Another charter school scandal is in the news. And once again, GOP leaders who collect millions in campaign cash from failing charter schools are suspicious of the allegations but eager to go after the unidentified whistleblower who brought the matter to their attention.
In case you missed it, this scandal involves the Ohio Virtual Academy, a chronically poor performing online school.
The top Republican and top Democrat on the House Education Committee received the whistleblower’s tip that the school failed to dis-enroll hundreds of chronically truant students in order to pad its rolls. The amount of state money the school receives depends on the number of students it enrolls.
According the Ohio Associated Press, which broke the story:
Ohio Virtual Academy, which serves about 13,000 students statewide, said it follows all state reporting laws and enrollment guidelines.
Reps. Bill Hayes and Teresa Fedor, the House Education Committee’s top Republican and Democrat, told The Associated Press they have forwarded an anonymous whistleblower’s email to state Auditor Dave Yost, whose office has made school attendance fraud a priority.
Fedor wants the matter investigated AND wants the committee to hear from Dr. Richard Ross, Ohio’s top education official.
Hayes wants the matter investigated, doesn’t think the committee should hear from Ross AND asked the state to investigate the whistleblower, since disseminating private student data is a violation of federal law.
Last July, when a panel of teachers from Concept Charter Schools told the state school board of everything from test tampering to sexual misconduct in the classroom, some board members wanted the teachers to be investigated for failing to report the in-class groping games. Concept Schools is another chain that does a magnificent job of collecting millions of public money but does an abysmal job of educating kids.
To help put this in perspective, let’s turn to a blog post by Steve Dyer, an attorney and former chair of the House Education Committee:
This is not a new occurrence in Ohio’s E-Schools. Ohio’s first E-School, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — now the country’s largest for-profit school — was fined $1.7 million by State Auditor Jim Petro in 2001 after it couldn’t account for all the kids it claimed to be educating.
OHVA is run by the notorious K-12, Inc. — the nation’s largest operator of E-Schools, with schools in 33 states. However, OHVA is K-12’s biggest cash cow, accounting for at least 10% of its total revenue, according to the company’s SEC filings. The company recently lost its operating contract with its other cash cow — Pennsylvania’s Agora online school. So its dependence upon OHVA’s cash has only increased.
K-12’s Tennessee affiliate, Tennessee Virtual Academy has been shuttered by the previous state education commissioner, Kevin Huffman (Michelle Rhee’s ex-husband). The decision was upheld by the following commissioner and the courts.
Back in Ohio, K-12 officials said they suspect opponents of charter schools are behind the new allegations.
That excuse is getting a little old.
In past 6 months or so, both pro-charter groups and long-time charter critics got on the same page.
In fact, last October, Greg Harris who heads pro-charter StudentsFirst Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch: “We think a lot of them (charters) need to be closed, because they’re not doing a good job. We think charters have a role in the education base, but we also think most of the charters in Ohio stink.”
They do stink, and one of the more vocal advocates for change has been Ohio Auditor David Yost. The central Ohio Republican has urged legislators debating reform legislation to adopt changes to better hold the e-schools accountable.
The whistleblower’s information has been forwarded to Yost – one of the few signs of hope.