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Fedor questions Yost's involvement with attendance fraud allegations at online charter school

Says pattern of selective enforcement makes Yost part of the problem in Ohio
August 4, 2016
Democratic Newsroom

The highest ranking Democratic member of the House Education Committee, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), today responded to news reports that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) fails to maintain critical documentation related to students’ offline work and that Auditor of State Dave Yost failed to conduct a comprehensive audit after receiving allegations of attendance fraud at the online charter school.

The Toledo lawmaker has called on Yost in the recent past to investigate Ohio Virtual Academy, the state’s second largest online charter school, for the same attendance scrubbing allegations taking place at ECOT. Fedor again called on Yost to reopen the investigation into the data scrubbing scandal that led to the resignation of David Hansen. Fedor issued the following statement in response to Yost’s latest failure to investigate:

“Instead of standing up to speak at ECOT’s graduation ceremony, Auditor Yost should be standing up for Ohio parents and taxpayers.”

“Yost has repeatedly swept charter school malfeasance under the rug, most recently by failing to conduct a complete investigation into credible allegations of attendance fraud at the state’s largest online charter school, when both hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars and – most importantly – the education and civil rights of our children are on the line. It is clear that Auditor Yost continues to pick and choose when to ensure taxpayer funded organizations are in full compliance with Ohio laws.” 

“From the crooked contract the state signed with ECOT to the cursory and wholly inadequate state ‘reviews’, the latest reports only raise more questions surrounding the insidious relationship between Republican lawmakers and Ohio’s deep-pocketed charter school industry.   

“Auditor Yost recognized ECOT with an Award of Distinction for excellent record-keeping a mere six months ago, when he had in his hands – since 2014 – serious allegations of wrongdoing and attendance scrubbing from a high-ranking ECOT official. Instead of investigation, Yost was passing out awards while the school was destroying important documents related to student’s offline work and grades each year.

“Ohio parents and taxpayers are rightfully concerned that their children aren’t receiving the education they need to be successful, while their hard-earned dollars are being given to Republicans in control to maintain the corrupt status quo. 

“We all know actions speak louder than words, so when the state auditor gives his word that he will hold the charter school industry accountable and protect Ohio taxpayers, it is clear he doesn’t mean what he says.

“Auditor Yost simply isn’t doing his job. He is part of the problem, not the solution in Ohio. Based on the pattern of Auditor Yost’s resistance to evenhandedly investigating wrongdoing at GOP-aligned organizations, he simply cannot be trusted.”

In a recent interview with The Columbus Dispatch, Yost tries to discredit anyone asking tough questions of his relationship with ECOT by saying, “We did this by the book, by the numbers, on the merits, and no differently than anybody else. So anybody who says anything else is a damn liar.” 

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is Ohio’s largest online charter school and was founded by William Lager, a software executive with subsidiary education companies that took in nearly $23 million in tax dollars for providing ECOT services in 2014. ECOT received about $115 million in tax dollars that year.

Lager has also given more than $1.2 million in political donations in recent years, mostly to GOP lawmakers – including $11,400 to Yost. Yost spoke at ECOT graduation ceremonies in 2014 and 2015 and awarded them an Auditor of State Award with Distinction this January even though ECOT was being widely panned for its abysmal graduation rates and problems with attendance reporting.