Fast and furious. When people see that phrase, they often identify it with the name of a film released several years ago. But today, fast and furious also describes the behavior of Republican politicians as they flee as swiftly as they can from the spreading radioactive mushroom cloud generated from the implosion of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the notorious online charter school.
As damaging as the charter school’s implosion was on the viability of Republican pols, the corresponding explosion ECOT’s demise is causing in state political circles continues to reverberate, particularly for four GOP ECOT stalwarts named Dave Yost, Mike DeWine, Keith Faber and Andrew Brenner.
When you’re hit by radioactive fallout, it’s only natural that you act quickly to decontaminate yourself. But the funny thing about radioactivity is something called half-life, and these enablers, three of whom are term-limited and running for yet another public office, may not outlive the half-life of ECOT radioactive debris. An examination of their fast and furious behavior shows their efforts in trying to decontaminate themselves from that radioactive ECOT fallout is requiring an incredible amount of energy. Pun.
Rep. Keith Faber is the first case in point. [When the subject is term-limits and running yet again for some other office, you might want to get a scorecard to follow the runs, hits, and mostly errors of this Republican team.] The former Senate president and now House member is currently running for Auditor, seeking to replace current Auditor Dave Yost, who is, you guessed it, term-limited and running for Attorney General.
Faber’s way to brush off the radioactive fallout is to distribute more than $36,000 collected from ECOT to “high quality” charter schools.
Based upon past history, that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?
Faber had this to say to the Columbus Dispatch:
“I was a big supporter of ECOT and I was a big supporter of school choice,” said Faber, who acknowledges ECOT was a failure. “The details of how ECOT was run were not something that came before us in the legislature until we found out there were questions to be asked.”
Really? Notice Faber’s use of the past tense. Hmmm.
Then there’s the curious case of Mike DeWine. The term-limited Attorney General, who is now running for Governor, has decided to go after ECOT founder William Lager, his companies, and several others in high ECOT circles, including its former superintendent, treasurer, and accounting administrator.
Voodoo economics begets voodoo public policy begets voodoo charter schools begets voodoo accounting.
In DeWine’s case, his lawsuit seeks to recover from the ECOT hierarchy a portion of the $62 million ECOT is accused of over-billing the state in voodoo student attendance data.
DeWine argues that they had a fiduciary duty to ECOT, the state’s largest charter school until it was shut down in January and auctioned off in pieces. That included a duty to “avoid any situation where they would be tempted to profit improperly from their position of trust.”
DeWine’s way to brush off the radioactive fallout is to donate “$12,532 in contributions to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus.”
The third usual GOP suspect is House Education Committee Chair Andrew Brenner who is, you guessed it, term-limited and running for the Senate. Brenner has apparently learned the use of pejoratives from his idol, Donald Trump, the undisputed king for crafting pejoratives as a tactic to demean opponents.
Louise Valentine, Brenner’s Democratic challenger for the Senate seat asked in May if Brenner was considering returning the ECOT donations he’s received over the years. In his usual attack mode characterized by splitting hairs and deflecting the subject, Brenner said he never received any money directly from the school.
This is how the Dispatch called Brenner out on his evasiveness:
“Wow, #LyinLouise just can’t tell the truth! ECOT never gave me a dime.” Brenner wrote.
However, Brenner’s statement is disingenuous.
Lager gave Brenner $27,565 through three contributions, in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
There is no separating Lager from ECOT, which received about $1 billion in state money since 2000. He started the school, ran it, profited from it and used some of those profits to give $2.5 million to state candidates and political parties. About 93 percent of that money went to Republicans, who have run much of state government since 2000.
Not to be outdone, Valentine has appropriately labeled Brenner as #ECOTandy.
Since Brenner denies receiving money from ECOT, there is nothing to report about where any of the tainted funds he received were transmitted. This comes as no surprise, as Brenner continues to deny the importance of the First Amendment, as he blocks constituents from his social media pages while serving as a champion of the Second Amendment.
The final figure of the fast and furious foursome is Auditor Dave Yost who, like his colleagues memorialized here, served ECOT well as a commencement speaker, endorser, and proponent of the corrupt online charter school. In addition to scooping up more than $29,000 in campaign cash from ECOT, Yost is remembered for bestowing not just one but three awards for the school’s financial reporting.
According to a 2016 press release on the Auditor’s website, “The school’s excellent record keeping has qualified it for the Auditor of State Award with Distinction.”
There is something Orwellian in the fact that a public official offers praise for an entity which does not operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Such an award demonstrates once again that voodoo economics begets voodoo public policy begets voodoo charter schools which begets voodoo accounting. Which begets an Auditor’s Award for Voodoo Accounting. With Distinction, no less.
Wow. You can’t make that one up.
Auditor Yost’s way to brush off the radioactive fallout is to donate “$10,000 to United Way of Central Ohio’s African American Leadership Academy, $10,000 to Catch Court, which supports human-trafficking victims, and $9,395 to Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus.”
