ATHENS – Dayton Mayor and Ohio Democratic governor candidate Nan Whaley called out Ohio’s ongoing charter school scandals Monday as “crony capitalism” tied to campaign financing for Ohio elected officials who have failed to hold corrupt charter school providers accountable.
“Right now what we have is not working. I view it as straight up crony capitalism going on with the statehouse,” Whaley said. “You can draw a line (with) the millions of dollars that charter school providers that are for-profit are giving to the state legislature.”
Before a campaign event in Athens, Whaley sat down with local reporters in the Athens area to discuss a wide variety of issues. When asked about ongoing charter school scandals in Ohio, Whaley took a firm stance against a lack of oversight from Ohio’s current elected leaders in Columbus.
“They act like they’re completely amazed this has been going on,” she said. “In communities like Dayton we’ve been begging for legitimate charter reform. They’ve attacked even Republicans working on charter reform, and they completely make loopholes (for the companies to get around real reform).”
In the latest charter school scandal news, the Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow (ECOT) has reportedly spent $33 million in taxpayer money on TV ads, lobbyists, lawsuits and founder Bill Lager’s for-profit companies since January 2016. The private charter school enterprise was caught last year bilking Ohioans out of at least $60 million with fudged attendance records.
For years now, the state General Assembly has failed to hold private charter school companies accountable. In 2014, Ohio Auditor David Yost, who is running for state attorney general in 2018, received information from an ECOT school employee regarding fraudulent school enrollment, but he declined to request student login hours in response to the complaint.
Yost spoke at ECOT graduations in 2014 and 2015, and in 2016, Yost awarded ECOT an Auditor of State Award with Distinction for “excellent record keeping.”
Over the last several years, ECOT has been paid more than $100 million dollars per year by the state of Ohio. Since 2010, ECOT leadership has contributed more than $1 million in political contributions to Ohio Republican organizations and officials. ECOT founder Lager and other ECOT-associated companies have donated over $20,000 to Yost.
Whaley said that Ohioans can see a straight line between ECOT’s actions and legislators’ and officials’ inaction, until recently as major media outlets throughout Ohio have shined a light on ECOT’s activities.
She called for true accountability for Ohio’s charter school system.
“These are taxpayer dollars. If we don’t have quality then they shouldn’t be getting the dollars,” Whaley said. “And it should be a very fast turnaround. It shouldn’t be giving people 10 years – so kids can go from kindergarten to 10th grade – and then realize, oh, this really wasn’t an education at all. We’re putting our children’s lives and futures on the line when it comes to education, so we don’t have time to waste.”
Ohio’s leaders have let charter school scandals go on for decades before doing anything about it, she said.
“And now they say, ‘Yeah, there’s a problem; we’re going to give them more decades,'” Whaley said. “You lose generations of children while that goes on.”