Education Experts Call for New Charter School Reforms;
Warn the Ohio Virtual Academy Is 'ECOT-Lite'
Although the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow has closed,
education experts said Ohio needs additional charter school
reforms and expressed fears that the Maumee-based Ohio
Virtual Academy – now Ohio's largest online school - has
many of the problems that plagued ECOT.
"For four years,
has refused to accept course work from the Ohio Virtual
and 23 other schools managed by K12 Inc.'' State Rep Teresa
Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, said at a forum today. ''Like ECOT,
OVA has been accused of attendance padding, has a poor
academic record and likes to donate to the Republican
Governor's Association. Some people at the Statehouse call
it 'ECOT-Lite.' "
One change she called for: A ban on for-profit charter
school management companies such as K12 Inc.
Joining Fedor were Denis Smith, a former consultant to the
Ohio Department of Education's charter school office; and
Mark Hughes, Vice President of the Washington Local School
Smith noted that Ohio's charter school experiment is now in
its 20th year and has failed to deliver the innovation and
academic improvements it promised.
"Instead of better results, we've seen the Walmartization of
education,'' Smith explained. "There are national chains
like K12 that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange
coming in and snaring our tax dollars. The focus is on
profits. We've lost the focus on the students.''
He endorsed Fedor's call for a ban on K12 and other
for-profit charter school management companies. California
passed a law
All three panelists criticized Ohio's system of paying for
public schools – both charters and traditional ones.
Washington Local is asking voters to approve a 4.9 mill tax
levy, and Hughes said that steady reductions in state money
caused the school board to ask local property owners to pay
more. The district lost almost $77 million since 2014
because legislators have capped their amount of state money.
"School funding in Ohio is unfair and unconstitutional and
really hurts districts like ours,'' Hughes said. "It's
gut-wrenching.'' The district has one high school with 2000
students for whom it receives zero state dollars, he said.
The website, KnowYourCharter.com shows OVA siphoned about
$229,000 from the Washington Local Schools last year and
ECOT siphoned away about $319,000.
Fedor has tangled with OVA in the past.
In 2015, a whistleblower sent
documents to the House Education Committee's Republican
chairman and to Fedor, the panel's top Democrat, that
appeared to show OVA illegally received state money for more
than 300 students who should have been withdrawn for
truancy. They referred the allegations to authorities and to
Auditor David Yost who at the time declined to say if he was
A charter school front group, the Ohio eSchool Friends and
Families Coalition, issued a news release that announced the
hiring of "former Prosecutor and Franklin County Common
Pleas Court Judge Greg Peterson to investigate how State
Representative Teresa Fedor came into possession of
potentially stolen documents, made false claims against the
Ohio Virtual Academy and to hold her to account for her
actions.'' It made no mention of the Committee's Republican
Peterson's hiring was announced after
investigation by the school's sponsor
found just 12 students who should have been withdrawn for
truancy – not more than 300. The sponsor has an inherent
conflict of interest because it has a financial stake in the
by the Ohio Department of Education
calls into question the
sponsor's findings. It ordered OVA to repay $1.6 million –
an amount that covers more than 200 students for the state
fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.
News of the repayment order prompted charter school
researcher Sandy Theis to telephone Peterson – the "former
prosecutor'' who was enlisted to investigate Fedor. She
wanted to know why his hiring was trumpeted with great
fanfare - but his findings were never made public. She
learned there were no findings – and no real investigation.
Peterson said he remembered very little about his
investigation, but said, "My recollection is they originally
approached me and I don't believe I did anything on that.''
The forum took place at the Heatherdowns Branch Library and
was co-sponsored by ProgressOhio, Northwest Ohio Friends of
Public Education and the Northwest Ohio Indivisible