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ECOT scandal took millions from local school districts

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TIFFIN, OH — A recently-released report from Innovation Ohio shows just how much Ohio local school districts have lost from the ECOT scandal.

Prior to its closure, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) received state tax dollars the same way as all Ohio charter schools  — by deducting state aid from the local public school district where the ECOT student lives.

Since the 2012-2013 school year, ECOT collected $590 million in taxpayer funding from all but 6 of Ohio’s 613 school districts. Included in that $590 million was the $87 million the school was slated to receive this school year before closing in January.

Here are the key points of local losses to ECOT:

  • Tiffin City Schools lost $1,132,869 over a six-year period (2012-2018)
  • Fostoria City Schools lost $859,679 over the same six-year period
  • Old Fort Local Schools six-year loss: $78,394
  • Seneca East six-year loss: $106,267
  • Hopewell-Loudon six-year loss: $148,030
  • New Riegel two-year loss: $3,784
  • Bettsville Local three-year loss: $60,875
  • While $286 million transferred to ECOT came from urban districts, the next highest amount came from districts listed as low-poverty suburban districts.
  • Rural and small town school districts lost $198 million to ECOT
  • By contrast, the state’s wealthiest, highest performing school districts lost $27.2 million to ECOT

The scandal has turned into a major talking point for candidates in the 2018 election.

Rachel Crooks (D-Tiffin), the Democratic candidate for Ohio House District 88, criticizes her opponent, State Rep. Bill Reineke, for campaign contributions he accepted in 2014 and is asking him to donate those funds elsewhere.

Reineke received $12,155.52 from Bill Lager, the founder of the scandal-ridden ECOT online charter school, in October 2014.

“For-profit charter schools like ECOT have been allowed to operate with no accountability for far too long, and they doled out millions in campaign checks — including $12,155.52 to Bill Reineke,” Crooks said in a press release.

Crooks has earned the endorsement of the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest organization of educators.

Democratic candidate for governor Rich Cordray has also criticized his Republican opponent, current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who also accepted campaign contributions from ECOT and was acting as attorney general during the scandal.

As an online charter school, ECOT received taxpayer money based on the amount of time students spent learning. The charter school submitted that data to the state, which then doled out the appropriate amount of money.

But an audit of the 2015-2016 school year found ECOT was getting money for 9,000 students without proof that those students existed or were learning anything. The state wanted its $60.4 million in taxpayer money back.

Another audit of the 2016-2017 school year found ECOT over-estimated students again, taking about $19 million in taxpayer money without proper documentation.

Click here to view Innovation Ohio’s full report.

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