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 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.
“Three years after Governor Kasich’s handpicked charter school head was caught defrauding taxpayers, an historic amount of tax dollars continue to flow to Ohio charter schools,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), the lead Democrat on the House Education Committee. “Instead of wholesale changes to hold Ohio charters accountable to the same standards and rules as traditional schools, the legislature has, in effect, loosened standards.”
Just recently, it came to light that the now-defunct ECOT, the largest online charter that bankrolled numerous GOP campaigns, was using tax dollars to pay off students for attending graduation ceremonies and taking required statewide tests.
“As this scandal unfolds and more problems come to light, the political will at the Statehouse to make substantive reforms is overshadowed by the failure to act during the last three years,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid), a member of the House Education Committee. “Operating in a system where charter school operators bankroll the campaigns of elected officials tasked with holding them accountable has stalled any meaningful reform and opened to door to more corruption.”
Recently, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine recused himself from the ECOT Supreme Court case a year after hearing oral arguments. DeWine took campaign cash from ECOT, like his father, Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The senior DeWine shied away from cracking down on ECOT after some $80 million in tax dollars was found to be fraudently received by overinflating student attendance records. After saying there was nothing his office could do, AG DeWine recently 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.