The good folks over at ProgressOhio have taken the lead on exposing the problems with Ohio’s disastrous up charter school system.

This morning they put out a press release about the latest ECOT scandal in which the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow tried to force all of their teachers to come to Columbus for a pro-charter school rally…

 

ECOT to Spend Tax Money to Rally for More Tax Money  As It Fights Efforts to Recover Tax Money it was Overpaid 

For Immediate Release:

May 8, 2017

COLUMBUS – Chronically failing charter schools are spending increasingly large sums of public money on political rallies and deceptive promotional materials, with tomorrow’s ECOT rally the second taxpayer-financed pro-charter Statehouse event this month.

In an email to ECOT staff, Superintendent Rick Teeters announced, “We’re offering bus transportation from Cleveland, Dayton, North Canton and Cincinnati…. After the Rally, we invite all staff to attend a light lunch, served by members of ECOT’s administration.’’

Teeters initially ordered the school’s entire staff to attend the event – a order that could cost Ohio taxpayers nearly $250,000 in staff time — in addition to the cost of charter buses. Complaints from parents and teachers prompted Teeters to announce attendance is now voluntary, but a big crowd is still expected. Last week, the Statehouse was the site of another pro-charter rally that attracted an estimated 1,000 people. At least six charter buses delivered students, parents and teachers. The driver of a Lakefront Lines charter said one bus rents for $1350 per day.

Last month, Teeters was featured in a 37-minute video in which he attempts to discredit news reports about ECOT poor academic performance and possible attendance padding. The video gives the appearance of a legitimate TV interview but was produced by Choice Media TV, a non-profit that describes its mission as “Organized exclusively for the purpose of edcucating (sic) the public in regards to situations and problems relating to our school systems.’’ Choice Media is funded by pro-charter supporters, according to financial records filed with the IRS.

“Traditional schools are not permitted to take teachers and staff out of the classroom for a day-long political event – and charter schools should have to follow the same ban,’’ said ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis. “Instead of promoting their schools with fake news, ECOT officials should use their public funds to improve the school’s terrible academic record.’’ (A complete list of Ohio laws that charter schools do not have to follow can be found here.)

Moritz College of Law Emeritus Associate Professor of Law Charlie Wilson, an expert in labor and employment law, expressed dismay that tax money will be used to pay the salaries of ECOT employees to demonstrate during a school day.  “ECOT will have to pay its employees their regular salary while they are demonstrating, because employment law requires that an employer pay its employees their regular salary when the employer requires that they attend an event,” Wilson said.

Sam Shim, Vice President of the Worthington City Schools Board of Education, echoed Wilson’s concerns.

“I’m not comfortable with public funds being used to transport ECOT employees to a political rally at the Statehouse. That is an inappropriate use of tax dollars,’’ Shim said.

ECOT also launched a new, taxpayer-funded podcast, “What You Don’t Know.’’ In one recent episode, Teeters joins ECOT lobbyist Neil Clark to brag about the online charter school’s “success graduating students.’’ A 2016 New York Times analysis showed ECOT has the worst four-year graduation rate in America.

The podcast is featured on ECOT’s Facebook page and generated this comment:

Craig Morris This is just one side of this whole story, with their “consultant”/ lobbyist running this spin show. It should be titled “What We WANT you to know”. Both sides have been deceptive from the beginning and is just an exercise wasting taxpayers dollars ….

ECOT’s PR push comes as it continues to be dogged by scandal and is in court fighting a state order to repay nearly $60 million for students it claimed were enrolled full time but the state says were not. ECOT lost in the trial court and court of appeals.

For More Information, Contact:

Sandy Theis, 614-940-0131

sandy.theis@gmail.com

 
  • Regardless of your politics, there will be plenty of representation from all parties and non affiliated at this school pride event. Regardless of your short-sighted views on innovation in public education, there will be plenty of families whose students are only succeeding because of their ability to choose both traditional and non-traditional school options at this school pride event. Regardless of which special interest funds you and the “good people” at wink tank Progress Ohio as puppets, you have an interesting and sad obsession with continuing to disparage an Ohio school, hundreds of Ohio teachers and 10’s of thousands of Ohio’s children… especially for participating in their school pride event.

  • Red Rover

    Regardless of our politics, maybe we take issue with your use of taxpayer money to promote the worst charter school in the country and provide a smokescreen for your miserable performance.

