TIFFIN, OH — Republican state Rep. Bill Reineke entered the 2020 race for the Ohio Senate’s 26th District seat Monday just as Ohio taxpayers were learning they may never fully recoup $137 million lost to e-charter attendance scams, serving as a reminder that Reineke accepted more than $12,000 in political contributions from Electronic Classroom of the Future founder Bill Lager.
“ECOT’s abuse of schoolchildren and taxpayers took place on Bill Reineke’s watch while he took more than $12,000 in campaign cash from the founder and architect of the largest, most hurtful charter school scam in the state. Now he’s asking for a promotion,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.
“It looks like Ohio taxpayers will never be made whole. The warning signs of ECOT’s corruption were there for years, but instead of taking action, Reineke took Bill Lager’s checks. Ohioans deserve legislators who will take action at the first sign of trouble, not wait until it’s too late, when taxpayers are out $137 million.”
Ohio’s 26th Senate District includes all of Seneca, Sandusky, Wyandot, Crawford, Marion, Morrow and Union counties.
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 last 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
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.
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