. Kasich took office in 2011, Lager has returned the favor to his political benefactors by contributing $658,225 to pro-charter school office holders and candidates, and in true “pay-to-play” fashion, has seen a greater three-year funding increase than in any other three-year period since ECOT opened in 2000. Contributing $658,225 in return for access to $270 million in funding represents an extremely handsome return on Mr. Lager's investment, all coming at the expense of quality schools for Ohio children.
“By politicizing the future of our children, the Governor continues to invest our tax dollars in a losing proposition.” said Eva O’Mara, Principal of Highland Drive Elementary School in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights School District. “Charter schools consistently drain billions of dollars from our higher performing public schools, and as public educators and taxpayers, we are asking, “Where is the return on our investment?"
Despite ECOT’s continued support from Ohio officeholders after funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaign coffers, ECOT’s online charter schools rank among the worst schools in the state. Specifically:
ECOT’s graduation rate on the latest report card was 35.3%. The average for traditional school districts is 91.4%. The lowest traditional district is 49.7%.
ECOT’s Performance Index score of 68.1 was worse than even the lowest rated of Ohio’s 613 school districts.
When looking at the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a signature policy under John Kasich, charter schools, like those run by ECOT, greatly underperform traditional public districts, despite receiving 89% more per pupil than traditional public schools.
“It is time to stop investing in empty choices for Ohio’s school children today.” stated Maureen Reedy of Central Ohio Friends of Public Education and the former Ohio Teacher of the Year. “The truth is, charter ‘choice’ today means 87% of charter students attend a D or F rated charter school. On-line charter school ‘choice’ means choosing a dropout factory for kids; only 35 % of ECOT students graduate, compared to a 91% graduation rate when choosing public schools. Charter school ‘choice’ is an empty promise for our kids today.”
Despite failing Ohio’s students, for-profit charter schools continue to receive funding boosts from our legislators, totaling over a billion dollars a year from Ohio’s taxpayers. While taxpayer dollars continue to pour into funding failing charters, greater disparities are created for students whose parents choose to keep them in higher performing public school districts.
Today, ECOT takes students from 557 of the 613 public school districts in the state and the majority of these students come from higher performing public school districts. As a result of charter school deductions, Ohio’s traditional school students receive, on average, 6.6% less state funding this year than the state says they need. This leaves 95% of Ohio’s school children attending higher performing public schools that are facing greater challenges with a depletion of resources because of a continual increase in state funding to the failing charter school industry.
Clearly, school-funding “operations as usual” in Ohio’s statehouse need to change. The current state of education can be attributed to the pay-to-play politics of our statewide officeholders in Columbus. It is time to hold those accountable who damage the future of our children, while wasting our tax dollars on failing charter schools.
As a 501(c)(4) Moving Ohio Forward aims to expose the harmful policies of Ohio statewide officeholders that impact the lives of regular Ohioans.
MOF urges Ohioans to contact John Kasich at (614) 466-3555 and urge him to change his education policies.
The handout dispersed at the meeting can be found here.