  • Mom

    Here is what I find interesting, this article speaks of tax money: my money, your money, we all have an interest. So I emailed Sandy Theis. I asked how the figures were computed, and where did she find facts. How did she verify their accuracy? All of which are good qualities for anyone looking to be informed…it is also RESPONSIBLE journalism. She responded with “lots of places”-so I kindly asked again, she asked if I worked there. When I responded with no, I am fact finding and attempting to become informed-she stopped responding via email. This tells me there are no figures. There hasn’t been any well informed documentation. I would be glad to post the emails for anyone wishing to decide for themselves. Theis consultants, if you’re going to walk the walk, be prepared to talk the talk and back up with facts. Otherwise, don’t waste my time with fake news.

  • Public Ed Partners

    There’s quite a bit of well informed documentation. For example, this information was taken from the Ohio Department of Education website: https://knowyourcharter.com/?view=charterDetail&id=300

  • If you want to know who pulls Theiss’ puppet strings, look no further than who funds her wink tank. She intentionally deceives and flings out on time graduation rate measurements that blatantly dismiss 8 out of every 18 students ECOT graduates. She brings protesting mascot bears to school pride rallies and huddles with her fellow media operatives completely numb to the teachers and families that surround her. She’s called and shown up on ECOT parent’s doorsteps just to harass them. She’s definitely serving her donor’s interests in the most reckless and destructive ways imaginable.

  • Who is this we that attempts to speak on behalf of all taxpayers money?

  • And…

    Jeremy stoops to personal attacks in his latest comment, with three grammar mistakes to boot! (Please Google plural possessives, dude)

    ECOT should expect more from their professional PR trolls.

  • If some crazed political puppet was attacking and insulting you and your children, I would expect the same vigor and grammar mistakes from your tired thumbtap driven posts.

  • Mom

    I have spent the last few hours researching the link you provided with several others, as well as communication via email. Verbally, the Department of Education supplied different data than the data on the website link, which is vague and misleading at best. If I am not confident of the data, I cannot support the cause. I cannot find anything supporting your numbers. Show me something real-put a case study with a statistic. Currently, it seems as if this was not a well thought out plan, with a poor execution. Until someone can show me a study without conflicting data, I have to support ECOT.

  • Mom

    Not sure who Jeremy is? You may want to check your crystal ball, sounds defective. I am not personally attacking anyone. I think you have that area covered. As I said, I am trying to be informed. Provide accurate information and I will be glad to decide for myself.

  • Public Ed Partners

    Misinformed people rarely change their minds when presented with the facts.

  • Hi Mom, I’m Jeremy. First and foremost I’m a parent with children enrolled in both traditional public schools as we as a child who is finishing up her 5th year at ECOT. I have been a media watchdog for the last few years studying Ohio’s charter debate (specifically the ECOT attacks) while organizing an online community of parents teachers and other ECOT supporters. I have a professional background in online education as well as years of experience scrutinizing and improving data science for a couple large corporations. The main anti ecot talking point is the “4 year on time” (although they conveniently leave that part out) graduation rate. What they also leave out is that 65% of ECOTS new high school enrollees arrive at the school on day one already at least a year behind academically. It’s also inconvenient for them to share that when this mass of student enroll at ECOT it negatively affects ECOTS graduation rate while statistically improving the previous schools grad rate that failed these kids in the first place. There’s a ton more convenient sins of omission in the data and the way it’s reported and peddled by those with political or other agendas but I’ll stop there because this comment will likely be censored anyways… which is also something they like to do at times like these.

  • Mom

    Like I said, those attacking ECOT are lacking conclusive data. With as long as ECOT has been around, there should be at least one case study to support your cause. To date, that case study is no where to be found. Where is it? Show me, educate me. I am open minded, with justification. Justify your position. Can you? If you cannot, my position will remain as stated.

  • Red Rover

    One of ECOT’s many critics who has kids in public schools that have to ask for more local dollars to compensate for the State siphoning money away from the district to give to an unaccountable, failed experiment.

  • Then you should love ECOT. More local dollars to educate less students when they transfer to ECOT… unless your district is over their state funding cap that is. That’s the only time your so-called siphoning can happen… but it’s not really siphoning at all – It’s a district over their state funding cap. Period. When will you address the real issue of your local district funding caps either with the state, with your districts finance department or with your local levy detractors and quit blaming some other school. That’s just a sad diversion from the root cause of your issue.

