ECOT Provides A Case-Study for How a Charter School Implodes

posted in: Reform | 0

Readers of this blog are familiar with the story of ECOT, the mammoth virtual charter school in Ohio. It made over $1 Billion for the entrepreneur who founded it. But it seems to be slipping rapidly down the drain hole.

Mother Jones tells the story here in graphic detail. 

“Now, with ECOT imploding, some state politicians have floated the idea that Lager, who has made millions in profits off the school and come a long way from the Waffle House, should be personally held responsible for paying back some of the $80 million owed to the state. But while the coming days will reveal if the political will or mechanisms exist to make this happen, it’s unclear how he might ever be held accountable—because the real scandal is that ECOT grew up legally, with the support of state politicians and national GOP power brokers, and that in many ways it has served as a model for schools like it across the country. Now, the same districts ECOT pulled its funds from are scrambling to find a way to take in its former students, and Ohio is facing a reckoning, after nearly two decades when the state became one of the country’s freest laboratories for pro-charter policies. “Why did it take a generation and a half of kids to go through this crappy system for us to do something about it,” Stephen Dyer, a former Ohio state representative asked me in exasperation in December. “The reason is because a lot of money came in.”

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  1. Yvonne Siu-Runyan

    THANKS, Diane. This information needs to be shared far and wide.

    How does one spell SCAM? Answer: ECOT.

  2. GregB

    ECOT story getting more press, will it shine more light on other charter scams?

    • Chiara

      The thing about ECOT in Ohio (and this is addressed in the Mother Jones story Diane posted) is that THEY KNEW this school was a disaster and collapsing, and they did NOTHING to mitigate the damage caused by this abrupt closure.

      It’s a huge school. They made NO contingency plans for these students.

      They knew they didn’t have to, that the public school system would be there to pick up the pieces.

      They can take these enormous risks because there is a public system backing up the charter system. That’s the unspoken assumption behind all ed reform experiments- public school systems as emergency back-ups. It’s not an accident that they TREAT our schools as disfavored back-ups, the “status quo”, the “government schools” they disdain. That’s how they see them.

      If you did this in a public school system in Ohio, abruptly shut down THE school with this many students there would literally be public unrest because these kids would have no where to go. Ed reformers don’t worry about that and because they have the luxury of not worrying about it they don’t have to plan.

      So that’s the next question Ohio newspapers will ask. How did this happen? How did they let this get to the point where they’re dumping all these students on a moment’s notice? Remember when Betsy DeVos compared schools to food trucks? Food trucks are there one day and gone the next. No one can rely on them. That’s how she envisions schools, which is utterly ridiculous and had no connection to the real world.

      • GregB

        “Ohio newspapers will ask. How did this happen?” I doubt they will look into the proverbial mirror. With very few exceptions, they have been late to the game, in attendance at all. Plunderbund has been the only consistent source of accurate news.

  3. How can we warn parents and help them demand and get what their child needs for a quality education? This guy should be in a cell next to Madoff and paying for it. The demographics off the students is important too.

  4. Cross posted the Mother Jones article

    with this comment:
    In case you wish to find out about charter school fraud, here is a link to the articles on the fraud at the Ravitch blog,
    Or, go to my series ” CHARTER Schools –the school CHOICE fraud and chaos,” here:–the-scho-by-Susan-Lee-Schwartz-141014-281.html
    and To see how the corrupt legislatures are undoing public education while giving the hedge funds and charlatans our tax money, go to this link:

  5. Chiara

    It’s a good piece but local Ohio newspapers really deserve a lot of credit for on the ground reporting on the charter schools in Ohio. It wasn’t always good. When ed reform started in this state just about every newspaper promoted it on the editorial pages. That lock-step cheerleading went on for a decade but the issues became too big to ignore and all the pom pom waving in the world couldn’t contradict what people were seeing in their own communities.

    I knew it had shifted when the very conservative, very anti-labor, and vehemently anti-public school Columbus Dispatch broke ranks. That was a turning point. They had no choice. Every other newspaper in the state was covering charter issues. The news division eventually won out over the editorial page.

    I think the most embarrassing part for Ohio Republicans is they ALL promoted this school. Every powerful Republican now serving in the state appeared publicly and raved about this school.

    They tried to distance themselves since about 2012 but luckily we have video 🙂

    Jeb Bush also promoted ECOT. He couldn’t have known the first thing about it because no one who knew anything was endorsing the school, but he was out there telling parents to enroll despite his ignorance. Pure ideology. Pure politics. If it’s got “charter” in front of “school” all the bigshots of ed reform will happily sell it to the public.

    • retired teacher

      Kasich, considered presidential material by many, did nothing to stop the waste and fraud. He’s the governor, and he is supposed to lead, not ignore gross negligence and grifters that are exploiting reckless policies.

      • bethree5

        Thank you retired teacher, & I would like to know more about other public-goods areas that Kasich undermined, because if he did it in ed, he undoubtedly did it in other areas– because ed is not high on voters’ radar– important to gather facts on this future presidential pretender who comes across mild & centrist but is anything but.

      • Kasich tried to eliminate collective bargaining but was rebuffed in a state referendum.

  6. Chiara

    January 20, 2018 at 11:04 am
    “Ohio newspapers will ask. How did this happen?” I doubt they will look into the proverbial mirror. With very few exceptions, they have been late to the game, in attendance at all. Plunderbund has been the only consistent source of accurate news.”

    They HAVE been late to the game. That’s true. But we get real LOCAL reporting on charter schools here (now) and that’s not true in many states. Compare Ohio to Michigan, which sadly seems to have a private sector news industry that has collapsed.

    The “governance” system these people invented is flawed. It’s so fragmented it doesn’t function. They set up a system of STATE schools and Ohio is a big state! The idea that they were going to be able to regulate schools all over the state from Columbus was ridiculous. They don’t have the staff to do it even if they wanted to, and they’re ideologically deregulatory so they NEVER wanted to.

    I have been hearing complaints from our public school superintendent for five years that cyber-charter students were in and out of the public system and not only was this very difficult for HER, but was very bad FOR THEM.

    The entire ed reform chorus in Columbus ignored people like her because they didn’t want to hear that their grand plans weren’t working. They did nothing for a decade and then pulled the plug without a bit of concern for these charter students. The assumption was someone else would come in and clean up the mess they left. And someone else will.

  7. Chiara

    I would ask fair-minded Ohio voters to compare/contrast this giant charter scandal with a public school scandal in Ohio.

    A couple of years ago, some Columbus City Schools principals submitted falsified numbers on attendance.

    The response from the state? The auditor sent in ARMED agents to raid the schools, the principals were perp walked in an elaborate political show and they stood trial. That same auditor gave a speech at ECOT where he promoted the school.

    Two sets of rules. One for the politically connected charters and one for the unfashionable public schools. If your child attends a public school they’re in the schools that none of these people value and in fact hope to eradicate.

    Hire someone who supports your schools. You are entitled to an advocate on the state payroll. Charters have advocates- the entire GOP roster in Columbus. Your child deserves one too. Demand one.