Ohio House Democrats today voted against Senate Bill (SB) 216, a Republican-led education reform bill, saying it gives a free pass to the Republican’s fatally flawed charter school design, which lacks accountability and transparency for Ohio taxpayers. Democrats offered an amendment on the floor that would have strengthened schools and held Ohio’s charter schools and elected officials accountable, but the House’s GOP majority rejected that effort.
“The same politicians, like Keith Faber, who stalled charter school reform efforts for one year to allow more cheating time, now are looking for a quick fix to cover for decades of profiting off their failing charter school scheme,” said State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the lead Democrat of the House education committee. “Now, with this hijacked bill to provide political cover, the state can continue the GOP charter design as a revolving door of campaign cash and political influence. They have taken in millions in campaign donations from charter school operators who were receiving millions in taxpayer funds. It is still clearly not about the kids. It has to stop.”
State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) offered the amendment to hire a special prosecutor to investigate the ongoing scandal involving the now-defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), an online charter school that was revealed to have cheated the state out of an estimated $1 billion in a student attendance scam.
“This is a politically motivated bill to give the same GOP politicians who used ECOT and charter school sponsors to bankroll their campaigns a free pass on taking responsibility for the mess they created,” said Galonski. “Until we hold charter schools—and the politicians who let them run wild—accountable, it’s the students and taxpayers who will continue to suffer.”
A 2017 report found that a school whistleblower came forward to tell how ECOT officials manipulated student data to increase state payments. State Auditor Dave Yost and Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to open an investigation at that time. Both Yost and DeWine have financial ties to ECOT and its founder Bill Lager, a top Republican financier. Republicans rejected Galonski’s amendment.
SB 216 now moves to the Ohio Senate for review before going to the governor’s desk.