This weekend we posted about Ohio’s largest charter school, ECOT, being recommended to receive a “bonus” check of $2.9 million that would be quickly rerouted into ECOT owner William Lager’s other private businesses. This is not the first raise that ECOT has received this year. Through the Kasich budget passed this summer, ECOT received the largest increase in state funding for any charter school in Ohio at $4.8 million. This far surpassed the second largest increase of $1.35 million given to Ohio Virtual Academy.
It’s good to buy friends in high places…
Since 2004, Lager, the ECOT CEO, has been donating to Ohio political campaigns with staggering regularity and in staggering numbers for someone whose main livelihood is providing a “public” education to Ohio children:
Lager began profiting off of Ohio taxpayers shortly after opening ECOT at the turn of the century. In 2000, he founded Altair Learning Management Company to “manage” ECOT’s operations. This company began receiving millions in funding that same year according to ECOT’s annual filings with the State Auditor’s office. In FY01, Altair began receiving 10% of ECOT’s funding as a management fee. As enrollment increased, the total amount of funding began to increase, but that wasn’t enough for Lager. In FY05, Lager to increase the management fee to 14%, realizing a raise of nearly $2,000,000.
Finally, in FY08, Lager figured out a way to pocket even more taxpayer dollars. He coordinated a decrease in the Altair’s management fee down to 4% while creating a new contract with Altair to provide curriculum to ECOT at an annual cost of over $8 million dollars.
The next year, FY09, Lager created IQ Innovations, a for-profit software company to develop and provide services to ECOT, while still using Altair as the school’s management company. That first year, FY09, IQ Innovations was paid over $5 million by ECOT and the figure has increased every year since.
The chart below shows the year-by-year breakdown of the payments from ECOT to William Lager’s for-profit companies.
Such grand figures help to explain how Lager can afford to make such astronomical political donations year after year and why, as we mentioned over the weekend, the last thing Lager and his companies need is for Ohio’s Controlling Board to approve another $2.7 million in state taxpayer dollars supposedly allocated for public school funding to be directly funneled into Lager’s pockets.
And deep pockets they are.
In 2002, Lager purchased a $300,000 condominium in downtown Columbus where he could be close to his pals in the legislature and oversee ECOT’s operations. While the small, 1,200 sq ft condo apparently served him well for many years, Lager recently found the need to upgrade. On November 1 of this year, Lager added to his personal real estate portfolio, purchasing a $995,000 mansion (4,600+ sq ft) in Upper Arlington.
What public school superintendent/CEO could donate over $1.3 million to political campaigns over the span of a decade and turn around and purchase a $300,000 condo and a million dollar home? Let alone do so while avoiding the ever-watching eye of the state’s media? Can you imagine how bat-shit crazy the Dispatch would go if this story was about the superintendent/CEO of the Columbus City Schools? What type of outcry would this generate about the misuse of precious taxpayer dollars that we should be spending on educating our children?
The bottom line? William Lager is grandly profiting off of taxpayer dollars that are supposed to be going to our schools.
What can we do?
Start by contacting the State Controlling Board members (see contact information at the end of the post) before they meet this week to Approve the Straight A Fund recipients and tell them to DENY the additional $2.9 million award to ECOT that will further line Lager’s pockets.
And then make plans to vote out Lager’s close friend and ally, Governor John Kasich, in 2014.
State Controlling Board Members (click on a name to send an email)
Randy Cole, President
Sen. Bill Coley (R)
Sen. Chris Widener (R)
Sen. Tom Sawyer (D)
Rep. Jeff McClain (R)
Rep. Ross McGregor (R)
Rep. Chris Redfern (D)