OSHA. MRSA. CAP. ASAP. These three and four-letter acronyms are indeed ubiquitous in our lives, not to mention countless others that are being created for use in social media as tools for people in a hurry.

It’s no secret that many of us are challenged by acronyms. And with their proliferation across the landscape, it’s no wonder. Here’s one of my favorite examples.

When the public transportation system in Philadelphia was merged into a larger, regional authority called SEPTA , or the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, local television stations conducted interviews on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love to determine the public’s knowledge about the new agency.

As I watched one man being asked by a television reporter what SEPTA was, he thought for a moment and said  “Hmmm, septa, that’s some kind of disease, isn’t it”?

In reading stories every day in the newspapers about high crimes, misdemeanors, diseases, and everything in between, it’s no wonder we feel challenged in our lives. As an old saying goes, life is what happens to you when you’re trying to make a living.

But if you’re an Ohio newspaper reader trying to make a living and also trying to make sense of what is happening all around, you might face one of the greatest challenges of all. In fact, with daily headlines reporting one charter school scandal after another, you might find yourself acronymically challenged and confused like the Philadelphia man was about SEPTA when you see this term:


Hmmm. ECOT. What’s that? Surely not another disease, right?

In processing what these letters mean, some folks might subconsciously insert another letter in that acronym, as in EPCOT. But unlike EPCOT, a magical, orderly and pleasant place, ECOT by contrast seems to be a murky, mysterious, and virtually forbidding structure. Consider this example:

“…the Department of Education informed ECOT that, based on its attendance audit, the district’s reported enrollment last year was inflated by 143 percent. Instead of the 15,322 full-time students that ECOT was paid for, the department said that based on log-in durations and other data provided by the school, the actual number is 6,313.”

In an editorial appropriately labeled “Bilked by ECOT,” the Akron Beacon Journal let loose on the murky, mysterious, structure masquerading as a school:

“Add to the mix the dismal academic performance of ECOT, a 39 percent graduation rate, for instance, and the size of the scandal becomes more evident, money flowing based on fraudulent attendance numbers and without delivering in the virtual classroom. Then, there are the accumulated years and dollars. It is hard to recall such a gross misuse of public money in Ohio.”

Things that are mysterious, murky, and forbidding are, by their very nature, gross.

Note for the acronymically challenged: yep, it’s ECOT, not EPCOT that is being discussed here.

But if we see this acronym appearing constantly in news stories, there is a possibility that while we know it refers to some type of charter school, we nevertheless might have forgotten what ECOT officially stands for, a situation similar to those who mishear song lyrics.

For those who may be acronymically challenged and still aren’t sure of the official name of the behemoth online school, Plunderbund did a search at an acronym website and found some of the most common names that match the ECOT identity. Here’s what we found:

Abbr.   Meaning
ECOT      Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (est. 1982)
ECOT      Economic Club of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
ECOT      Employers Confederation of Thailand
ECOT      Expeditionary Communications Officer Training (USAF)
ECOT      Expert Committee on Tuberculosis (Canada)

But then there is one more acronym that we found at this site:

ECOT      Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (Ohio online homeschool)

Yes, that ECOT.

With respect to our ECOT friends in Canada and Thailand, the ECOT based in Ohio USA has been the subject of concern by charter watchers for years due to its murky, mysterious, and forbidding status, and for its apparent ability to gobble up public funds by the hundreds of millions. And if the school has been able to report an enrollment 143 percent above what it actually is entitled to receive, based on the state-minimum requirement of 920 instructional hours yearly for enrolled students, the school should be renamed to reflect its true nature.

Hmmm. Mitt Romney famously talked about the 47%. But 143%? That’s a number which should grab people’s attention, to be sure.

In honor of the new Inflategate as practiced by ECOT, i.e., the one that is the “Ohio online homeschool,” an organization has been created to receive suggestions for new names that will better identify the online school. This new organization, the Education Communication Outreach Team, or ECOT, invites Plunderbund readers and Ohio residents to submit new names for the other ECOT, the virtual school that is virtually devoid of students.

As a way to entertain citizen input and involvement in obtaining a new, more fitting identity for this school, here are two names that are offered by (the new) ECOT to start the process of renaming the other ECOT to more accurately reflect its true nature:

ECOT – Effectively Cleaning Ohio’s Treasury
ECOT – Endlessly Cheating Ohio’s Taxpayers

While we might inject some humor in asking readers if they know what the acronym ECOT means, after a cascade of stories about deceptive calculations regarding its full-time equivalent enrollment, we also need to remember that this school is a byproduct of the Reagan-era thinking that everything public is bad, and that privatization and deregulation are desirable measures to impose on what the right sees as a bloated, socialist society.

Here is a simple formulation I’ve put together to understand the mindset (legislative action) that created ECOT (the “Ohio online homeschool”) in the first place:

Voodoo economics (supply side, trickle down) begets voodoo public policy (charters, vouchers that provide public money to attend religious schools) begets voodoo accounting (private educational management companies, inflated student attendance) begets fuzzy math (inflated state aid) begets a fractured society.

At the end of all the charges, countercharges, and appellate court rulings about the “Ohio online homeschool” ECOT, one thing is clear: we deserve better than this. Our society should not allow public funds to pay for public relations shills, attorneys and spinmeisters to defend the indefensible – using our money to fuel this mess as a deduct from what could have been spent as a legitimate instructional expense.

It’s long past time to be adding to the cash flow for PR and law firms. The Germans say it much better than we do: enough is too much.

Enough. Let’s stop this theft of public funds that otherwise should be helping vulnerable kids who need to be properly educated. In the end it’s all about ECOT, the acronym that appears to mean Effectively Cleaning Ohio’s Treasury and Endlessly Cheating Ohio’s Taxpayers.

Ohio taxpayers – how’s that voodoo economics, voodoo public policy, voodoo accounting, and deregulation working for you? Let us know, and also let the Republican legislators that accept campaign contributions derived from all of this voodoo economics and voodoo charter school public policy, hear from you in November.
Denis Smith is a retired school administrator and a former consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office. He writes about education issues as well as politics and constitutional reform.