Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager:

Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the largest charter school in the state of Ohio.  The online school is easily the largest charter school in Ohio, is larger than the vast majority of Ohio’s traditional school districts, and received over $88 million in state funding last school year.  This year that amount is expected to jump to over $92 million.
On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.
For graduation rate, a key indicator for the long-term success of a school/district, ECOT’s 4-year graduation rate is a paltry 35.3%, while their 5-year graduation rate of 37.8%, which is only slightly higher, was still over 25 points worse than the lowest urban school district, Cleveland, which checked in at 63.3%.  While we now see the legislature writing laws to specifically regulate Cleveland and Columbus more tightly, the charter school laws that apply to ECOT continue to be more lax.
And while the data on performance for this school of 13,836 students (11th largest “district” in the Ohio) is bad enough, the financial games played by the school’s owner/operator are even worse.  We wrote a comprehensive piece about ECOT back in 2011, but since then the school has continued to grow and continued to siphon ever larger sums of money away from higher-performing schools.
On December 8, our post, Ohio’s Largest Taxpayer-Funded Charter School, ECOT, Receives Bonus Check, described how the school was up for approval of an additional $2.9 million dollar bonus from Governor Kasich’s Straight A Fund.
On December 10, we posted a follow-up, ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars, where we went into greater detail about the financial games being played and won by ECOT’s Founder, William Lager.
Today, we have another update to the political donations and financial windfall experienced by Lager.
First, Lager’s history of political donations (to Ohio’s legislators, of course) goes back further than we first posted, and his 2013 donations have increased.  The new numbers, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance website:
Over the last four years, Lager’s average annual donation amount is $180,177.62.  For some perspective, the Toledo Public School District recently hired a new superintendent to a five-year contract.  Toledo has better performance numbers than ECOT and serves nearly twice as many students, and the new superintendent will make an annual salary of $175,000 — $5,000 LESS than Lager donates on an annual basis!!!
How can Lager afford to donate so much?  It’s because of the sweet deals he gets as the owner of the private companies that have a monopoly on the services that his charter school, ECOT, contracts for management and delivery of curriculum.  Shortly after our December 10 post, the Ohio Auditor of State released the 2013 audit of ECOT, so we’ve updated our numbers from that post.  Here is the money that goes directly from the state of Ohio to Lager’s private companies after being funneled through ECOT:
In addition, the State Controlling Board approved that “bonus” of $2,951,755 to ECOT, of which Lager’s private company, IQ Innovations, will receive $2,725,250.
Why did the Controlling Board unanimously approve this additional funding Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager:
Big Education Ape: Charter spent $2.27M on advertising | The Columbus Dispatch http://bit.ly/1ETD7mt
Big Education Ape: Report Slams Virtual Charter Schools That Graduate Just 36% Of Students - BuzzFeed News http://bit.ly/1AVX7nl

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