State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker on the House Education Committee, responded to today’s ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French that found that stopping a state attendance probe into the online charter school ECOT would be in violation of state policies. A state audit of ECOT attendance data revealed the online charter could be defrauding the state and taxpayers by some $60 million during the last year alone by over reporting enrollment by 143 percent during the same period. Judge French’s ruling comes as a response to ECOT’s efforts to stop the state from obtaining additional and accurate attendance data from the online charter.
“Today’s decision reaffirms what education experts, Democratic lawmakers, teachers, parents and I have been saying since the inception of the Republican-led charter school experiment: We cannot let our most vulnerable children be robbed of the opportunity for a lifetime of success just to line the pockets of failing charter school operators,” said Fedor. “This ruling raises new questions as to how state leaders have turned a blind eye to online charter schools cheating our children, taxpayers and traditional schools since 2003. I believe Judge French’s ruling confirms that online charter schools should be held to the same standards and rules as traditional schools to best protect our children’s and the public’s interest in guaranteeing high-quality educational opportunities for children from all backgrounds – especially our most vulnerable.”
Last year, Fedor and others called for the state to investigate Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), another online charter, after a whistleblower contacted her office providing documents that allege OHVA receives more state tax dollars by padding its rolls with chronically truant students.
“It is time for state education officials to get serious about launching a full, statewide investigation of attendance fraud and data manipulation at all online charter schools,” Fedor added. “ECOT is merely a wakeup call for elected officials who have been dragging their feet on enforcing the rules on charter schools while taking campaign cash from those same charter operators. All tax dollars that have been illegally funneled to online charter schools since 2003 should be returned to the local school districts that paid for what amounts to Ohio’s charter school fraud tax.”
Last year, Fedor and state school board members also called for an investigation into a top state education official, David Hansen, after it was discovered he scrubbed failing grades from many online charters. The deliberate omissions by Hansen boosted the ratings of charter school sponsors, potentially qualifying them for additional state benefits.