To those following the charter school debate in Ohio and specifically the rampant attacks against  ECOT (The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow), hit pieces released by news sources like the Columbus Dispatch have become a daily drag. From the insane misrepresentations of ECOT's teacher-student experience courtesy of wannabe journalists like Theodore Decker to the purposeful sins of omission on key data points and blind politicization of issues from word-hack, Jim Siegel to the most recent trash from Bill Bush -the Dispatch editorial board has certainly rallied a feisty team around their destructive schoolwrecker agenda. 

And this past Sunday, they appear to have taken it to an even more disgusting level by sponsoring a paid anti-ECOT advertisement on Facebook.

columbus dispatch paid ad

This is especially concerning because the post that The Dispatch chose to pay to advertise is chock-full of misrepresentations, half-data and twists on the facts of what is actually happening with ECOT and their fight for fair treatment by the Ohio Department of Education. Here's a prime example of some of Bush's deceptive journalism.

Bush writes - "The Ohio Department of Education used the same student login data last month to determine that the state overpaid ECOT last school year by 143 percent, or more than $60 million..."

For a taxpayer with no additional information and no relevant experience with ECOT, this is a clear call from Bush for outrage! But here's what this journalist conveniently fails to report.

What the ODE "determined" was based on a rule that they dreamed up or were influenced to dream up and are now trying to retroactively impose.

In other words, it's kind of like the state reducing the speed limit on Interstate 71 from 70mph to 60mph BUT for last year and then sending traffic cam speeding tickets out all of the unsuspecting motorists for roads they already traveled and laws they already followed. 

The oversimplified attendance rule of 5 hours daily logged on “screen time” for eschoolers is not only asinine in it's design but it's firmly based in no educational science or even theory. No educator worth their salt would possibly recommend a screen time measure to validate attendance of modern-day eschool students. By even defending such a thing, the ODE is showing a clear disconnect with any clue about what they're implying that they're trying to measure. Most importantly, the rule was not passed through the proper legislative process before attempting to be retroactively imposed on all eschools across the state.

Listen to 3 Ohio eschool leaders discuss the ODE's reckless actions here.

The Sin of Omission

Whether it's the New York Times or the Columbus Dispatch, the sin of omission is one of the primary ways these so-called news sources drive their agendas. It's fascinating because it's more about what they don't write or what they leave out of the story than what they actually publish. Regardless, it's become such a stale old media trick and folks these days are easily seeing right through these intentional omissions.

My family has 2 children enrolled in traditional brick and mortar school as well as our daughter enrolled in her 5th consecutive year at ECOT. Our daughter spends anywhere from 1-5 hours a day “logged in” at ECOT in addition to numerous offline hours to achieve a 4.0 and pass all of the same state tests as her traditional school siblings. Yet by this new rule, an audit from the state finds her truant at ECOT (for last school year) and aims to rip already paid funding dollars away from my child’s school (for last year). Regardless of the anti-school-choice media spin and what the Dispatch fails to write, there is simply no logical explanation for this action. The Dispatch has never made an effort to report on the full details of this new rule and how the ODE's retroactive action will ultimately impact not only those students who are struggling with attendance but also the high performing students at eschools in Ohio.

Turn Up The Stereo Type

With no political affiliation and children enrolled in both traditional schools and ECOT, my family has about as objective of an opinion as you'll find in this debate. So much so, that we started the ECOT PALS community to respond directly to some of this media trash. Responsible journalists surely would have noticed the community we've been building at ECOT PALS by now and if they really cared about reporting fairly on this issue or public education opportunity for Ohio's kids, they would've already reached out to our community for perspective -but no effort has been made. Instead, they choose to be divisive and destructive by doing things like painting incomplete and inaccurate pictures of eschool students like they did as a lead in to Sunday's article. Here's Bush's pitiful attempt at driving a stereotype of eschoolers in his effort to further polarize sides of the debate.