  • Mom

    I do not understand unaccountable, can you elaborate? Can you provide concise, reliable, real time data to back up your statements? The state bears the burden of proof, if you support the state, please provide this information so I can also make an informed decision. To date, NO ONE individual or agency has been able to do that, very frustrating!

  • Former ECOT Teacher

    I dislike that the issue of school choice has become muddled with ECOT. This is not actually about school choice, but ECOTs poor record of attendance for enrolled students and the money they receive.

  • Mom

    I am not saying you, or anyone is wrong, I am simply asking someone to show me this information. The website provided below does not match the Ohio Department of Education. When I inquired about that, the Ohio Department of Ed. Had not heard of such a group, and did not support their information, yet the quote below, and their website, says “information provided by the Department of Education”… I do not understand why this is so difficult. I understand you are a former ECOT teacher, maybe you have documentation to show those of us trying very hard to understand the accusations?

  • gregmild

    Hi. Late to the discussion board. Specifically what information would you like to have? I will say that most of the information about school funding, enrollment, etc., is not neatly packaged anywhere, but often has to be cobbled together from a variety of pages – even when the information is all on the ODE website (in a variety of different places). I can try to guide you to the sources of the data, but there is often “some assembly required”. I use a lot of spreadsheets when I’m doing this type of research. Just let me know and I’ll try to get you there.

  • Mom

    Thank you! I would like to see the following:
    -the documentation to support the claim that there is not accurate tracking of ECOT students. Who came to that conclusion and to what did they base that conclusion on?
    -the documentation methods used, in a uniform manner from any public school receiving state funds.
    -I’m sure with the age of ECOT, there has been at least one case study analyzing ECOT and it’s success or lack therof. Where is it?
    -how many IEP and 504 students does ECOT service vs the public schools in the state? What services are provided? Where is the itemization of services billed vs services received per student from ALL districts?
    I was able to find the per student amount transferred to ECOT, but nothing for IEP/504 students…ironically, I can easily access that information for any other state BUT Ohio…judging from the information on line, using my local district as a baseline, it doesn’t look as if the public schools have had this information audited since 2010…

  • gregmild

    Okay, but just remember you asked for it. : )

    The documentation, etc, is at the center of the court case, of course, and you can find the case and all of the exhibits submitted by both parties on the Franklin County Clerk of Courts website at https://fcdcfcjs.co.franklin.oh.us/CaseInformationOnline/

    Search for “Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow” and look for the more recent case filings from 2016. You’ll find Jeremy Akers (aka ECOT PALS) as a co-plaintiff in the case against the Ohio Department of Education. Some of the key documents are the operating agreement between ECOT and their sponsor, the ODE manual that describes how attendance will be counted, and references to Ohio Revised Code that describes student attendance rules for community schools, including online schools. There are hundreds of pages of exhibits, and many of them are posted on the site multiple times, so enjoy.

    I don’t know of a specific “case study” per se, but you can find the history of school performance (i.e., report cards) for ECOT in a variety of places on the ODE website. The best place to start is here: http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/default.aspxhttp://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/default.aspx

    From there, you can select Download Data to get the most recent years, or select Advanced Reports to get a million other pieces of performance data going back many more years. You can find all enrollment data, special education data, test performance, graduation rates, etc, for any school or district in the entire state.

    School funding data is a bit trickier and much less friendly, but starts here on ODE’s website: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Finance-and-Funding/School-Payment-Reports

    You can find the numbers in multiple ways. If you look up a community (charter) school, you can find how much funding they receive in total as well as how much they receive from each individual school district per pupil. If you look up the information by school district, you’ll have to do some calculations to figure out exactly how much the district actually receives (net) per pupil and also how much they transfer from that total to other schools (e.g., community schools). In most cases, the amount of state funding per pupil that goes to the charter school exceeds the amount that the district initially receives from the state.

    One additional funding note that isn’t exactly spelled out here, but exists in Ohio Revised Code is the responsibility of the district to provide transportation to students who attend charter schools and who reside in the district.

    This is probably enough to get you started and feel free to reach out to me by email at greg@plunderbund.com if you want some more help and don’t want to simply exchange information here in the comments.

