InnovationOhio has released a new report that examines the nexus between e-schools’ academic performance (or lack thereof) and yet their political popularity with Republicans that might, just might be, influenced by the rather large campaign donations made by e-school businesses, like… White Hat Management executive David Brennan.

Among the findings of the report:

  • Of Ohio’s 7 state-wide E-schools (which account for 90% of all E-school enrollment), six are not even rated “effective” by the Ohio Department of Education.
  • 5 of the 7 have graduation rates worse than Cleveland Municipal Schools, which has the lowest graduation rate of all traditional school districts.
  • Far from “saving’ money, E-Schools actually cost the state TWICE as much per pupil as traditional public schools.
  • Currently, E-schools are required to spend a minimum amount on per pupil instruction, or face a fine. In their respective budget proposals, both Gov. Kasich and House Republicans removed that provision. This would short-change students, and allow E-school operators to pocket even more taxpayer money.
  • Ohio pays David Brennan nearly $12 million per year for operating the OHDELA E-school, which graduates just 36% of its students. Another operator, William Lager, rakes in $64 million per year for operating ECOT, the state’s largest E-school, which has a graduation rate of 35%.
  • Together, Misters Brennan and Lager have made nearly $4 million in political donations since 2001, mostly to Republican candidates and party accounts.
  • Though Gov. Kasich and General Assembly leaders say they believe in “accountability,” the legislature has still not adopted the E-school standards developed by the state Board of Education in 2003, while ever more taxpayer money is pumped into the failed schools operated by their financial contributors.

“Ohio’s E-Schools are an outrageous taxpayer rip-off, a cruel hoax for many students and parents, and a textbook example of the “pay to play” culture that too often permeates state government,” said InnovationOhio Communication Director Dale Butland. “At a time when Ohio’s traditional schools are seeing unprecedented state cuts, most Ohioans have no idea how shockingly bad Ohio’s E-Schools are and how much state money is being funneled to the for-profit operators who run them.

“Gov. Kasich and his legislative allies loudly demand reform and accountability in traditional schools. But when it comes to E-Schools run by their biggest financial donors, they suddenly develop laryngitis. Their silence speaks volumes.”

Since 2005, there’s been a moratorium on new e-schools until standards from them were established.   Standards like the ones the State Board of Education proposed in 2003, but the General Assembly has failed to act on.  Kasich’s budget repealed the moratorium, but the House GOP actually restored it (in other words an 180-degree role reversal in what occurred with brick and mortar charter schools.)

The first “e-school” in Ohio was the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which sounds like the world’s most boring exhibit ever at EPCOT Center ever.  The following year, then State Auditor Jim Petro found that ECOT received nearly $2 million from the State for children they couldn’t prove were actually enrolled.  (Duh… they’re from the future.  Where else do you think kids from something called the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow would be?  The present?)

55982_slide[1]Let’s think about it, give the average adolescent boy a laptop and an internet connection and call it a “school” and what’s the worst that could happen? 

But for an e-school executive like David Brennan, campaign donations to the Republicans is a heck of an investment consider this information from InnovationOhio:  Brennan has donated $3 million to various Republican candidates and party organizations over the years, but his e-school company gets $11.7 million a year to operate an e-school with an average graduation rate of 35.9% of its students!

The report questions whether the GOP intends to continue this limbo by keeping the moratorium in place without ever passing any standards in order to protect Brennan and another major e-school executive GOP donor from facing any real competition.

It’s not about political ideology for someone like David Brennan, it’s just the cost of doing business. 

Read the rest of the report.  You’ll find the information about student:teacher ratios and teacher compensation interesting too.

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