Kasich will tell you he wants to spend “more dollars in the classroom” and that he wants to “improve our schools” but today he attended the graduation ceremonies at ECOT – an online, for-profit charter school with one of the worst graduation rates in the state and an operator who is one of the biggest Republican donors in Ohio.

ECOT, The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, is the 21st largest “district” in the state of Ohio. As Greg pointed out last month, the state spent $59,978,866 on the school last year – millions of which seem to go directly into the pocket of William Lager, the schools founder.

Lager has returned a lot of that money – hundreds of thousands of dollars just last year! – directly into the campaign coffers of some of his biggest (typically Republican) supporters – including tens of thousands of dollars directly to Speaker of the House Speaker William Batchelder, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus and Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor.

Which might explain why this school has been gaining support among Ohio’s Republicans even though it has been sucking hundreds of millions in state funding away from Ohio’s public schools while failing Ohio’s students for nearly a decade.

In giving the commencement speech this year Kasich will join the ranks of Jeb Bush and Ohio Republican politicians Mark Wagoner, Gary Cates, Jim Petro and John Husted. All have spoken at past ECOT graduations and, not surprisingly, all have received contributions from Lager.

During the last campaign Kasich said he would push for State takeover of Cleveland Public Schools if they didn’t improve, but ECOT continues to have a lower graduation rate and a lower attendance rate than Cleveland Public Schools. Not only is Kasich not pushing for State takeover of ECOT – he’s promoting the school and of his party’s largest political donors – by speaking at their graduation.

If Kasich was serious about promoting the best schools and the best teachers, if Kasich was serious about putting more money back into the classroom, if Kasich was serious about doing the best for Ohio’s children, you really have to wonder why he is promoting a school like ECOT that:

  • Has had consistently flat or declining test scores for a nine year period
  • Has graduation rates of below 35% over that entire time (consistently 20 points lower than Cleveland Schools’ scores)
  • Has attendance rates that are consistently below the state average
  • Has student achievement scores that are significantly below state averages
  • Received 36% more in per pupil funding than the state average
  • Is run by an unlicensed superintendent and unlicensed assistant superintendent who are each being paid over $100,000 per year (above statewide averages)
  • Pays teachers are paid an average salary of $34,450, well below the state average of $55,812.

As a business, ECOT works great. They take in tons of cash (from the state), they make big profits for the founder, and they do it all while underpaying their teachers. As an educator, however, they kind of suck.

I guess we now know what Kasich thinks is important in a school.