  • gregmild
  • Mom

    THAT is the issue I cannot get past. ECOT is not “brand new”- the ODE is considered to be the “elite in education.” Yet not one documented case study to show a trend anywhere?? THIS is who we trust to decide Education for future generations? My youngest will be graduating in the next few weeks, so essentially, I do not have a “horse in this race” either. But I am scared for the upcoming generations if this is indeed the BEST we have to offer them for guidance and administration.
    As nothing more than a taxpayer, I began to do my own research when I first heard about ECOT issues-the more i dug, the more I read, the more people I spoke with, the more angry I have become. As any human with common sense would do, I took my local school district, and 3 children of various ages, but I know well as I am the mother to 2 of them, and compiled this information as my “known”- I plugged that into a spreadsheet to try and see where the figures for and against ECOT came from. Then, those that seemed to have very strong feelings one way or the other, I started questioning the why…can they SHOW me something I am not seeing? Is there anyone that can just be transparent and present facts, real data, exhibits- (by the way, the ones introduced into court look as if an elementary child composed them). Here is what I have found, organized, ready for display, and no, I will not be quiet. 1. Several people in office at the State level lack critical thinking skills. 2. There is not one school district in the state that is transparent. 3. I discovered my local district, which is supported by my tax dollars is still, as of may 2017, receiving funds for a child that has not attended since 2010. At first, I figured this was nothing more than clerical oversight. I then learned (within the last 90 days) this district has billed and been paid by the state for ot/pt/and speech therapy for this SAME child-the final figure I am sure will not be disclosed without a supoena, which, after tonight, is coming. I know for a FACT this child, which is now 20, did NOT receive any of those services thru anyone employed by or contracted with our local district…he was in college. Prior to college, ECOT provided those services-not ONE payment on behalf of this child was transferred to ECOT- and no one caught it, NO ONE! Where is our checks and balance system? As if THAT wasn’t bad enough, a neighboring district has been receiving funds assigned per pupil, as well as additional for a one on one aide specifically named for child B-again, for a fact, not possible as the child expired in 2013. The parents of child b are distraught over this. They feel exploited by the system they trusted to lead and guide their child. I could go on and on, 10 plus pages, but I will not here. THIS is the ruling we have been waiting for. The expected loss of initial appeal. That opened the door for us, and If my hypothesis is correct, by the time the information is all public record, and we have our day in court, ECOT will not only be the last of their concern, but ECOT will be used as a model for years to come.

  • Red Rover

    Real time data – what do you want, a ticking debt clock? Greg provided some links above, and he offered to help you sift through the data. Please realize that schools are measured on a yearly basis, and it takes time for ODE to process the data, so it’s never current or real time. As far as accountability, there have been a number of stories about the laws that charter schools are exempt from, and the statutes are available to the public if you want to do the digging. Beyond that, their very structure as for-profit corporations make them unaccountable. The communities in which they operate don’t have a say in what they do, since they’re not controlled by the elected school boards.

  • Mom

    I did research the information above-however, no where does it state how the figures were computed-I can plug in numbers, you can, anyone can-that doesn’t make the numbers valid or REAL-this is just amazing to me, since I was able, in a beta environment, see REAL time log in/out, classrooms entered, live sessions…every.single.keystroke for a student, how is that NOT accountability of attendance?? The BEST part was the more I probe to become informed, if “someone” doesn’t like the question, or cannot provide an answer-it is flagged as spam… hmmm…interesting…nothing like cutting off your nose to spite for face!

  • gregmild

    I’ll get you some more links tomorrow to direct you to the funding amounts prescribed by law.

    With regard to the log-in times, ECOT’s claim is that they shouldn’t have to produce those and that their software is unable to do so.

  • Mom

    If my interpretation of the written law is correct, then for the 15-16 school year, the software was not required to do so, that is why the IT advancement was made for the 16-17 school year-I am speaking on the current software. With that being said, I can’t help but refer back to “traditional” schools pupil in class attendance and accountability. Had there been something in place for the current school year, maybe tragic events like Alianna DeFreeze wouldn’t have occurred….so I don’t see pupil tracking systems as a platform to support public over charter. In fact, public vs charter makes it a game of us against them when education should never be a game-I would like to think that we all have the same common goal, free appropriate public education for EVERY child, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or fiscal background. With that comes freedom of choice of appropriate education. If that’s not why we are all here and very passionate about our position, then we need to take a step back-until this week, I did not personally side with either. It has been the lack of creditable,precise, and accurate information that has drawn me to the position of ECOT. Innocent until proven guilty, at the highest level of court-thus far, all that has been accomplished is making our state education system as a whole a big joke in the eyes of the public and surrounding states. The more fingers the state points, the more others laugh. Nothing to be proud of by any means…said it before, I will say it again, the State bears the burden of proof. As this unfolds, so does there lack of proof. Quite sad actually.

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