ECOT to Spend Tax Money to Rally for More Tax Money As It Fights Efforts to Recover Tax Money it was Overpaid
For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2017
COLUMBUS – Chronically failing charter schools are spending increasingly large sums of public money on political rallies and deceptive promotional materials, with tomorrow’s ECOT rally the second taxpayer-financed pro-charter Statehouse event this month.
In an email to ECOT staff, Superintendent Rick Teeters announced, “We’re offering bus transportation from Cleveland, Dayton, North Canton and Cincinnati… After the Rally, we invite all staff to attend a light lunch, served by members of ECOT’s administration.’’
Teeters initially ordered the school’s entire staff to attend the event – a order that could cost Ohio taxpayers nearly $250,000 in staff time — in addition to the cost of charter buses. Complaints from parents and teachers prompted Teeters to announce attendance is now voluntary, but a big crowd is still expected. Last week, the Statehouse was the site of another pro-charter rally that attracted an estimated 1,000 people. At least six charter buses delivered students, parents and teachers. The driver of a Lakefront Lines charter said one bus rents for $1350 per day.
Last month, Teeters was featured in a 37-minute video in which he attempts to discredit news reports about ECOT poor academic performance and possible attendance padding. The video gives the appearance of a legitimate TV interview but was produced by Choice Media TV, a non-profit that describes its mission as “Organized exclusively for the purpose of edcucating (sic) the public in regards to situations and problems relating to our school systems.’’ Choice Media is funded by pro-charter supporters, according to financial records filed with the IRS.
“Traditional schools are not permitted to take teachers and staff out of the classroom for a day-long political event – and charter schools should have to follow the same ban,’’ said ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis. “Instead of promoting their schools with fake news, ECOT officials should use their public funds to improve the school’s terrible academic record.’’ (A complete list of Ohio laws that charter schools do not have to follow can be found here.)
Moritz College of Law Emeritus Associate Professor of Law Charlie Wilson, an expert in labor and employment law, expressed dismay that tax money will be used to pay the salaries of ECOT employees to demonstrate during a school day. “ECOT will have to pay its employees their regular salary while they are demonstrating, because employment law requires that an employer pay its employees their regular salary when the employer requires that they attend an event,” Wilson said.
Sam Shim, Vice President of the Worthington City Schools Board of Education, echoed Wilson’s concerns.
“I’m not comfortable with public funds being used to transport ECOT employees to a political rally at the Statehouse. That is an inappropriate use of tax dollars,’’ Shim said.
ECOT also launched a new, taxpayer-funded podcast, “What You Don’t Know.’’ In one recent episode, Teeters joins ECOT lobbyist Neil Clark to brag about the online charter school’s “success graduating students.’’ A 2016 New York Times analysis showed ECOT has the worst four-year graduation rate in America.
The podcast is featured on ECOT’s Facebook page and generated this comment:
Craig Morris: This is just one side of this whole story, with their “consultant”/ lobbyist running this spin show. It should be titled “What We WANT you to know”. Both sides have been deceptive from the beginning and is just an exercise wasting taxpayers dollars ….
ECOT’s PR push comes as it continues to be dogged by scandal and is in court fighting a state order to repay nearly $60 million for students it claimed were enrolled full time but the state says were not. ECOT lost in the trial court and court of appeals.
For More Information, Contact:
Sandy Theis, 614-940-0131