The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) robbed Lakewood schools of at least $1.8 million dollars, and some of the politicians on your November ballot took big money to look the other way. If you aren’t familiar with this scandal, here are the facts.
What was ECOT? ECOT was an online charter school, enrolling students throughout the state of Ohio. ECOT, like all charter schools in Ohio, received public funding. When a student decides to attend a charter school, taxpayer money allocated to a public school is transferred to the charter school. In this way, the money follows the student.
How did they scam our schools? ECOT scammed Ohio taxpayers out of millions by leveraging our lack of government oversight and by providing direct campaign contributions to candidates. The majority of these candidates were GOP members who overlooked this fraudulent activity for their own gains. ECOT was able to steal $189 million dollars from the state of Ohio by enrolling fake students into their charter school, inflating their enrollment numbers to receive more funding from our public schools.
How did ECOT get away with it? ECOT’s founder, Bill Lager, gave more than two million dollars to Ohio Republicans. Jon Husted, now running for Lieutenant Governor, was Speaker of the Ohio House when GOP members eliminated the Office of Education Oversight entirely – an office that could have caught ECOT’s obvious scam years earlier. Current Attorney General Mike DeWine, now running for Governor, claims he just couldn’t have acted any sooner. Additionally, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, now running for Attorney General, gave the school his office’s highest award for clean financial records - a merit they truly did not deserve.
What are Democrats doing to help? Democrats have shown widespread support for increased oversight to protect our state’s financial investments. For example, at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray fought for years to break up rackets like this one; he’s now running for Governor. Steve Dettelbach, running for Attorney General, has always been outspoken about the need for effective oversight, regardless of which party is in power, and candidate for Ohio Auditor, Zack Space, has pledged a commission to investigate abuse by for-profit charter schools as his first priority.
What is the status of ECOT now? ECOT was forced to shut its doors once this scandal began leaking into the open last year. However, various investigations and legal processes are still playing out as ECOT fights to keep the tens of millions of dollars they owe back to Ohio.
How can Ohioans help? As Ohioans, we must elect people who will prioritize the needs of our communities over the candidates' own financial gain. Every vote matters when it comes to protecting Ohio students’ education. No election is pre-decided; remember to get to your polls this November to make your voice heard.
Bradley A Presutto is a 13 year Lakewood resident currently representing Lakewood's 2H precinct as a Member of County Central Committee for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.