In examining the role of Dave Yost in the all-consuming ECOT implosion that has made so many Republican candidates radioactive from the fallout generated by its colossal failure and corruption, I need to disclose to readers my prior actions in contacting the Auditor of State, warning him about needed charter school reforms, and offering assistance to him in providing leadership to effect such reforms. These actions are contained in letters sent to the Auditor on February 18, 2014 and October 20, 2015. (The complete letters to Yost are found at both links indicated.) These letters provided Yost detailed information about the flawed nature of the state’s charter school system and specific recommendations for reform.
However, Yost did not provide me the courtesy of a reply, although the Columbus Dispatch did refer to the second letter in an editorial about the “chartergate” data rigging scandal that tarnished the Ohio Department of Education. In light of Yost’s inaction about ECOT and other charter school scandals, this passage should be of particular interest to voters as they examine Yost’s worthiness to be the state’s next Attorney General.
The citizens of Ohio therefore urge you to exert the same type of leadership and discretion that you exercised in the recent case of Columbus City Schools, where a number of people were also shown to be involved in data-rigging – thanks to your investigative tenacity.
With regard to Yost’s leadership, discretion, and tenacity in getting to the bottom of that chartergate scandal, there were no such qualities deployed. As the Toledo Blade observed in early 2016:
From State Auditor Dave Yost, one of Mr. Kasich’s campaign co-chairs in the state, to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who prosecuted similar data scrubbing in Columbus City Schools, top Republican officials are reluctant to pursue acknowledged fraud at the highest levels of the state education department.
Apparently, that reluctance continues, as evidenced by the continuing imbroglio that surrounds charter schools in the state. As some keen observers have pointed out, ECOT may prove to be only the tip of the iceberg as it sinks deeper into the charter school swamp, populated as it is by other denizens of the non-transparent, unaccountable and privatized Dark Side, otherwise known as charterdom.
In tying together some common elements of the GOP Fast and Furious Foursome, the most telling is their collective inability to return their campaign contributions to the public schools from which the funds were appropriated in the first place. With due respect to the Boys and Girls Clubs and the United Way, the public funds converted to campaign donations were not raised to support community-based non-profits. But Faber’s donation of what were public funds to other charter schools adds great insult in producing an even greater injury.
Taken together, the collective actions of the Fast and Furious Foursome, fleeing from the ECOT radioactive mushroom cloud, could not have shown more disdain for public education, the very institution that sustains this country’s democratic values by educating all children, ensured through oversight by our neighbors, fellow citizens that are democratically elected to provide governance of our community’s owned and operated public schools.
One reader of a public broadcasting website put the actions of the radioactive GOP donations in these terms:
The money donated to these politicians by ECOT was scammed from the REAL public schools, where it was sorely needed. Yet it did not occur to any one of these public servants to donate the money back where it belonged? When gleefully taking the generous donations, it never occurred to them to ask – “How is it that this school has so much TAX money to spare that they can spend it on campaign contributions?” or “Gee, might this be a conflict of interest?” These politicians did things that aided and abetted Mr. Lager in scamming Ohio out of MILLIONS of our tax dollars.
Only one statewide candidate did the right thing in returning ECOT donations.
The Democrats’ candidate for governor, Richard Cordray, received $600 in ECOT cash, including $500 from Lager in 2006 as Cordray ran for state treasurer. A campaign spokesman said Cordray, a Grove City resident, is donating the sum to the South-Western City School Educational Foundation to benefit the public schools the candidate and his children attended.
When you think about Keith Faber’s callous disregard for taxpayers as he conveyed $36,000 of public funds sent to ECOT that were diverted from public school districts and then redistributed by him to privately operated charters, please remember to vote for Zack Space for Auditor of State.
When you think about Mike DeWine’s callous disregard for public funds as he conveyed $12.352 of ECOT donations that were not his personal funds to non-profits, please remember to vote for Rich Cordray for Governor, the only statewide candidate who returned his ECOT donation to benefit his local public school district.
When you think about someone denying he even received money from ECOT, someone who was labeled disingenuous by a major state newspaper for that assertion, someone who thinks that public schools represent “socialism,” as Andrew Brenner believes, please remember to vote for Louise Valentine for Senate District 19. Unlike Brenner, who does not believe in public schools or the First Amendment, she deserves to represent the people in her district.
Last and certainly not least, when you think about someone like Dave Yost who displays a callous disregard for the state treasury by donating more than $29,000 of public funds sent to ECOT that were diverted from public school districts and then redistributed by him to favored non-profits, be sure to vote for Steve Dettelbach for Ohio Attorney General.
It was our money that these politicians redistributed without our consent, and it was our money that radioactive Andrew Brenner even denied receiving in the first place. With such outrageous contempt for the public, we the people should not only term-limit this foursome that loves to spread around our money but we should also terminate this crew and prevent them from inflicting further damage to the state’s treasury and its public schools.
We the people need to remember this flagrant disregard for the public treasury by showing up in November and retiring this Fast and Furious Foursome. Their radioactivity is harmful to the public good.