Documents obtained by Plunderbund show that a company owned by one of Ohio’s largest charter school operators is failing to deliver on a major contract with the state. The documents also indicate that former employees of the company, now supervising the project for the state, likely retaliated against public employees who questioned the company’s failures. The company’s owner, William Lager, is one of the biggest Republican political donors in Ohio.
According to an investigation report from the Ohio State University’s Office of University Compliance and Integrity (OUCI), “Employees with the Ohio Technology Consortium (OH-TECH)… reported that a project to implement a statewide K-12 learning management system is failing because a key vendor, IQ Innovations (IQ), repeatedly did not meet the requirements of its agreement with OSU.” The employees “indicated that Board of Regents staff caused them to be removed from parts of the project and other responsibilities because they reported these issues.”
The report finds that “three OSU employees conveyed credible information that they faced significant retaliation after questioning the performance of IQ” in implementing the learning management system, now called ilearnOhio.
IQ Innovations is a software company owned by William Lager. Lager also owns a company called Altair Learning Management as well as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), a giant online charter school that has a lower graduation rate than all of Ohio’s largest urban public school districts. ECOT buys its “online-learning platform” from IQ , and it pays Altair to operate its charter schools. Lager profits every step of the way.
According to the OSU report, “IQ shares its Chief Information Officer with the Electronic Classroom for Tomorrow (ECOT) and Altair Learning Management.In addition, multiple OSU employees who were interviewed indicated that John Conley, Assistant Deputy Chancellor of Educational Technology at the Ohio Board of Regents is a former employee of IQ.”
OH-TECH’s current structure was put into place in 2011 when Ohio Governor John Kasich and his Republican legislative allies added language to the biennial budget (HB 153) to require the Ohio State University and the Ohio Board of Regents to implement the “distance learning clearinghouse.”
According to the bill, the clearing house would allow Ohio schools and “for-profit course providers” to “offer on-line or other distance learning courses” to Ohio students. The bill was based on model legislation from ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), a conservative group that promotes the privatization of public education.
The bill also created the Ohio Digital Learning Task Force which was charged with developing “a strategy for the expansion of digital learning,” including creating a strategy for iLearnOhio..
Among those Kasich appointed to the task force were Susan Stagner, the VP of State Relations for the online charter school Connections Academy and…
Scott Kern, Chief Financial Officer at ECOT at the time. Kern is now the CEO of Altair.
You read that correctly. Bill Lager’s companies not only have the contract to implement iLearnOhio, they also have their CEO on the task force to define the strategy for Ohio’s online learning initiatives. And at least one former Lager employee now working for the state is silencing critics of the company’s failures and missteps, according to allegations in the OSU investigation.
What could possibly go wrong?
Bill Lager is one of the largest Republican donors in Ohio. The last time we calculated, Lager had donated nearly one and a half million dollars to Ohio Republicans. But that number is likely much, much higher now.
Meanwhile, Lager has received over one hundred million dollars in state funding for his “education” companies.
A quick comparison of the bill that authorized the latest Ohio education boondoggle, along with political contribution data from the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, reveals that fifteen sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill have received contributions from Bill Lager, including then-Speaker Bill Batchelder, Jim Buchy, Cheryl Grossman, Mike Duffey, Kevin Bacon, Mike Dovilla, Lou Blessing, Chris Widener, Jeff McClain, Tom Niehaus, Senate President Keith Faber, SB-5 Sponsor Shannon Jones, Frank LaRose, Gerald Stebelton and Dave Burke.
Oh, and Batchelder, the long-time Speaker of the House? He is now a lobbyist for IQ Innovations.