In a speech Friday, Ohio Attorney General candidate Steve Dettelbach criticized state politicians for failing to do their job overseeing the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT)
Speaking to members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE), Dettelbach noted that ECOT has been ordered to pay back nearly $80 million to the state of Ohio after it was determined that the school billed taxpayers for students it could not prove actually attended class over the last two school years.
Since ECOT began operating in 2000, ECOT’s founder and his associates have contributed over $2 million to state officials.
“And here’s the real crime – for years, politicians failed to ask for ECOT’s actual attendance books and hold them accountable for cheating taxpayers, because they were too busy cashing campaign checks from those associated with the school,“ Dettelbach said. “Every Ohioan deserves to know – where were our elected officials who were supposed to be looking out for us?”
Dettelbach is a career prosecutor and a U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and noted during his speech that he is not a politician but rather someone who throughout his career has often held politicians and others accountable for wrongdoing.
“I prosecuted fraudsters of all types and corrupt politicians in both parties,” he said. “As Attorney General I’ll work with county prosecutors and law enforcement do the same.”
Dettelbach said it’s time to wipe the slate clean.
“We need to elect outsiders who will stand up for what’s right and fix what’s broken,” he said. “And we can start by getting rid of this cozy culture in Columbus that led to ECOT.”
In a stark confirmation of that cozy culture, five Republican former state representatives recently filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in favor of ECOT.
In a release Friday, Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding Director William Phillis called the amicus filing “jaw-dropping.”
In the filing defending ECOT former Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder joined Charles Calvert, Mike Gilb, James Trakas and Bryan Williams.
“The gist of their brief is that the law provides for ‘Enrollment-Based Methodology for Funding All Community Schools’ and thus ODE erred in auditing on the basis of student ‘participation,'” Phillis wrote.
“If the law actually specifies that charter schools are not required to document participation, state officials should be held accountable for malfeasance. Regardless, these former legislators should be conscience-stricken for arguing that charters are entitled to collect funds for students not participating in the ‘education’ provided,” he concluded.