ODE and the Deliberate Failing of 12,000 Ohio Students.
Harry Truman famously had a plaque on his desk that read, The Buck Stops Here. This pithy message was clear—as the top executive, he was ultimately responsible for the events that transpired under his administration. Extrapolating this maxim to the case of ECOT, ODE, and Governor Kasich. Who is to blame for the abysmal, and perhaps deliberate, failing of over 12,000 K-12 students by the shuttering of their school in the middle of the school year? Laura McNamara explains.
The blame for ECOT closing in the middle of the school year lies with the Ohio Department of Education (who created this unlegislated policy and applied it retroactively), the State Board of Education (who governs ODE), State Superintendent of Schools Paolo DeMaria (who runs ODE), Governor John Kasich (who appointed members to the State BOE as well as demanded the retroactive application of this new policy), Ohio Legislators (who know the truth about all of this but don’t have the integrity to speak out for Ohio’s children and families, or worse, are campaigning using this situation as some kind of “badge of honor” such as Joe Schiavoni and Stephanie Dodd), the teachers’ union (who bankrolled this fight against School Choice—such as campaign donations to Joe Schiavoni), and the news media (who make money and get ratings off of the drama perpetuated by these lies).
Here’s the truth—ECOT didn't lie or "inflate their logs." In the 2015-2016 school year, ECOT did have 15,000 students enrolled, and they claimed 15,000 students. In the middle of the school year, ECOT was notified that they had to provide durational data of five hours per student and—here’s the best part—do so retroactively. ECOT was never asked to provide this data before and thus did not have the technology in place to do so.
ODE next stated that based on not presenting enough durational data (that ECOT never knew it needed in the first place), ECOT acted fraudulently and could only claim around 6,000 students. Thus the clawback of money began. ODE set the monthly payback amount at $2.5 million per month in the spring of 2017. Then they unexpectedly continued to increase that amount up to $4+ million per month. Funny thing, that continued increase happened once the Ohio Supreme Court date was set for February 13, 2018 and led to ECOT having to shut down in January, 2018. Coincidence? I think not.
ECOT had been operating for almost fifteen years with clean audits, year after year. So a state agency changed policy in the middle of the year (which does not fall under their job description—by the way Ohio Legislators should be furious that ODE overstepped their role into that of lawmakers) and demanded durational data retroactively. Are traditional public schools required to provide this minute-by-minute data for five hours daily of student activity?
All students count for these local districts, including those students not engaged during class, sitting idle in study hall, or not even in school at all as evidenced by the 16.8% chronic absenteeism rate across Ohio districts. What does ODE do with the “Big Eight” urban districts that have a problem with chronic absenteeism? They create A PLAN to help those schools improve—not shut them down.
Why didn’t those schools have a multi-million dollar clawback bill for their attendance problems? Why are there different rules and consequences for traditional PUBLIC schools? Why did Columbus City Schools not get slapped with a multi-million dollar fine for their data rigging scandal? Why didn’t ODE kick those kids and teachers out into the street without a school in the middle of the year? As an independent state agency, ODE should serve all Ohio students/families and all Ohio teachers equally, right?
ODE, at the very least, showed favoritism as well as who it targeted for takedown by their own actions. They did not even fairly apply their new durational data policy to all e-schools in a Full Time Equivalency (FTE) audit in 2015-16. They handpicked the e-schools to target for 2015-16. Those e-schools not under review were allowed an extra year to put in place technology to gather durational data. But that’s not all—even the other e-schools under FTE review that year were not targeted like ECOT. Those e-schools were allowed to payback money over a five-year period.
ECOT was ODE’s target!
ECOT was selected for FTE review under this retroactive, unlegislated, unlawful policy AND only allowed two years to pay back the money ODE said they owed.
Even though the state of Ohio and ODE are currently operating under an educational funding system found to be unconstitutional on at least four different occasions, Ohio needs to start fixing the education system by cleaning house at the Ohio Department of Education. The incompetency within those walls is astounding. The sad part is that the majority of the public does not see it. If you create unlegislated, unlawful policy, you’re the problem. And that sums up ODE! Even Auditor of State Yost stated that the ODE was the worst run state agency.
On top of all that, we have a governor who does not want to help ECOT children and families. Governor Kasich says he can’t help our children due to his role as governor of Ohio. But that is malarkey. In 2003, when ODE and ECOT were in a dispute, former Auditor of State Petro stepped in and told them to go into a room and work it out. So they did. It was as easy as that.
If the previous Auditor of State can intervene in a dispute involving ODE and ECOT, how much more should the governor of the GREAT STATE of OHIO be able to do in order to help our Ohio children and families?
When what is in the best interest of children (allowing them to finish their school year) loses to politics and money, it is a disgrace that needs to be shouted nationwide!
Shame on all those listed above! Your efforts to close ECOT has harmed thousands of Ohio children and families. Thankfully the public is becoming aware of your despicable actions. We demand, as residents of this great state, that all be held accountable for this atrocity and work to help our Ohio children and families.
Remember EVIL prevails when GOOD people do nothing!!
Sincerely and always in the Service of the Lord,
Laura Beth McNamara
ECOT is currently involved in a legal action with the Ohio Department of Education. The department is moving to limit school choice by ripping funding away from ECOT and other eSchools based on selective and retroactive enforcement of absurd attendance rules. ECOT is challenging the ODE in the Ohio Supreme Court.
We need your help. Please Take Action Now to support school choice and ECOT in Ohio.
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