WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24TH 2016
COLUMBUS — Liberal think tank Progress Ohio is calling for the state to shut down ECOT, the state’s largest online charter school. At a Monday news conference, Executive Director Sandy Theis accused the Kasich Administration of allowing taxpayers to fund what she called a “failure” and a “boondoggle.”
Theis said political leaders close to ECOT boss William Lager steered at least $2.7 million in public money to enhance IQ Innovations, a Lager-owned distance digital learning platform that was tapped by the Kasich Administration to provide online textbooks and other educational materials to all Ohio’s K-12 schools.
Kasich is out of state on the campaign trail, but spokesman Joe Andrews issued a statement saying:
“Sandy Theis makes her living off trying to distort issues…”
The Ohio’s Inspector General is conducting an investigation into ECOT and its operations, according to Progress Ohio. But the IG declined to talk about the scope of that investigation, as is routine
Questioned if she is politically motivated in the timing of the release, Theis said. “I have been working on this for 18 months and I finally got the record I needed to document this. There were clearly political shenanigans , nobody wants to wear the jacket for it , they covered it up, they got caught.”
Andrews said the governor has previously gone on record calling for charter school reform. But Theis said there is now evidence that whistleblowers came forward with information that showed IQ Innovations was not working.
“Why are we allowing a defective product that sets our kids back to continue to grow and flourish in Ohio and why do we still keep shoveling millions of dollars of public money at them.”
Progress Ohio also took issue with political contributions from ECOT and through Lager’s two privately held companies that have been made to Ohio campaigns.
Bill Phyllis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy In School Funding also called for ECOT to be closed down due to poor performance. “This operation is a disaster for the taxpayers of Ohio, a disaster for the students, they have a 30 percent graduation rate and the school is rated mostly D and F. This is an organization that really needs to be investigated by law enforcement, as well as Ohio Department of Education, as well as their charter school sponsor.”
Nobody from ECOT would talk with ABC 6 on camera or return our phone calls for comment.