Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Monday, June 19, 2017

School Scandals -- Columbus City Schools vs. ECOT

A couple years ago, Columbus City Schools, the largest district in the state of Ohio, was caught in a sandal of dishonest manipulation of student enrollment records and grades.  Purpose?  To inflate the district's academic performance and make it look better than it actually was.  Why did they want that?  To avoid an official academic downgrade and the enrollment loss/funding loss likely to come with it.  The GOP loves charter schools and hates public education.  They've devised an evaluation system where test scores are everything.  Any large, big-city public district has the socio-economic deck stacked against them in such a scheme.  Lower public school ratings help the GOP push its privatization agenda.

The online high school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the state's largest charter.    ECOT uses Ohio's public education tax dollars to run its for-profit school, and its owner, Bill Lager, is a major GOP campaign donor.  Their scandal involves intentionally and grossly inflating the number of their online students.  (Of the 15,300 students claimed by ECOT, only 6,300 could be verified.  Oops!)  Purpose?  To receive more state funding dollars.  Why did they want that?  Greed, pure and simple.  ECOT has been fighting the findings in court, and losing.  They were recently ordered by the Ohio Dept. of Education to repay $60 million of the $109 million they received last year.  And yet ECOT is brazenly spending our money right now on a TV ad campaign whining about how unfair it is they got caught.

In both cases, the behavior is inexcusable.  But to my mind, the motives of the Columbus City School system were at least understandable.  ECOT, on the other hand, is a thief, a criminal.  What they did is a form of embezzlement.  I hope they go out of business.

Of interest -- ECOT isn't the only Ohio online charter school to inflate its student numbers.  Audits have found at least three others.  And charter schools as a whole are the worst-performing schools in Ohio.  By the GOP-designed metrics, two-thirds of our charters have a "failing" report card.

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