It’s 11:15 a.m. on a Wednesday, and the phone rings about a dozen times before a groggy 17-year-old Anthony Battista picks up. After a long, quiet pause, he says: “I was kind of asleep,” and suggests calling back after 5 p.m. Battista, who lives on the Far East Side, is enrolled in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Ohio’s largest online charter school. But it’s almost noon and he isn’t yet awake, let alone logged into his lessons. Not logging in daily to participate in online classwork is common for ECOT students:

Somebody needs to send Bush and The Dispatch a memo. -Using our children as pawns for their hatchet-job journalism makes them the ultimate cowards. Show me any school, any format and I'll show you an overflowing heap of example students who share the same zest for education as Anthony Battista. And after I'm done showing you those examples, I'll introduce you to the stories of ECOT students who have found a new passion for learning and pursuing their education at ECOT. With the Dispatch showing that they're only interested in sharing the story of Anthony Battista, but not of students like Sarah Gordon who proudly proclaim "I can honestly say that ECOT saved my life." -We have to question why?

Make no mistake, this tricky rule change from the ODE and the Dispatch's effort at misrepresenting it is an attempt to undermine 15+ years of continued growth in public demand for this one alternative to "the old school." This is an effort defund then subsequently shut down eschools using a politically-motivated, secret and illegal action unequivocally supported and propelled by the Columbus Dispatch among many others. Unfortunately, this rule is just one of several coordinated attacks being played out by the ODE and the anti-school-choice mob in Ohio. -We have to question why?

journalism-is-dead

And even though The Dispatch has chosen ECOT as their punching bag, their trash reporting aims to negatively impact many more than just the 10's of thousands who have chosen and continue to choose ECOT. Also on the receiving end of the Dispatch's relentless attack's are 124,000+ Ohio charter students and their families, thousands of educator's jobs, the alma mater legacy 10's of thousands of grads and even the future opportunities of countless more children in our state. The stakes are very high and very real for many Ohioans. Still, we haven't seen the Dispatch report on the tragic human consequences of their own agenda. -We have to question why?

Pay To Play

Behind every "sponsored" post on Facebook, there is a monetary cost and motivation. The decision by the Dispatch to pay to advertise this post raises some serious questions. Who's idea was it and what was the business motivation behind paying to advertise this piece of so-called journalism? Why pay to sponsor a deceptive school hate post as compared to any of the 100's of other options? Where does the paper or one of their "partners" stand to profit from this advertisement?

Incidentally, The Dispatch "unsponsored" the post shortly after being questioned by a commenter about their intentions. 

integrity

While the recent wiki-leak revelations in presidential level politics have exposed collusion between political parties, special interests and certain "reputable" news organizations, readers should be equally suspect of what's happening at the state level. When we see sponsored posts from supposedly neutral media sources, we need to question the motivation and the money behind the posts. When we see relentless attempts to politicize and misrepresent the public education issue with virtually no effort being made to fairly represent the voices of the actual Ohio charter students and teachers, we need to question the media's intentions. When we see politicians like Senator Joe Schiavoni who also pays to sponsor school hate posts viciously attacking schools like ECOT without ever having invested a minute of his time to learn how an online charter school has been able to graduate over 20K Ohio students, we need to learn more about who's donating to his political aspirations. 

One thing's for certain - It's crystal clear who is propelling the negative and destructive narrative in the state charter school debate. It's also clear what they stand to lose as school choice proliferates. What's not clear yet is when they will stop being the bully? When will they cease trying to juggernaut the media with distortions of truth and flat out lies in their effort to sway public opinion against school choice? When will they stop pointing fingers and diverting attention away from the traditional school system's own staggering problems while squandering their vast resources and power in trying to destroy other schools that actual Ohio children, families and educators are choosing?

Citizen Journalism On The Rise

The greatest and worst thing about media in 2016 is that it's anybody's game. Citizens who ultimately care about the truth, the future of public education, increasing opportunity and improving student outcomes are more than empowered to put the Columbus Dispatch in the fire pit fodder pile where it belongs. Concerned citizens can go learn the facts about what's actually happening at schools like ECOT straight from their own Ohio neighbors by reading their unfiltered comments on social media and by visiting sites that publish independent media like the type we curate for ECOT PALS.

twenty-dollars

For the price of a cheap family dinner and some spare time, parents like me can even sponsor our own thoughts and stories on Facebook just like The Dispatch. However, it's important to remember that there is a stark difference between curating and sharing real people's stories vs. crafting fictitious media that follows a chosen narrative while supports a paid-for political advertising agenda. So, to all the schoolwreckers out there in Ohio including the Columbus DIS-patch who are paying for ads to attack schools, teachers and students -this $20 "sponsored" post is just for you.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by authors on ECOT PALS blogs are the author's alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) or any other individual or group. Would you like your opinion published on ECOT PALS blog? Please contact us to inquire.