After the Ohio Supreme Court today ruled the online charter school ECOT violated state law by fraudulently boosting student attendance records to cheat taxpayers of some $80 million, state Rep. Teresa Fedor says the next step is holding the operators and founder criminally accountable.
“Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to fully understanding the extent of this tangled web of political payoffs and taxpayer fraud,” said Fedor. “Elected officials at the highest level of power turned a blind eye to this criminal empire while they took huge sums of campaign cash. Obviously, federal authorities now have an even more important role in independently determining the scope of corruption and malfeasance – not only within the school, but within state government.”
Three years after it was exposed that Gov. John Kasich’s handpicked charter-czar David Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was illegally changing charter school grades to allow failing charter schools like ECOT to draw down on more taxpayer funding, little has happened at the Republican-controlled Statehouse to crack down, once and for all, on Ohio’s largely unregulated charter school industry.
“There is no doubt that the corrupt charter school system in Ohio was designed, not to help our children prepare for their future, but to help pad Republican campaign coffers,” Fedor added. “Today’s ruling reiterates what Bill Lager allegedly said, this whole scheme ‘isn’t about the children.’”
Before today’s court decision, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine recused himself from the ECOT case a year after hearing oral arguments. DeWine took campaign cash from ECOT, like his father, Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“Charter school corruption in Ohio has been a long and winding road, with numerous stops and breakdowns along the way,” said Fedor. “I think today’s court decision brings us very close to fully understanding what is at the end of a corrupt road that was paved with political donations, falsified documents and broken promises to our children and families.”
The senior DeWine shied away from cracking down on ECOT after some $80 million in tax dollars was found to be fraudulently received by overinflating student attendance records. After saying there was nothing his office could do, AG DeWine decided to pursue collections of the ill-gotten money after numerous news reports and mounting public pressure.
Over a year ago, an ECOT whistleblower contacted Auditor Dave Yost about fraud and corruption at the school, a call Yost ignored until acknowledging the apparent fraud at ECOT recently. At the time, Fedor called on Yost to thoroughly investigate ECOT and Hansen’s illegal data scrubbing at ODE, something Yost failed to do. Yost also took substantial campaign donations from ECOT’s founder.